Like many people on Monday morning I heard Iain Duncan Smith say, without hesitation that he could live on £53 a week if he had to. I thought this an insensitive and callous statement to make while so many are suffering in conditions that can only be described as poverty, and most of all, coming from a man who is currently residing in a £2million mansion, and earning £134,565 a year as a cabinet minister.
Social media seemed to offer an avenue for myself, and others to challenge him to prove his claim, and allow him the opportunity to realise his party`s mantra, "we are all in this together".
Only minutes after starting the petition on Change.org it was clear it had legs and was running, and that it had tapped into a sentiment shared by so many others. I watched all day as the signatures kept coming and by midnight 100,000 people has signed.
I have been asked by a few people if I thought that Iain Duncan Smith would take up the offer. The simple answer is no. Of course there is no reason why he could not, and I did not consider it impossible.
I felt the point was to highlight the hypocrisy of the leadership of this government who are full of moralistic language, and love any opportunity to espouse nobel sentiments, but in actual fact live in a dreamy bubble of privilege, detached from the reality of all those who are suffering, but despite this, do not hesitate to judge and lecture them.
I think the petition achieved this. It turned the tables on the debate, and put the focus onto the leadership. It tapped into what a tweeter described to me as a "mine of anger". I think it shows without doubt that online petitions have power, and the power to make real changes, and voice public opinion, without the necessary requirement of representation through mainstream media, or political leadership. It is a modern exciting tool.
Some of the comments on the petition are from people living on benefits. One man, a father of six says that his family will suffer from the cuts and he just wants people like Iain Duncan Smith "to realise how hard it is for people."
One person who identifies themselves as a Conservative said "there may not be enough money to do everything that needs doing, but some compassion wouldn't go amiss."
I'm not living on benefits myself, but I hear so many stories of families struggling and worry that the cuts seem to be affecting the poorest people the most. It has been so encouraging to see the huge support for this petition. There is a deep anxiety about the benefit cuts that are being introduced and hundreds of thousands of people want their concerns to be taken seriously.
Although Iain Duncan Smith has not replied directly to me, he has released a short statement to his local paper referring to the petition as "a complete stunt which distracts attention from the welfare reforms". It is the total opposite.
The petition is a modern democratic tool, and this one in particular represents over 350,000* people concerned by the welfare reforms. It is he who is obfuscating from serious issues, and refusing so far, to answer in any meaningful way to his electorate.
He then goes on to say that "I have been unemployed twice in my life so I have already done this (lived on the equivalent of £53 a week). I know what it is like to live on the breadline." Whether Iain Duncan Smith`s has or has not suffered in the past, in a way similar to those suffering now, was never the question. If, as he said, he believes he could withstand living on £53, and thinks that "we are all in this together", he should should prove it with by his actions, now.
I think the top voted comment on the petition sums up people`s feelings perfectly: "If you are going to lead... Lead by example"
You can sign Dom's petition challenging Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week on the Change.org site here
*figure correct as time of publishing