Dick of the Year – Iain Duncan Smith
The current cabinet is hardly short of potential nominees for Dick of the Year, but this year my nomination goes to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. IDS has had a long and inglorious career in politics: he was elected as an MP in 1992, and became party leader in 2001 thanks to a personal endorsement from Margaret Thatcher. As Leader of the opposition, he was one of the most faithful supporters of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also found time for a few scandals, with questions over the honesty of his CV and allegations that his wife was paid from public funds to act as his secretary, while not actually doing the job. He was eventually returned to the back benches after losing a confidence vote in October 2003, and since then has set up The Centre for Social Justice, a think tank which has influenced the Broken Britain theme in Tory policy.
While he obviously has a history of dickish behaviour, it is in the last year that IDS has really come into his own as a massive, throbbing shaft of Tory evil. He is a key architect of the government’s social policy, and an advocate of Compassionate Conservatism, which has informed his approach to the task of cutting people’s benefits – sorry, reforming the welfare system. Unlike your average heartless Conservative, IDS believes in tackling the root causes of poverty (except for the really obvious ones, like some people having no money, and there not being enough jobs to go around).
The Duncan Smith approach is a return to the paternalistic values of old; Victorian values, and the worthy institution of the workhouse. Labour may have started the work-for-your-benefits schemes, but under Duncan Smith’s leadership the DWP is expanding them to force the unemployed to get off their sofas and take on unpaid work placements with companies like Tesco and Poundland. Thanks to his efforts, we can surely look forward to the day when unemployment is eradicated because everyone on the dole was given sufficient incentive to really pull their socks up and become more employable, instead of relying on the welfare system. And just to ensure that nobody gets too comfortable on benefits, job centre staff have even been given weekly targets for the number of people whose payments they should dock.
Being a man of admirable work ethic, IDS hasn’t stopped at harassing the unemployed, but is going after the sick and disabled as well. Under strict new rules, even people undergoing cancer treatment will be required to attend assessments to prove that their illness prevents them from doing any paid work, and could have their benefits reduced or cut off altogether after twelve months. Not only is this cruel, but in Duncan Smith’s case, he can’t even use the excuse of ignorance because his wife Betsy was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and he must know that it took over a year for her to recover, because he himself took more than six months off work to look after her.
However, it is his public statements that IDS has found an outlet for the creative expression of his personal blend of dickery and moralising. According to IDS, all social evils – including the riots – can be attributed to the breakdown of the “traditional” family unit, and should be remedied by promoting marriage (or, alternatively, private finance initiatives). The one thing he doesn’t recommend as a policy for relieving poverty is money, because, unlike the rich, who are well known for their financial restraint, poor people would just waste it on useless, selfish things.
This first-time candidate is a truly deserving nominee for Bright Green’s Dick of the Year, and to be honest, this is probably the only time you’ll ever see me urging anyone to vote for a Tory.