IDS politically motivated? God forbid!

What with him being a politician, it's possible that his motivation in claiming that the housing benefit cap is propelling hordes of the unemployed back to work is political

Share

If he didn’t have such impressive form as a dim and petulant interpreter of statistics, you might take Iain Duncan Smith for the summer’s first high-profile victim of heatstroke. Mental confusion is one symptom of this dangerous condition, while the NHS Direct website lists “problems speaking to or understanding people” and “seeing or hearing things that aren’t real” among the others.

The junior doctor who caught the Works and Pensions Secretary’s interview with John Humphrys on Monday might have been sufficiently concerned to ask a registrar about the need to hospitalise him, and rehydrate him by intravenous drip. “What you’re doing, as always in the BBC,” he rebuked Humpo after hearing from a Haringey woman, “Rebecca”, that his benefit reforms cost her £98 per week. “You’re seeking out lots of cases from people who are politically motivated to say this is wrong.” This will have rung medical alarm bells on the mental confusion front.

For one thing, Rebecca was motivated not by political allegiance, but the even more primal force that is the fear of poverty, or poverty itself. For another, what exactly did the gleaming-pated chump imagine was his own motivation in claiming again that the housing benefit cap is propelling hordes of the unemployed back to work? What with him being a politician, might it have been political? Just a wild thought.

We can certainly rule out poverty as a motivational force for this benefits scrounger of sorts. The victim of his feckless dependence on housing benefit is not the state, but his father-in-law, the 5th Baron Cottesloe, in whose Buckinghamshire ancestral home Iain lives rent-free. I cannot say by what multiple the rent on the Grade II-listed Tudor house – with tennis court and swimming pool in its five acres of grounds – would exceed the new limit of £26,000. But Lord Cottesloe might reasonably expect to rake in between £120,000 to £150,000 per annum.

To lay that rookie doc’s fears entirely to rest, I should state that IDS has the identical problems speaking to interviewers in a civil and adult manner, and understanding that it is their job to question his interpretation of statistics, during a heatwave or a cold snap. The climate has no impact on his gift for hearing and seeing things in the figures that are not real. Come rain, come shine, the man is a dummy whose oversight of this infinitely complex area of social policy hints at a secret prime ministerial commitment to affirmative action.

Yet even IDS is not so thick that he fails to appreciate the political benefits that motivate him to make assertions of the sort dismissed earlier this year by the UK Statistics Authority  as rancid cobblers (technically: unsupported by the findings of his own department).

The punters, 71 per cent of whom support his housing benefit cap, love this policy to bits. This is depressing, even tragic, but the more families are uprooted from high-rent London communities and relocated to areas entirely alien to them, with the inevitably consequent rise in misery and mental illness, the better for the Tories. For them, the sun has got his hat on, and hip, hip, hip hooray.

With an ICM poll showing a Conservative recovery to parity with Labour, the sense that the PM will win the 2015 election outright on the “beastly and beastlier to the deprived” platform intensifies. One had hoped that Mr Cameron was better than this, but the arrival of Lynton Crosby as his omnipotent electoral tactician reveals that the Prime Minister might also be politically motivated.

Mr Duncan Smith says he “believes” he is right that the benefit cap is driving hordes of the jobless to find work, and bully for him. Mr Tony Blair believed in his bones that Saddam had WMD. Psychiatrists cite the conviction that the simple act of believing something magically makes that thing true as evidence of sociopathy. Yet they also cite charm and a sharp intellect as symptoms, and while that may work for Mr Tony, it rules out the diagnosis for IDS. He is not a sociopath. He is a very silly boy.

There are sillier still. Take Brooks Newmark, the Tory MP for Braintree. If the name sounds like it belongs to a preppy baritone in an Ivy League barber’s shop quartet, it probably is. Mr Newmark is a Connecticut-born, Harvard-educated former merchant banker who made his bones at Lehman Brothers. “I think many people would be in favour of bringing it down to the real average post-tax pay,” he says of his wish to reduce the benefits cap even further, to £20,000. “ I can’t see Essex Man complaining if that happened.”

Nor can I. Mind you, I can’t see Essex Man moaning about the abolition of income tax or the reintroduction of the birch for the offence of being an immigrant. Whether government by Essex Man is something to be welcomed is anyone’s guess. But it appears to have arrived, thanks in large measure to that part-time Essex Man Iain Duncan Smith, the MP for Chingford with the rent-free Tudor home in Bucks.

And while our junior doctor will be relieved that IDS hasn’t been playing tennis on the ancestral lawn or falling asleep by the pool in the broiling heat, some of us will be feverishly fearful about that.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice