THE BLOG

Time for Contrition and Humility: A Letter to Iain Duncan Smith

03/04/2013 12:46 BST | Updated 02/06/2013 10:12 BST

Dear Iain,

You seem to be a little confused as to why people have reacted so strongly to your recent comments about welfare reforms. Many people are concerned about your parties' policies and believe that they will make the lives of some of the UKs poorest people much harder. The comments you have made this week have compounded peoples' anger.

By glibly responding to David Bennett, a working man, that you could also live on £53 per week, you highlighted the arrogance with which you have approached these decisions. You contradicted your parties' carefully choreographed attempts to feign pain at making cuts, which, although insincere, did suggest some level of humility towards the ideological basis of your politics.

Let's face it; it's probably a lot easier to contemplate life on such a small budget when you are going home to a comfortable house with a £134,565 salary. Obviously, people are able to get by on £53 a week, by virtue of the fact that they are forced to do so, but the public concern is about the justice in them having to do so. So, when people start to sign a petition challenging you live on that small amount of money, it is because they want to send you a message that they found the way which you dismissed this mans' concerns disingenuous and obscene.

Yesterday you told the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian that this expression of peoples' anger is just a "stunt" and that we shouldn't "reduce this debate to an argument about one individual's set of circumstances". Now, this is where I become concerned that you have really missed the point. Whereas you might decide your policies based on statistics and generalised impact, many of us are acutely aware of the impact these decisions have on peoples' lived realities. Indeed by elevating this debate to consider individuals circumstances, we can begin to examine the shortcomings of your parties' policies.

So, as people continue to sign the petition , they are not really demanding you agree to live on £53 a week. They are expecting you to show some contrition. They are asking you to engage in an overdue conversation about the effect which the policies you support have on the lives on vulnerable people. They are imploring you to acknowledge the position of power you hold and accept the responsibility you have to people on all levels of society.

If you aren't able to empathise with vulnerable people, I would suggest that, for the sake of your career, you find a way to at least conceal the disregard for individuals with which you conduct your role.

Richard Moran