Pass the fucking sick bag. Iain Duncan Smith’s performance on the Andrew Marr show this morning was one of the most nauseating displays politics has seen in a long, long time – and there’s been stiff competition. His crass portrayal of himself as a decent man, trying to do the right thing for both the people and his party, is perhaps his greatest self-delusion yet. Remember one thing from that interview if you were unlucky enough to watch it. Iain Duncan Smith, quietly amid his bluster, admitted that he agreed with the cuts to disability benefits that he resigned over, but that they should have come as part of a package of wider support.
Every claimant knows what that support would be. Yet another chance to squander billions pursuing his messianic fantasy of himself as a great welfare reformer with more workfare, more sanctions and more harassment from Jobcentre busy-bodies. George Osborne said no, cut the fucking crap, we’re supposed to be pretending to save money. So Iain Duncan Smith did what he always does when he doesn’t get his own way. He had a tantrum.
This petulant temper is why it has been tactically useful at times to portray him as a conniving and brutal architect of death and hardship. This approach no doubt even contributed to his recent flounce. The truth though, is that he’s not that clever. He’s worse than that. Iain Duncan Smith is a bungling fucking idiot on a mission from God. And like all zealots before him, so convinced has he been that he is treading the one true path that his eyes, and heart, have remained closed to the consequences of his actions. Consequences that have been tragic. Consequences that have included the state’s bureaucracy driving some of the UK’s poorest citizens to their deaths by placing intolerable and unsurvivable pressure on those already living fractured lives. He has not been called a killer for nothing.
But to view his actions as the work of a mere power-crazed murderer fails to see the entire horrifying picture. Which is that amongst think-tanks, charities, self-appointed experts in the welfare-to-work industry and even the Labour Party – perhaps most of all the Labour Party – Iain Duncan Smith’s views are not extreme. There is a consensus amongst these respectably clad vermin, even if not all would have the stomach to play out their ideological beliefs to their logical conclusion – as Iain Duncan Smith was proud and happy to do. This consensus believes that poverty is an individual failing not a structural problem. That it can be cured by fixing poor people, not society. That all it takes is hard work to prosper under modern capitalism and so it is right, natural and unavoidable that our entire lives should be a competition – we must constantly strive, every day, to reach the next rung on the economic ladder. That happiness is just around the corner if we work hard and do the right thing – and if we don’t then we must be punished, to help steer us on the path to prosperity.
It is, they imply, a competition everybody can win if we all just pull our socks up and put in the hours. But competitions don’t work that way, especially when they are rigged by private schools, elite universities, inherited wealth and structural unemployment. A lottery where everyone wins means sharing the spoils amongst us all. The capitalist class have no intention of ever doing that. Their ideology is a sham, a crude self-deception to wash away their guilt and justify their greed. And they are all fucking in it together.
None of this gets Iain Duncan Smith off the hook. He is a truly nasty man. A devious bigot, a liar and a calculating plotter without the intellect to back it up. A proper fucking wanker who needs kicking round a pub car park – not that it would teach him anything, it wouldn’t, but it would be nice to see him bleed for a change.
Like most of his fellow Tories, his own privilege shielded him from any understanding of what he was really creating. He seems to think that a benefit sanction – removing the only means of survival for those without work or savings – is just a mild rebuke, a welcome jolt as he put it to encourage people to try a bit harder. In the world of Iain Duncan Smith money never runs out, so how could he understand what it really means to have nothing at all. Why would he understand the devastating and debilitating consequences of extreme poverty. How anguish, hunger and intolerable stress demolishes people. That destitution means spending the day thinking about where the next meal is going to come from, not updating your fucking CV. His reckless reforms have been like a doctor injecting cyanide into the veins of his patients and then being appalled when they die. Then thinking the dose must be too low, they need more poison, to incentivise them back to health. To help them learn.
Of course the likes of George Osborne have been only too happy to exploit this moral shield that, until now, had masked the cruelty of his government to the dwindling number of genuine conservatives in his party. Those who believe in God, and charity, who put a penny in the box for the poor and pat cripples on the head. The ones who don’t want to upset the vicar and only torture kittens when they are absolutely certain no-one else is watching. Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice facade was the perfect cover for Osborne’s class war. Austerity appeared to map perfectly to an insistence that those with nothing can be taught not to be poor anymore by making them poorer. It worked, for a while. When Osborne pulled the strings IDS danced. But the Chancellor under-estimated one thing about Iain Duncan Smith – his incessant need for power and status.
This is a man who truly believes himself to be magnificent despite his meagre talents. Who will happily tear his own political party in two, for the second time, to place himself as the great man of history in control of dramatic events. Whether his obsession is Europe or social security reform makes little difference as long as he is at the centre of any chaos he creates. Vain he may be, but he can take the criticisms, the insults and the fact he can’t hang around in a pub car park for too long these days, as long as he can convince himself that he is important. Despite his claims to be compassionate he loved the thought of the poor being forced to scurry around like lab rats whilst he prodded and poked to see how much they – we – could take.
His grandiose schemes like the Work Programme and Universal Credit have been the props on which this fragile self-belief depended. Without them he is just another grubby Tory, cutting disabled people’s benefits and whining about the poor. That is not enough for Iain Duncan Smith. That is why he resigned. If he doesnt get to be the messiah then he doesn’t want to play anymore. Good. Bring on the next cunt.
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