27/12/2019 22:30 GMT | Updated 27/12/2019 23:04 GMT

New Year's Honours List 2020: 'Architect' Of Universal Credit Iain Duncan Smith Is Knighted

The Conservative minister, who served as work and pensions secretary for six years, is set to become Sir Iain.

Henry Nicholls / Reuters
Iain Duncan Smith

Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith has been offered a knighthood as part of the Queen’s New Year honours list. 

The politician, who has represented Chingford and Woodford Green in north east London for 22 years, will become a knight bachelor for his “political and public service”. 

It will be a controversial choice to many: as work and pensions secretary between 2010 and 2016, Duncan Smith is often credited as the architect of Universal Credit (UC).

The new benefits system – along with its minimum five-week wait for payments – has been accused by some groups and organisations, such as the foodbank charity Trussell Trust, of plunging vulnerable families into “acute financial hardship”.

Even during a trial period last year involving only a small number of claimants, four people’s deaths while on UC were being investigated by the DWP, according to Freedom of Information data.

Knight bachelor is the lowest of the knighthoods that can be bestowed by the Queen, is available only to men, and means Duncan Smith will become Sir Iain.

Though he had held it for more than two decades, Duncan Smith’s seat was seen as a possible target by Labour in the most recent general election, with candidate Faiza Shaheen vying to replace him. In the end, though Labour increased its vote share, Shaheen lost out by 1,262 votes, giving Duncan Smith the slimmest majority of his career.

Duncan Smith served as leader of the Conservatives from 2001 to 2003, whilst the party was in opposition, and was the work and pensions secretary from 2010 to 2016. 

Formerly chair of Boris Johnson’s Conservative leadership campaign, Duncan Smith is also part of a group of committed Brexiteers – the ERG (the somewhat opaquely named European Research Group) – who have consistently advocated for a “hard” exit from the EU.

Duncan Smith himself repeatedly spoke out against Theresa May’s Brexit Deal and wrote in the Sun in May that the former PM should leave a “legacy” by pulling the UK out of the EU without a deal at all.

Duncan Smith’s colleague Bob Neill is also set to receive a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year honours list, while Labour MP for Hull North Diana Johnson will be made a dame. 

It’s not just politicians who will be granted the honour of appearing on the Queen’s list – hundreds of exceptional people, including those who work for charities, sportspeople, and those involved in the entertainment industries will also receive the accolades. 

Amongst them are Olivia Newton John, who will be made a dame for her services to charity, to cancer research and to entertainment, cousins Jo Middlemiss and Maureen Burnett, who launched a charity in Ethiopia and will both be made MBEs, Wilf Oldham, a 99-year-old Battle of Arnhem veteran who will be made an MBE.