Weird turns in the bizarre world of Iain Duncan Smith…

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YOU’VE got to love Iain Duncan Smith – if you’re married to him. The rest of us can hate him with impunity.

And in the unlikely event that your heart is softening, hasten yourself to the Daily Mirror website. There you will find a story about the Work and Pensions Secretary in which he claims that people thank him for taking their benefits away.

The Mirror, no friend to the Tory party it is true, accuses Mr Duncan Smith of “losing the plot” after making a number of “increasingly bizarre claims” about his department’s benefit sanctions regime, as captured in a video by a local newspaper in London.

Increasing bizarreness has long been a characteristic of this most lovable of politicians (sorry, Mrs IDS took control of the keyboard for a second there).

In his latest outburst of oddness, Mr Duncan Smith said 75 per cent of people who have had their benefits stopped by his department’s sanctions said it helped them to “focus and get on”.

In a nice bit of phrasing, the Mirror says that a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions “was not immediately able to back up Mr Duncan Smith’s claim”.

Well, no – but we are immediately able to hear what else he had to say, according to the Mirror. As well as dismissing protests against benefit sanctions as “classic buzz from the left” he said that protesters were “never going to vote for us. They hate us”.

And then he topped that with the claim that Job Centres were “running out of people” to put back to work – even though, despite a welcome fall in overall unemployment, there are still 1.68 million people out of work in the UK.

The man they call IDS – and if you wish to see that middle letter as representing ‘Dunderhead’, feel free – also claimed his department had made no changes to the sanctions regime since 2010, even though he presided over the introduction of tough new rules two years after that, which drastically increased benefit sanctions.

In other news, reports from France say that when the guillotine was last used, 75 per cent of the detached heads said before rolling away: “Thanks for that, that head was weighing me down something rotten – I feel much better without it”.

You’ve got to love Jeremy Hunt – well, someone somewhere must. The Health Secretary has not only alienated virtually all junior doctors, now he has been in post when the NHS recorded its worst ever performance in January as services struggled to cope with unprecedented demand for A&A care, hospital beds and ambulances.

Patients in their hundreds of thousands had to wait longer than they should for time-critical care as the NHS missed almost all of its key waiting time targets.

At the same time, the NHS is said to be facing a deficit of £2 billion and what has been called the “worse financial crisis in a generation”.

And yesterday, Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said that hospitals were now so overwhelmed patients could die and the NHS was now facing an “eternal winter”

Now it is true that running the NHS is fiendishly complicated and expensive – but it is also true that everything seems to slide when the Conservative Party has been in control for a while.

One of the important things New Labour did – even though no one remembers it, including the Labour Party, it now seems – was to turn around the crumbling NHS and the battered public sector in general.

Sadly, part of the solution lay in ruinously expensive PFI deals, but at least something was done.

So that’s one thing we can thank Tony Blair for. You’ve got to love Tony Blair. Well, presumably Cherie does…

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