Saturday, 1 February 2014

The mind of Iain Duncan Smith

The most remarkable item to pop up in the news feeds this week was in a regional paper, the Gloucestershire Echo.  It's the key to understanding the mind of Iain Duncan Smith and the battle which his opponents face.  I urge you to read it before going any further.
Okay?  You're surely bemused now.  Can this be what he really believes?  Let's take it a few sentences at a time.  He was asked if he accepted blame for the fact that the use of food banks has quadrupled in Cheltenham, according to the Trussell Trust.  IDS replied that he is "very much in support of people helping other people.  I don't even think there is a blame here."  So it's just a matter of mutual support, and not something anyone, least of all IDS, is at fault for.  Now we get the waffle:
"The reality is that first of all people who get involved with food banks, set them up, are doing what they feel is very community spirited and want to help out people who they think have got a particular issue or problem."  
This is pretty meaningless, but implies that the Trussell Trust is doing what it wants to do, and so what?  Nothing to do with me.
"The reality is [that silly phrase again, which asserts rather than argues] that usage of food banks has been rising anyway and it was rising even during the time of growth under the last Government, continuing to rise over this, most of the period you are talking about anyway is pre-the impact of welfare reforms, most of them didn't come in until the early or middle part of last year."
Food banks started in a small way under the Labour government, but their numbers have soared since 2010.  That hasn't stopped the Tories making thoroughly dishonest statements.  And what is IDS arguing here?  That the growth is not down to "welfare reforms"?  So what is the reason?  He leaves that one hanging.
"I think it is a positive thing for people to use food banks and I think if they need it, local authorities sometimes refer to food banks now because they run the social funds and instead of actually just paying money out some of them refer across."
The first part of that is just grotesque.  Then he gets on to blaming local authorities.  They "run the social funds" so they save money by sending people to the food banks rather than giving them cash.  No mention, you notice, of jobcentres doing the same thing, or of his refusal to publish, or even collect, any data on this.
"There are complex reasons why people use food banks but I think it's excellent."
Dismissive, contemptuous and stupid just about sums up that sentence.  But he hasn't finished:
"We should put this in context.  In the UK the Trussell Trust has put some figures out that say about 60,000 people use them a week but in Germany, which has a more comprehensive welfare system, one and a half million people a week use them and in Canada which has a smaller population about 800,000 a week use them."
Notice the phrase "has put some figures out".  It drips with contempt for the Trust's propaganda, and then implies that the figures are tiny anyway in comparison with other countries.  I have no idea whether his figures for Germany and Canada are correct or whether direct comparisons are possible, but it's irrelevant to the argument.
The interviewer must have felt that it was like punching blancmange.  There is no sense at all that Duncan Smith understands what's going on or why.  He literally doesn't want to know.  He has a completely fixed idea of his mission, and filters out any inconvenient fact which doesn't fit.
Mr Duncan Smith is appearing before the Work & Pensions Select Committee on Monday to answer questions about Universal Credit.  Not the PAC, as I thought, which means he won't get the sort of grilling he would have got from Margaret Hodge.  It's at 4.30, I believe.  Let's hope it's televised.


  1. That is one Twisted way to look at society,yet he has mismanaged programmes costing billions,destroying what little security people could rely on as a safety net and dismissing it as a small price to pay,pay for what? more media classes? Portraits?or Y-fronts


    He's right about the numbers in Germany, but why that's seen as a positive, or useful, or even particularly relevant comparison is beyond me. As the LSE blog states, the increase of food bank usage in Germany is associated to an extent with the Hartz reforms, which whilst positive in many respects (as I think I've mentioned in a previous comment), have had downsides too.

    Germany, with its strong, export-heavy economy, regional development and mittelstand is often seen as a model to follow (or it would be if the social and cultural norms carried across to the UK and if it wan't already too late) but the reality is a little more complex - e.g. high employment has been achieved at the expense of something of a of a decline in pay and living standards and has benefited considerably from a Euro which, from a German perspective, seems somewhat undervalued.

    Finally, I note that IDS omitted to mention that local authorities are only running the social fund this financial year and next. After that, there's no money.

  3. I volunteer at a Trussell Trust food bank. The number of people using the service continues to grow and there are plans to open more food banks in the area in order to meet with the demand

    Many of the people who visit us are mired in a cycle of poverty that will realistically be very difficult to escape from - more so, in my opinion, since a lot of the old safety nets provided by the state are being cut away and charities are stepping in to help as best they can.

  4. Let's face it, IDS just doesn't give a damn. All he cares about is seeing through his "mission", whatever he believes that to be, and to hell with the human suffering that results.

  5. Margaret Hodge is a champion.

    She is one of the few politicians on either side of the fence unafraid to voice her own opinions- even if they are in direct contradiction with the party line- especially on welfare reform.

    I'd vote for her.

    1. True. But, sadly, I was wrong about it being the PAC he is facing. It's the Work & Pensions Committee, a much easier task. I've edited the post accordingly.

    2. In fairness, some of the W&P committee aren't bad. Anne Begg is competent, Glenda Jackson quite tenacious, Debbie Abrahams clearly takes it seriously, but there's nobody with the inclination to go for the jugular like Hodge or the forensic attention to detail of Andrew Tyrie. The biggest weakness is the Tories - and although I generally dislike them and their policies, I wouldn't say the same for every Select Committee.

      Most of the Tories on the Work and Pensions Committee seem at best only there in body rather than mind (one of the more ambitious current Tory members apparently spent most of a recent session messing around with his iPad), and at worst there are a couple who appear to be more concerned with ideology than impact, an attitude quite unsuited to the role of a Select Committee.

  6. I can see an image of Smith doing the David Brent dance or perhaps saying "Implementing the Work Program is like making love to a beautiful woman" in the guise of the Fast Show's Swiss Toni. Because to come out with pathetic justifications regarding his utter failures such as the Work Program, Univ. Credit, Univ. Jobmatch and now the big rise in food bank usage, one can only conclude that Smith like Brent and Swiss is suffering from some kind of mid-life crisis. Only without the humour!

    Regarding his crass justification of the rise of food banks and saying he is "very much in support of people helping other people" is barely disguised code for a desire to cut back the welfare budget more and more. Presumably he's equally in favour of groups opposing his plans supporting one another and offering advice too!

    "The reality is that first of all people who get involved with food banks, set them up, are doing what they feel is very community spirited..."

    Just an extension of Cameron's 'Big Society' claptrap. Remember that? A society where charities, social enterprises and other non-profit orgs would pitch in and do what the state no longer provided. Anyone with half a brain could see this was merely a crude attempt at justifying budget cuts. Smith is trying to suggest the sharp increase in food bank usage is fine under this same guise yet not his or his dept.'s fault!

    "We should put this in context. In the UK the Trussell Trust has put some figures out that say about 60,000 people use them a week but in Germany, which has a more comprehensive welfare system, one and a half million people a week use them and in Canada which has a smaller population about 800,000 a week use them."

    So that's okay then? It's like saying because Mexico City and Johannesburg both have a higher murder rate than London, it's fine to downplay any and every London based murder as a result!

    Smith is a man in denial and I suspect he knows it. He is a dangerous individual as a result. He should not be anywhere near the political sphere in my view.

    P.S. Is it me or does just about every published photo of Smith show an angry man? Each one a glimpse into the soul of the man I think.

    1. Guardian article on

      Homelessness has gone up every year of this government according to this article. IDS could be creating a homelessness time bomb in my opinion.

      What confuses me is the Government insisting homelessness is lower ?

      Do I need a degree in statistics to get a handel on this?

    2. notanonymous: Do I need a degree in statistics to get a handle on this?
      No a degree in logic- when this Government says something is going down- like unemployment- that means it is actually rising. When they say that Welfare Reform is working it means its failing. When they say its day time and the sun is shining - it means its night and the sun is down. So expenditure on welfare is currently 12%GDP, but unemployment is going down says DWP (i.e. that means it is rising), overall benefits are rising because there are more people now receiving pensions than previous years. In short the increase in welfare spending (if this actually the case) can not be pinned on the workless hpusehold scrounger class portrayed by the right!
      For a good analysis of Welfare Reform figures see the Guardians report from Apr 2013:
      'Benefits in Britain: separating the facts from the fiction'

      If I were on the WPSC I would ask IDS to produce one single person for whom the massive £5billion has been spent whom has actually got full-time work through the WP then i'll shut up and eat my hat- before that question though I would ask him if his first name is Iain just to make sure I hear 'er no I believe its not my name' response so I know its actually him in front of me!


    3. I can't understand why he is still in office. Patsy in waiting maybe?

  7. I think there is something seriously wrong with IDS, and Freud. They appear to be living in their own little worlds, and want to force people into them..The more they speak the more i become afraid of the future.

  8. There is no point in cosidering the "mind" of IDS because he hasn't got one.

    1. I don't usually go for abuse, but IDS and Freud are second or third rate intellects at best. Even with a friendly audience they can't make a convincing case that they're on top of their briefs. Their respective careers are hardly glorious, so maybe one shouldn't be surprised.

      Incidentally, came across this earlier: Haven't had the time to look at the figures in detail, and like for like comparisons can be tricky without getting elbow deep in different national systems, but the UK figure looks to be in the ball park. JSA is less in real and relative terms than ever. Apparently people are flocking from around the world for this largesse.

  9. Interesting interaction going on in the committee the other day. It was plainly obvious that Ian Duncan Smith and his team treats the committee with serious contempt.

    Should the Secretary for State for the Department for Works and Pension not distance himself from the procurement and design of software for which is a matter of the independence of the Civil Service ? He has the job of defining policy not the operational requirements to implement policy. It is the civil service who should lead any changes in the 'toolbox' it requires to implement the policies of the government of the day. That 'toolbox' should be independent and flexible so that whichever political party whims can be managed by the civil service. Failure to observe this deliniation of the two areas will mean constant re-writes of software each time the government and policy changes and could result in a large waste of time, effort and money. To ensure that national resource is secure and is future proofed the benefits systems must be the preserve of the Civil Service.

    It is a complex system and as it stands they way that Ian Duncan Smith and his team were speaking about it there dones not appear to be much basic or complex systems analysis being done. If there was there would be a more coherent knowledge of what each claimant groups required and how they link together within the system. That is not apparent and each time someone asks Ian Duncan Smith's team the fluff it. They plainly don't know their subject. What are we paying the people to do ?

  10. Would some please tell IDS that 'open source' or community built software has been around for about 17 years.He appeared as if he had just discovered it. IDS looks completely rattled when questioned by the committee. IDS could be broken by firmer questioning. He has little or no respect for the chair or the committee. Push him a little harder. To me he is allowing the systems to be built piecemeal with little or no overall 'big picture' strategy. Good System Analysis is key to identifying the various common variable. IDS appears to be in denial and he has failed to identify problems which the committee have an absolute right to know. IDS is seriously 'not fit for purpose' and should resign asap.

  11. And now, Mr IDS, fake job vacancies adverstised on the UJM website! I'm sure I've applied for loads of them wasting my time when I could be applying for legitimate vacancies! Looks like the self-serving Tory led government are not interested in getting me back into work afterall!


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