Simon Carr:

The Sketch: Damned if I can work out what their plan is

Related Topics

"We have no plans to abolish child benefit." Was that true? Yes, but in the sense that "No decision has been made to invade Iraq" was true. Preparations went on for a year but the "decision" was made only when the orders were signed. In truth, there don't seem to be "plans" in what is obviously government by inspiration.

It's possible to detect the genius of Oliver Letwin behind this pleasantly amateur set-up. But the lack of organisation isn't always a plus.

Where are the lines to take on child benefit? In Iain Duncan Smith's welfare speech, he confined himself to saying it was "tough but fair". That isn't a complete rebuttal of the five million words printed yesterday saying it was a catastrophe for the middle class. The media search for victims has been wonderfully productive.

Universal benefits are a brilliant Labour strategy to plait the middle class into the benefit system. That really was a plan. George's announcement is the way to give the bourgeoisie an ascendancy in the rows to come: "Oh, stop moaning, we've all taken a hit."

The argument is: "You can't expect them down there to give up their outrageous housing benefits unless you give up something yourselves." We need half a dozen variations of "We're all in this together". Where is the communications campaign? Is Andy Coulson otherwise engaged? Is he leaving it up to individual ministers? Has George Osborne issued the lines to take? And would people take them if he had?

It may be that the Chancellor's personal qualities don't engender affectionate support. We are all toads croaking beneath his harrow, and he doesn't mind letting us know that.

Anyway, IDS was there for his own moment of triumph and wasn't inclined to share the limelight. He'd been off in the wilderness for years to atone for his leadership shame.

Now he's back, with a big plan to reorganise benefits, and he might for all we know have cracked it. He told us much about the effects ("work will always pay") but so little about the plan itself it's impossible to say.

People liked it when he put his head on one side and said, "The vulnerable have nothing to fear." And there was a lot of the old granola everyone's been saying for two decades about rewarding this and aspiring to that.

They certainly do have a plan – but from IDS's speech I'm damned if I know what it is. Let's take it on trust.

In a fringe meeting Francis Maude told us about the work they were doing to tap the "hidden wealth of deprived communities". It's that Big Society theme that they sprang on us at the election launch.

I can't tell you specifically what that work is or what it has produced. But they've only been at it a couple of years and it would be wrong to hurry them. In your own time, gentlemen.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas