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

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

FLEX Developer

£45000 - £65000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, ...

SAP GRC Architect / Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a global leader in the Oil &a...

SAP Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000. Wakefield

£55000 - £450000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Consultant...

PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Sir Ian McKellen  

Call me a Northerner if you like – it’s no insult to me

Simon Kelner
School pupils at the Bridge Learning Campus answer questions in a classroom at the school on February 24, 2010  

Better-off parents excel at playing the state-school system. It’s right to give others a chance to do so

Jane Merrick
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn