Let's start with a multiple choice question. Isn't this exciting?
a) a medical condition characterised by being bloated and full of hot air
b) the Work and Pensions Secretary, or
c) all of the above.
Iain Duncan Smith was riled to be "ambushed" on a radio programmed (not guilty) and challenged to survive on the £53 a week that a benefit claimant said he had to subsist on. It was not really an ambush as such - Iain's job is being a politician, and so talking to people who might not agree with his every utterance and who might have issues with his policies and the direction the government is taking is, sort of, his job and deliberately going on a radio programme to talk about benefit scroungers does rather leave one open to that sort of thing. It was an ambush in the same way that teachers are ambushed in their classrooms daily by all those pesky children they have to instruct.
The man with three names seemed rather put out though, and communicated this fact by getting all sweary. He would take "no bloody lessons" form those calling for him to live on £53 a week, he said, because he had "been there, done that". He claimed to have been "on the breadline" a full two times in his life to this point. He did not mean that he has queued for a baguette in Fortnums.
He first encountered the anguish of inactivity on exiting the army. He had no education, training or skills to fall back on, apart from the excellent schooling he had received, the thorough training he completed at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the heavy goods vehicle driving licence he had acquired on leaving. Truly a moribund circumstance.
I.D.S rammed home the point about his brief but perilous position by claiming that, unlike the undeserving feckless that the coalition has its sights on, he did not receive a remittance from the state. "I didn't claim unemployment benefit - I lived off the savings I had", he said, which is perhaps a little too much information if you are trying to plead experience of being poor, as one can not be in possession of "savings" and be on the "breadline" at the same time.
The Work and Pensions Secretary offered another example of his connection to the common man and why shirkers should not be accommodated. He said that later on in life, when he had worked his way up, he was made redundant and had to start all over again from scratch. This was the period after he had married. This was the period after he had married into the aristocratic Freemantle family by wedding the daughter of Commander John Tapling Fremantle, 5th Baron Cottesloe, 5th Baron Fremantle, DL JP RN, the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire and Justice of the Peace. That is the "scratch" he was having to work up from. His wife's Eton educated father and his Eton educated father before him are the very same Cottesloes that have an entire theatre named in their honour on London's South Bank. What a pitiful position to find himself in. How utterly hopeless were his prospects.
Despite this cruel hand that fate had dealt him, our doughty hero "looked up the stock market yearbook" and wrote blind letters to people, one of which got him his job. "Every bloody day I had to look for work", he said, which may have been how one talks in the army but not what you might expect from a man at the heart of government in a respectable country. He said it to the Daily Mail. Its readers may have had to reach for a hanky.
As if to underline his tumescent ire, he said he faced the grinding, dragging, sinking despond of long term unemployment and hopelessness when he went without work for a full three months. He said "the honest truth is that I don't need any lessons from these people". Sounds a bit haughty and superior, that - "these people" - rather sounds like he is scraping them off the bottom of his custom hand made leather shoes. Perhaps that is just how it looks in print. You can lose the nuance when it is written down. He added that he has worked hard all his life and "nobody has given me a penny".
Well, that is not entirely true - we the people give him 13,400,000 of them every year, with another ten million or so in expenses. But he would counter that he has earned them all. Quite right. Iain Duncan Smith has got to the lofty position he holds today with no outside help or assistance of any kind and that is proof that everyone could do the same, if only they would apply themselves. Rich and successful people almost always feel that way. They will not countenance that luck had anything to do with it. They all achieved their pre-eminence through their own toil and innate genius.
The squirmingly uncomfortable truth, however, is that almost everyone who has made it got to where they are by chance. They were lucky enough to have been born healthy, for a start. Born to parents that care, who value education and sent to schools that do the same, to sit in classrooms that were not disrupted by the unstable, to live in homes that were heated, to be fed and clothed, to be loved.
They got where the are by being lucky enough to know someone who knew someone who could help, put in a good word, grease the wheels. The were lucky to have seen an advert for a position, to have hit it off with the interviewer who was having a good day, to be the right person in the right place at the right time.
If a successful person charts their rise as a series of circumstances, it is quite likely that the majority of instances when they progressed will have elements of luck about them. But luck does not fall equally and the fortunate like to flatter themselves that it does and that the difference between them and someone who is less successful is that that person lacks application, they are a slacker and they deserve no sympathy.
The newspapers revealed that the man who started this rumpus, the market trader who challenged Iain Duncan Smith to live on the £53 a week that he had to, actually earns a whopping £150 a week. That is a full £7,800 a year. Why is he moaning? All he will have to do is work every day for 128 years, while not spending a penny in all that time and he will become a millionaire, just like Iain.