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Like it or not, politics in the UK is far more nuanced today than it has been at any time in the last 100 years. How can it be anything else? All the main political parties are trying to occupy the same, narrow, centre-right ground.
Even so, one man has emerged as the pantomime villain of British politics: Iain Duncan Smith.
ConservativeHome readers regularly vote him into the top slot as the most popular cabinet minister – but it seems that anyone who has ever had dealings with his Department for Work and Pensions has the exact opposite opinion of him. He has been nicknamed IDS, but this blog calls him RTU instead – it stands for ‘Returned To Unit’, a military term for serving soldiers who have failed in officer training and have been returned in disgrace to their original unit (the implication being that his claim of a glittering military career is about as accurate as his claims to have been educated at the University of Perugia and Dunchurch College of Management).
Here at Vox Political, we believe that this man’s tenure at the DWP will go down in history as one of the greatest disasters of British political history – not just recent history, but for all time. It is our opinion that his benefit-cutting policies have done more to accelerate the impoverishment of hard-working British people than the worst recession in the last century could ever have done by itself.
We believe the assessment regime for sickness and disability benefits, over which he has presided, has resulted in so many deaths that it could be considered the worst genocide this country has faced since the Harrowing of the North, almost 1,000 years ago.
That will be his legacy.
On Sunday, he will appear on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show to answer your questions about his work. The show’s Facebook page has invited readers to submit their own questions and this seems an appropriate moment to highlight some of those that have been submitted – but are never likely to be aired; RTU is far too vain to allow hyper-critical questioning to burst his bubble.
Here is our choice of just some questions he won’t be answering:
“Why [has he] decided to cover up the number of suicides due to [his] benefit cuts?” “Why is he killing the elderly and the disabled?” “Does he have a figure (number of deaths) before he accepts a policy might not be working?”
“Universal Jobmatch, Universal Credit, WCA reforms, PIP; are there any policies and projects he has tried to implement that haven’t been a massive shambolic waste of money, causing distress and sanctions to so many people?”
“Would he like to comment on the huge amount of people wrongly sanctioned, and would he like to explain why whistleblowers from the JCP have admitted there are sanction targets?”
“Ask him if he believes a comparison can be drawn between the government’s persecution of the sick, disabled and mentally ill and the ‘Action T4’ instigated by the Nazis in 1939. I am sure the tow-the-line BBC will give him sight of the questions before he gets on the show so he will have time to look it up.”
“People are now waiting months for their appeals to be heard and the meantime their benefits are stopped. What does he expect them to live on? Why [are] he and his Department pursuing this deliberate war against some of our most poor and vulnerable people?”
“Could he comment on the massive amount of money written off due to failures with the Universal Credit?”
“Why are we paying private companies to test disabled and sick people when one phone call to their consultant or GP would provide all relevant details they need?”
“[Does] he have any intention of putting his money where his mouth is, [living] on £53/week, and how does he square that with the £39 on expenses he claimed for breakfast? Half a million people signed the call for him to do so.”
“Why are full time carers who look after loved ones only paid £59.75 a week? Less than JSA, indeed less than any other benefit! they save the tax payers millions, and yet have still been hammered by the changes in housing benefit, council tax benefit and of course the hated bedroom tax.”
“Ask him about the Universal Jobsearch website and the fake jobs on the site. As a jobseeker, this site need[s] better monitoring.”
“Ask him if the bedroom tax was really just a deceitful way to remove all social housing and force people into private rentals for the rich to claim housing benefits paid to claimants.”
“Does he think that paying subsidies to supermarkets and other private companies via welfare benefits because they do not pay well enough is what government should be doing?”
Some of the questioners address Mr… Smith directly:
“Why do you keep testing people with incurable progressive illnesses? Once found unfit to work, [they] never will get any better so to retest is stressful, cruel, and not needed.”
“Why are you telling Jobcentre Plus staff to get ESA claimants and JSA claimants to declare themselves self-employed, then reeling them in with the promise of an extra £20 per week? Is this why the unemployment rate fell last quarter?”
“You say you want the sick off what you call the scrap heap but with few jobs out there, do you mean off the scrap heap into the destitute gutter?”
“Do you feel remotely guilty for the lives you’ve ruined? the lies you’ve told? The dead people on your hands? Do you feel any shame at all that you’ve done all this and more? Do you sleep well at night knowing there are people who can’t feed their children because of you?”
“As a committed Roman Catholic, how does your conscience deal with you supporting and advantaging privileged millionaires while you personally and systematically further impoverish the poor and disadvantaged?”
“Does he feel ashamed to have caused so much suffering, because he flipping well should!”
There were many more questions that were not appropriate for repetition.
To see what he does have to say for himself, tune in to Sunday Politics on BBC1, starting at 11am on March 9 (which is, as you might have guessed, Sunday).
Just don’t get your hopes up.
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