Does anybody else have the feeling that Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, was only waiting for the Pope to name him a Cardinal-designate before sinking his teeth into the UK’s Conservative-led Coalition government?
Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols, who has attacked fellow Catholic Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts as a “disgrace”. [Image: Liverpool Echo]
One gets the impression he feels secure that the new position means his words now carry sufficient weight – and they are weighty words indeed.
“People do understand that we do need to tighten our belts and be much more responsible and careful in public expenditure,” said the Archbishop to the Telegraph.
“But I think what is happening is two things: one is that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart.
“It no longer exists and that is a real, real dramatic crisis.
“And the second is that, in this context, the administration of social assistance, I am told, has become more and more punitive.
“So if applicants don’t get it right then they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks with nothing – with nothing.
“For a country of our affluence, that quite frankly is a disgrace.”
“Hunger”, “destitution”, “crisis” – “a disgrace”. You cannot accuse this man of mincing his words!
They come almost a year after the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, together with the Archbishop of York and 43 bishops, launched their own attack on changes to social security, saying they would have a “deeply disproportionate” effect on children and families.
Mr Welby had himself only recently taken the Church of England’s most senior office.
Speaking to the Telegraph on March 9 last year, 12 days before his enthronement, he said: “As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.
“It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing.
“These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price … rather than the Government.”
The Department for Work and Pensions laughed off Mr Welby’s concerns.
But Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of (or “in a”) State for Work and Pensions, is – or is at least supposed to be – a devout Catholic. How could he ignore such harsh criticism from the most senior member of his Church in the United Kingdom?
Very easily, it seems.
Iain Duncan Smith has not deigned to respond. Perhaps he has a belief – he does seem to rely on them a lot, now, doesn’t he? – that he is doing more for the people of this country than the Archbishops. There’s a word for this condition that’s slipping my mind for a moment… no – I’ve got it.
A ‘Messiah’ complex – a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that they are, or are destined to become, a saviour.
‘Messiah’ trumps ‘Archbishop’ so IDS has chosen to ascend above the debate, leaving its resolution to his trusty DWP spokesperson, who came out with the usual lies.
“Our welfare reforms will transform the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with Universal Credit making three million households better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty,” wittered the spokesperson.
To disprove these words, let’s turn to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the social policy research charity that seeks to understand the causes of social problems, identify ways of overcoming them, and show how social needs can be met. This organisation has stated – repeatedly – that Universal Credit in its current form will create “increased risks of budgeting problems, debt, arrears and ultimately financial exclusion”.
The same organisation quotes research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) which states that, under current Coalition government policies, rather than hundreds of thousands of children being lifted out of poverty, by 2020 more than one million more children will be in poverty than when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats slithered into office by the back door in 2010.
So who do you believe? Come to that, what does Iain Duncan Smith really believe?
The DWP spokesperson said: “It’s wrong to talk of removing a safety net when we’re spending 94bn a year on working age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.”
But we know that Iain Duncan Smith has inflicted £28 billion of cuts on people receiving benefits from his Department for Work and Pensions. If another IFS statement – that this represents only two-fifths of the Coalition’s cuts plan – is accurate, then the total amount he’ll want to cut is a staggering £70 billion.
And he wants his people to talk about the money he’s spending, rather than the effect he’s having. So, what does he believe?
He believes in Mammon.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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