The mantra has been trotted out so many times that rather too many have begun to believe it: Iain Duncan Smith (aka IDS) doesn’t have to be doing his current job – as Work and Pensions minister – and could just walk away from it, but is committed to reforming the welfare system as part of his belief that this will benefit both taxpayers and those unfortunate enough to need the safety net it provides.
Thus the myth of the independent and kindly spirit was created. But an article for the Telegraph has shot any idea of IDS being a principled and benign persuader and reformer to pieces, and for two very good reasons: firstly, much of the content is flagrantly dishonest, and secondly, the language in which it is couched indicates that IDS is merely a front man for the ideological part of the Conservative Movement.
“We’ve brought back fairness to welfare” proclaims the headline, which should already be ringing alarm bells, with the sub-heading “No longer will hard working taxpayers have to pay for Labour’s benefits profligacy” sending a deafening clanging around all who may be concerned about right-wing entryism. There’s only one group who proclaim “fairness” for “hard working taxpayers”.
And that well known Astroturf lobby group is the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), whose staffers more than likely wrote part, if not all, of the article that bears IDS’ name. The relatively short piece manages to shoehorn in two mentions of Waste, three of Fair or Fairness, three of Fraud or Fraudster, and no less than five of Hard Working Taxpayers (or Workers, or Majority). All are well-worn TPA keywords.
Then there is the sheer dishonesty, as highlighted by a Channel 4 Fact Check. The amount by which tax credits rose prior to General Elections appears to have been exaggerated by a factor of several times, the actual amount paid in tax credits under Labour was exaggerated by almost 20%, and the claim that “fraudsters from around the world targeted this benefit for personal gain” was not supported by any evidence.
That the Tory Party is allowing an Astroturf tail to wag the dog is pitiful, but will come as no surprise to those who have observed the passage through the revolving door from TPA to Tories of one Susie Squire, who spent two years as IDS’ SpAd before becoming head of press for the party. She is now Young Dave’s press secretary. Thus the conduit for the Conservative Movement.
And hence the crude and dishonest demonisation of tax credits, alongside the promotion of their replacement, which is deemed to be “fair”, no matter how much poverty and misery results (and, in any case, it appears that the definition of poverty will merely be revised to suit). IDS, meanwhile, comes out of this not as some kind of caring reformer, but as a tame stooge for the ideologues.
So he will take the flak, while the cowards driving welfare policy keep schtum.