Sunday, 14 November 2010

Iain Duncan Smith?

I received an email form Iain Duncan Smith today. At least I would have assumed it was from Iain Duncan Smith if it hadn't notified me that the sender was Nick Clegg. My confusion arose from the first paragraph which bears repetition so we all know the Deputy Leaders state of mind.

Our Universal Credit is a radical and liberal policy. It will simplify
and amalgamate the main welfare benefits into one single system; ensure
that work always pays; and alleviate poverty by boosting take-up and
encouraging people into work. It is exactly the kind of change that we
came into politics to make.

Now I may be reading the wrong articles and watching the wrong news programmes but I thought this was Iain Duncan Smith's big idea? The Tories like it, they think its a winner so they've claimed it as their own. Nick Clegg can tell the party 'faithful' it's 'our' policy but surely he doesn't think anyone will believe him? This policy is true blue spin, and talking up work without providing it is not the change I campaigned for on behalf of Nick Clegg. The single credit policy has been around as an idea for ages, the desire to make work pay the battle cry of successive post war Governments, I didn't hear Nick Clegg exhorting party activists to extol their virtues a few months ago, B.C.

Given the first paragraph is so depressing, it comes as no surprise that another great Liberal is dragged in to brighten things up.

We will return the welfare system to its historic mission, as articulated by the
great Liberal William Beveridge, to offer security but not ‘stifle
incentive, opportunity and responsibility’.

Well, no, actually Nick, I don't agree with your argument. Nothing anyone has talked about with regard to the welfare state has anything to do with stifling incentive, opportunity and responsibility. It has nothing to do with these and everything to do with saving money by inciting the prejudice of the population. Now is not the time to tackle such great welfare reforms and neither is it the time for Liberals to turn their backs on the millions systematically disenfranchised by the Tory governments of Thatcher and Major and largely ignored by Blair and Brown. Not only do these people deserve a better champion than Bob Crow, they deserve a system that really helps them by re-balancing society and gives them a light at the end of the tunnel. Millions more will soon be joining them as real jobs disappear in the public sector and short termism and insecurity haunt the economy.

Will Hutton , who is sometimes a bit, well, wrong, can also be totally right and today he wrote an article containing values and arguments so beautifully simplistic that I think Nick Clegg would do well to offer it as the new Liberal manifesto. Not all of it, just the last bit. He wrote, ostensibly about tuition fees:

'The message is explicit: you British are on your own. Buy a house, fend for yourself and now pay your tuition fees. Society is going missing.

It is the sense of being helpless, of being forgotten, of having the social settlement recast in ways that takes away while offering nothing in return, and above all, not being heard that so inflames not just students but huge swaths of the British'

Personally I'd put an 'e' in swaths to make it look better but there is a kernel of an idea there for those looking for a banner to fight under. Everything that has been done for the benefit of the rich has taken away something from the rest of us and more and more of us are aware of it. Iain Duncan Smith may be offering a brave new idea for a fearful world but he's not offering the help he suggests, just an idea to keep those people still treading water happy. That Nick Clegg should claim this pretence at justice as partially his idea to the dwindling band of loyalists outside the halls of Westminster is a sad reminder, if any were needed, of just who he feels his friends are.

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