Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith say they could manage these cuts - so let's see them prove it

Their bullish rhetoric exposes a detachment from reality

Share

Political rhetoric, as any Churchillian will tell you, is not automatically a malign thing. Even the most watertight of arguments requires a little razzle-dazzle to hit home. But as the bitterness of the row over the Government’s welfare reforms has intensified, the rhetoric that has taken hold has been the worst kind: rhetoric not as persuasion, but as stunt. Rhetoric which reproduces in words the kind of subtlety that John Gummer displayed when he made his daughter eat that BSE burger; rhetoric which doesn’t seek to highlight an argument’s virtues so much as bludgeon you as weak-minded if you disagree.

This is why the petition asking Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week has justice to it: those willing to say anything can hardly complain if they are asked to live by their words. Actually, though, the petition could go further. So Grant Shapps says he gets it because his two sons share a bedroom, even though he uses another bedroom as a study? Well, he’s either being disingenuous, or he’s genuinely ignorant that there’s no home office allowance when the “bedroom tax” is calculated. So let’s stick him in a council flat with a room fewer than the optimum – perhaps with IDS as his notional partner – and see how he gets along when the property in question doesn’t have exposed timbering.

In fact, let’s not leave it at that. Let’s give one of our odd couple a disability, and drastically reduce their benefit. Let’s see how they handle the adjustment that two million low-income workers must make from paying no council tax to paying £250 a year. And when the Shapps-Duncan Smiths get their inevitable divorce, let’s see how they navigate it without legal aid. Perhaps George Osborne could come round and tell their parish priest that his concerns for this couple are the “depressingly predictable” carping of the usual “vested interests”.

The crazy thing about this is that you can reasonably defuse the preceding fantasy with a simple admission: for some decent people who have never been lazy in their lives, what’s coming is going to be really bad. You don’t even have to agree that it shouldn’t happen. You just have to stop pretending that it’s a doddle.

But Shapps and Osborne and IDS can’t do that: they have founded their argument on the division between strivers and shirkers, people with anti-gravity bootstraps who could manage on £53 a week and people who just don’t have it in them.  This is why, when he’s asked if he could make ends meet under those circumstances, IDS obeys his primal political instinct and says, “If I had to, I would.” This is why he would never think of saying: “I don’t know, because I’ve never had to. And I know that that makes me a lucky man.”

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The EU must take more responsibility for the migrants risking their lives to reach Italy

Benjamin Ward
The view from Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh  

Scottish independence: Why I can't wait to leave London and live in a free, independent Scotland

Yannis Baboulias
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week