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Thatcha 2

Take a good hard look at the picture above and then try to tell yourself it isn’t the basis for RTU’s (see the earlier article on Iain Duncan Smith) entire benefits policy.

It is taken from the Spitting Image spin-off book Thatcha! The Real Maggie Memoirs, published in 1993 – just one year after Smith was returned to unit – sorry, Parliament – as MP for Chingford.

He first came to prominence as Shadow Social Security Secretary under William Hague in 1997. It cannot be beyond credibility that he had bought the Spitting Image book and had been taking notes… can it?

Look at the image. The form is described as “Form SCRO/UNG(e)/R” – and now benefit claimants are derided by the Conservative-led Coalition government as “scroungers”.

Note 2, referring to a claimant’s address, states: “Ha! Now we know where you live, we can keep an eye on you. You might have to keep up that fake limp for a long time.” This is typical of the current attitude, that disabled people are faking it in order to get a state handout.

Note 5, for those with relatives, delivers a classic Tory line, “Well why can’t they look after you? Must you always come running to us? Claim disallowed.”

Note 7 is for those who are registered disabled: “Claim disallowed – and don’t bother coming in to complain, we’ve got steps up to the office heh heh.” Is this a million miles away from current DWP policy, to make it as hard as possible for the sick and disabled to claim?

The form disallows claims made by people with partners, with savings, without savings; it asks claimants if they are lying and, if the ‘no’ box is ticked, bluntly responds, “Oh yes you are. Claim disallowed.”

The question “You don’t know the meaning of the words ‘hard work’ do you?” is an exact reflection of the attitude put around by the right-wing press, encouraged by ministers in the Coalition government, as is the fact that there is no ‘yes’ box to tick.

An affirmative response to “Would you be prepared to take any work offered to you, no matter how poorly paid, degrading & menial?” elicits the response: “God, you’ve really got no self-respect left, have you, you scrounging little bastard. I pity you.” Isn’t this exactly the sort of emotional state that Coalition benefit policy is intended to create?

Note 19, for those who ticked a box saying that they wished to claim the money – and claim free NHS spectacles (this last included in tiny print) – states: “Aha! Got you! You obviously don’t need them if you can read that tiny print. Claim disallowed” in a move reminiscent of the ‘voodoo polling’ that appeared on the Conservative Party’s website earlier this year, asking people if they thought benefit increases should be greater than wage rises for working people. When people ticked the box saying they disagreed with this, the Tories were able to claim this meant support for their policy for a below-inflation rise in benefits, when in fact it was based on a false premise, as benefit rises were never greater than wage rises in real terms.

“We promise to process this claim within 28 days. Though exactly which 28 days is up to us,” the form states. This will ring true, particularly for anyone who has received notice that they have a limited period in which to appeal against a decision – and that period ran out the day before they received the letter.

Most damningly true of all is the warning: “Remember, to give false information is a very serious offence – unless of course you are Minister of Employment, in which case it’s essential.” This is certainly a sentence that Iain Duncan Smith seems to have taken to heart.

By now, you may be thinking that this is all taking a silly joke form from a book of satirical humour – published 20 years ago! – just a little too seriously.

But, when you consider the sheer number of similarities between what was wild humour in the 1990s and what is bitter reality now, there can be no conclusion other than that the joke is on us.