Prepare your lachrymals for the heart-rending tale of Iain Duncan Smith's trying months of hardship

Plus: Mad Mel's insane logic on Philpott is incontrovertible; Petronella Wyatt bares nearly all for a mere £35,000; and Liz Jones, the Rosa Parks of our generation


After the most heart-rending interview since Simon Cowell told The Looking Glass Gazette of his struggle to find enough Florentine renaissance mirrors to furnish his LA mansion, how long now before a dramatist writes the Kennexfest drama, The Hardship Months of Iain Duncan Smith?

Days after IDS’s chat with the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce, the lachrymals still seep over how, when he left the army in 1981, poverty obliged him to “live illegally” with his future wife Betsy in a bedsit.

Precisely which legislation the Outlaw Dozy Fails broke is uncertain. It may well have been the since-repealed Censorious Landlady (Living In Sin) Act, 1956, which carried  a minimum sentence of concerted tutting and old-fashioned looks.

Why IDS, pictured, claimed no benefit while briefly out-of-work is also obscure, though hurried references to bank savings and Betsy being employed cannot be discounted. Anyway, this tale of gruelling deprivation explains his fury at the petition asking him to live on £53 a week.

“I have never taken anything from anybody else,” thundered this king of self-reliance, who lives rent-free in his father-in-law’s  £2m Tudor house.

“I ... make my own bloody way in the world ... The personal vilification we have endured over where we live is outrageous.”

Isn’t it though? It’s an abhorrence. The stigmatising of those who must rely on housing benefit, be it from their literal family or the metaphorical one we used to call “the state”, has no place in an all-in-it-together society, and it’s tremendous to see this warrior against social injustice opposing it so strongly.

Keeping culture in the family

We already know, by the way, where The Hardship Months will be staged. The play will debut at the National’s Cottesloe Theatre, named after Betsy’s Arts Council stalwart grandfather, the 4th Baron Cottesloe. The importance of traditional family values in testing times cannot be overstated.

A compromising European connection

Thankfully, IDS’s in-laws need not scrape by on the one title. Betsy’s father, the 5th Lord Cottesloe, is also the 5th Baron Fremantle of the Austrian Empire. Why Austria saw fit to honour a Thomas Fremantle in 1816 seems less a mystery than why no one disavowed the title after the Anschluss, when it effectively fell under Hitler’s aegis.

Another Austrian nobleman, Baron the Captain Georg von Trapp, climbed at least one mountain to dissociate himself from the Third Reich. IDS might petition his father in-law retroactively to do the same. For the professional Little Englander, such a connection must be rather embarrassing.

Mad Mel’s logic is incontrovertible

Melanie Phillips dips a delicate toe in the Philpott debate, meanwhile, blogging that the welfare system is “inescapably implicated in creating a lifestyle of profound amorality and barbarism”. Mad Mel has a gentle rebuke for dissenters from this nuanced viewpoint.

“Those who claim that such an analysis demonises the poor are themselves wholly complicit,” she posits, “in condoning ... the neglect and victimisation of children, the abandonment and abuse of women ....” We leave it there, because the point is already well-made. The best way to demonise the poor as amoral and barbarous is to take issue with those who demonise the poor as barbarous and amoral. Once she explains it, as so often with Her Serene Insanity, all becomes crystal clear.

The Rosa Klebb-Parks of disabled parking

That snap of George Osborne parked in a disabled space inspires a boast from fellow Land Rover-driver Liz Jones. “I do it all the time,” she informs Mail on Sunday readers. “I make a point of doing it.”

For her, this is heroic defiance of wicked councils who over-indulge those unable to walk. Liz is the Rosa Klebb-Parks of the disabled bay, and we salute her as we applaud her brother-in-arms against social injustice, the magnificent IDS.

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