Thursday 27 August 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
In his recent speech on work, health and disability Iain Duncan Smith made a great many extravagant claims, not least the following regarding what you supposedly inherited from Labour in 2010:
* nearly one in five households had no one working;
* the number of households where no one had ever worked had nearly doubled;
* 1.4 million people had been on benefits for most of the previous decade.
* And where close to half of all households in the social rented sector had no one in work.
The full transcript of the speech was published by the think tank ‘Reform’ and, as we’ve come to expect from Smith, not a single reference link was provided for what looks, to these tired eyes, like extremely extravagant claims. I shall pursue a Freedom of Information request to his department in due course, which should not prove irksome for Smith. Given how recently he made the speech he should have the information to hand.
What I want to focus on today, however, is his assertion that many people on benefits had ‘fallen into a life of dependency’. In so saying he revealed the true depth of his ignorance of the lives of ordinary people and how little contact he has ever had with them. Were he alive today Robert Tressell, author of ‘The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists’, would immediately have taken issue with Smith because the true state of dependency exists in the fragile world of work which fragility you and your government have been at such pains to increase exponentially. You have stripped away basic working rights and protections at work, access to justice through increasing employment tribunal fees and, of course, broken the primal link between work and pay forcing many to work for nothing. I care not what you call it, training, work experience or ‘Workfare’ everyone should have the most basic right to expect and demand payment for their labour the purpose of which, so conveniently forgotten, is food on the table, at the very least.
For many, the first experience of a stable income has been the very system of social security that Smith is so keen to demolish. That is certainly the case for me as a disabled man, having struggled all my working life balancing work and disability with varying degrees of success, but always fragile, always fraught, always filled with the constant fear of falling off the edge. It was not until I began to receive Disability Living Allowance, an in-work benefit I’d like remind you, that I began to experience for the first time some degree of financial stability in my life and relief from incessant daily worry and fear for my near and distant future. Of such things Smith evidently knows nothing as he pursues his vicious, deceitful and ideological, war on the poor. Far from making people well, work is frequently the very thing that either makes people sick, physically or mentally, or makes their existing condition worse, now with the added risk to life and well being from Iain Duncan Smith himself who clearly has not the faintest idea of the real violence inflicted upon people by poverty. Or perhaps he does, which would make him the vilest man alive in Britain today.