Peter Oborne’s attack on
Gideon George Osborne would be extremely amusing if he was defending almost anyone other than Iain Duncan Smith.
Oborne’s article in the Telegraph suggests a rift in the Conservative leadership between Osborne and Smith, with Osborne – whose attitude to welfare comes down to numbers – trying to take over the Department of Work and Pensions covertly, firstly by knocking £10 billion off the welfare budget without telling the work and pensions secretary, then by trying to replace him with a ‘yes’ man.
I have two problems with that. The first is that Oborne is probably right in suggesting that Osborne would not make matters better for the millions who are suffering persecution due to the welfare cuts and a demonisation strategy in the right-wing press. The second is his description of Smith himself.
“A committed Christian, he ultimately understands his task in terms of human redemption,” witters Oborne. “He does not believe that people are out of work because of their own fault. He believes that the vast majority are victims of a cruel system, partly created by Gordon Brown, which creates perverse incentives that encourage men and women to stay away from the job market. Mr Duncan Smith believes it is his life’s work to end this monumental tragedy, and to provide the best environment for the unemployed to find work and obtain the human dignity that a job brings with it.”
That is not what we see. What we see is a monster, cruelly throwing sick and disabled people off of the benefits they so clearly and desperately need, to face a short life of destitution followed by death caused by a worsening of their condition, or suicide because they cannot see a way out.
His policies for the unemployed involve coercing them into carrying out work-related exercises that are little other than an excuse to give money to the private firms providing the so-called service, and forcing them onto Workfare programmes that keep unemployment artificially high by ensuring that the firms taking part never have to actually give any of the participants a job.
All of this has been supported by a flimsy justification narrative that says he is encouraging these people out of a disgraceful cycle of benefit dependency and back into the job market; in fact he is doing nothing of the sort. But I have already made my opinions of Smith’s policies perfectly clear in the past. Just Google ‘Vox Political Iain Duncan Smith’ and you should get the gist.
Oborne himself appears to be utterly deluded. “There are, at the heart of this Government, only three majestic ideas,” he burbles. “The first is the restoration of the public finances, a task to which the Chancellor, strikingly, does not devote his full-time attention. The second is the grand programme of educational reform, masterminded with such admirable courage and verve by Michael Gove. The third is welfare reform.”
I would suggest those are the three policies that this government has got the most badly wrong.
Some readers might take joy from the thought that two Tory heavyweights (by the standards of the times) may be slugging it out, but I can’t. Firstly, we don’t know that it is true. The Telegraph seems to have a vendetta against Osborne at the moment; I won’t be convinced by its story – well-constructed as it seems to be – until I see substantive proof. Where’s the proof about Osborne’s expenses claim paying for a paddock and why has it not been submitted to the police and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards?
Secondly, even if the story is true, it doesn’t matter who wins. The people of the UK will continue to lose.