It was Stanley Baldwin, Conservative Prime Minister in the 20s and 30s, who said that the press had "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages". It seems to me to apply to individuals who write for particular papers, giving support to the likes of Duncan Smith without any glimmer of knowledge of the subject. Take a piece by Simon Heffer in today's Mail online. I suspect it was the subs who wrote the disgusting headline - Let's get the feckless to buy food - not fags and booze. But that's Heffer's thesis. Yes, the push is there again to determine what the poor are allowed to spend their pittance on by giving them swipe cards to ensure that they don't buy any luxuries.
Who is Simon Heffer, you may ask, and what qualifies him to pronounce on this subject? Well, he was educated at King Edward VI's School, Chelmsford, and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he read English and subsequently took a PhD in modern history. He wrote biographies before joining The Daily Telegraph as a leader writer in 1986 and later held the posts of chief leader writer, political correspondent, parliamentary sketchwriter, comment editor and deputy editor. He has since rejoined the Daily Mail and edits a new online comment section, called RightMinds. That CV, I suppose, makes him an expert on the subject of welfare reform.
What he's advocating is familiar, but I want to pick out one sentence. "Retailers would be invited to sign up as part of an approved merchant scheme and would benefit by having guaranteed custom in return." Think about that for a moment. And then turn to an article in an American online newspaper, slate.com. In the US the poorest get food stamps, which haven't been actual stamps for a long time. It's all electronic now, and it's the system which Heffer wants to see here. The major supermarkets reap huge profits from the system, because people are forced to buy their food there; and the biggest beneficiary is Walmart, which owns Asda over here. The figures are not disclosed, because of that old get-out clause "commercial confidentiality", but when the numbers on food stamps go down, so do the profits of the supermarkets.
Now, call me suspicious, but could it be that behind the cant about saving the poor from their fecklessness and saving the taxpayer from exploitation, there's another agenda? Could it just be that there's a massive profit opportunity here?