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One of Labour’s biggest mistakes when in government – the employment of David Fraud – sorry, Freud – could soon be rectified after he made a disastrous comment at the Conservative Party conference.
At Prime Minister’s Questions today (October 15), he was revealed to have said on September 30: “There is a group… where actually… they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually” [make it possible for them to do so].
Labour leader Ed Miliband, challenging David Cameron to act on the remarks, said they represented the Tories’ “worst instincts”.
Cameron’s response – that these “were not the views of anyone in government” – was appallingly weak. Clearly they were: Lord Freud is, after all, a member of the government.
Commentators across the UK, watching the exchange on TV or the Internet, were quick to comment on the fact that Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Freud’s boss, was seen scuttling out of the House of Commons before PMQs ended.
Freud entered frontline politics when in 2006 he was appointed by Tony Blair to review social security, and devised the now-hated system which features expanded private-sector involvement and forces people on incapacity benefits to try to find a way back into “economic activity”.
In 2008 he was rehired to advise James Purnell, and helped produce a white paper requiring most people receiving benefits to participate in some form of mandatory work activity, as it is now known.
Then in February 2009, he joined the Conservative Party. That should have been a strong indicator to Labour that they had been harbouring a viper in their midst, and should have been all the reason needed to rip out his social security changes and put in something more humane. Alas, Labour missed the chance.
He was given a life peerage as Baron Freud in June that year and became a welfare minister in 2010, when the Coalition sidled into office.
Freud was quickly in trouble with the public for misrepresenting the level of fraud in welfare claims – perhaps this is where his own nickname, ‘Lord Fraud’ originates. He said fraud was very high, when in fact the amount was – and remains – negligible. This did not stop the Conservative-led DWP from instituting punitive measures against benefit claimants, ostensibly to minimise a problem that involved less than one per cent of claimants.
His list of misdemeanours is long, and some of the others are detailed in the articles mentioned below.
Are we to witness a long-overdue sacking, perhaps?
Bedroom tax decision: So Cameron has committed contempt of Parliament too – Bedroom Tax architect Lord Freud lives in an eight-bedroom mansion
Was political propaganda as blatant as this under Labour? – The ‘Claimant Commitment’
Turncoat Tory’s blue-sky talk can’t hide the damning truth – Welfare policies are pushing wages down
Is this the DWP’s latest statistics fix? – The benefit cap
‘In Memory of My Pop a WWI Soldier, who Fought for Honesty and Freedom’ – Cumulative impact assessment of welfare ‘reforms’ on benefit claimants is impossible, according to Freud.
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