The news has taken a bizarre turn of late. We're used to seeing junior doctors protesting about having new contracts forced upon them by the Conservative government. We're awash with community groups fighting to save their libraries and children's centres and other places that just can't run without funding. But the latest group to be protesting government cuts are...well...the government themselves.
Not that they're being so directly hypocritical, oh no. They are protesting local authority cuts, as if the local authorities had just taken it upon themselves to close down baby clinics and maybe spend the extra £58 million or so on a water feature for the Town Hall. These prominent senior Tories are playing the part of the concerned local MP, writing to councillors and urging them not to cut services. Leading the pack, as ever, was David Cameron, asking Oxfordshire County Council ever so politely if they mind just making a few back office staff redundant instead of turfing the old folks out of the day centre. We don't know exactly how council leader Ian Hudspeth responded to the letter, but the temptation to just scrawl "WTF?" all over it and return it to sender must have been overwhelming.
And now there's IDS. Surrounded on all sides by damning DWP statistics about benefit deaths, he's realised he needs to step up his PR campaign and is hoping that the local Tories will be the ones to help him. So, he's done a string of photoshoots, staring at speed humps as if they hold all the answers to how he can bury yet another bit of bad news. Unfortunately, the turn out for these photos has got ever poorer, with even the die hard IDS fans becoming a bit embarrassed to be seen in public with him. When there's a space of three cars and four houses between you and your closest constituent, you need to up the ante. So he has. This week he's protesting about cuts to a local GP clinic.
Hold up, Iain "Man of the People" Duncan Smith - isn't it your government that is, indirectly, making these cuts? And don't you always vote with them? According to theyworkforyou.com, "Iain Duncan Smith almost always voted for reducing central government funding of local government". He voted to cut LA budgets this February, as he did last February. He's introduced a raft of measures designed to screw over the sick and the disabled and there are thousands of stories emerging of just how horrendous the austerity regime is. Like the woman who was told she wasn't ill enough to receive disability benefits - on the day that she died. IDS is a man with a lot of power and it doesn't seem like he is using it to enhance the health of the nation.
But in a way, I can see his dilemma. He's been criticised for being an ineffectual local MP so he is trying to do something that helps the local people. Problem is, any issue he tries to tackle is ultimately going to lead back to the same source - central government funding cuts. It seems that once you get to a certain level it's almost impossible to advocate on behalf of your constituents when it's your government causing the pain. So, what to do? He can't exactly disassociate himself from Cabinet decisions but it's obvious that the people of Chingford and Woodford Green are having some trouble separating out Iain-the-heart-of-gold-Local-MP and the IDSmonster. And really, who can blame us?
Naturally, I have no sympathy. If he and Cameron are going to impose a inhumane regime on the most vulnerable in our society, they should not be surprised when it comes back to bite them in public. And yet, they always seem to be....