The Blog

No, 'Guardian', Failure IDS Is Not the Tories' Election 'Secret Weapon'

In a world where thepoints out the failures in a flagship Tory policy and thefalsely eulogises it, it is hard to get a handle on the world around us.

The majority of the mainstream media, whether print or broadcast, has lined up behind the coalition to bash unemployed people since 2010.

Where once a TV documentary was more likely to present unadulterated fact, many now prefer to take the 'fly on the wall' approach, pretending we are simply watching the natural behaviour of claimants while editing to make them fit pre-conceived ideas of laziness and entitlement.

Among endless stories of benefit fraud and terrible behaviour in the national press, only The Independent and The Guardian stand as beacons in the fair treatment of vulnerable claimants.

So this recent story in the Guardian on the failed Tory work and pensions secretary came as a big disappointment.

Under the headline 'The reinvention of Iain Duncan Smith: is he the man to save the Tories?' writer Matther D'Ancona suggests that Smith could be the man to save his party's election hopes, the secret weapon that could sweep them into power in May.

In this exciting new world, far from being the hindrance who came within a whisker of losing his job in a reshuffle last year, and only survived because no-one else wanted to take on his poorly-realised Universal Credit programme, he is on point to lead the Conservatives to the promised land.

D'Ancona seems to struggle to make Smith fit into his characterisation of 'humility and placidity' and showing 'calmness', calling him 'privately petulant' later in his article, surely the very opposite of the compliments he so bizarrely bestowed.

He is 'such an asset to his party' he was described as thick by his colleague George Osborne and dangerous by a civil servant in his own department, an insult D'Ancona dresses up as a compliment to make it fit his narrative.

Don't forget that we are talking about the man who invented a new 'reset' idea to hide his failings, lost an expensive court case on his welfare punishments, invented a Universal Credit system to make work pay that actually gives less money to millions of working parents than unemployed ones and was described last year as 'unworkable' by a jobcentre whistleblower,

He also committed the cardinal ministerial sin of trying to blame senior civil servants for his own failings when trying to head off National Audit Office criticism of Universal Credit in 2013, with the NAO suggesting it had been overambitious, badly managed and poor value for money.

He was caught misleading the public when asserting that his benefit cap, which has spread not justice but poverty, was responsible for more people entering work.

His 'reforms' - Smith-speak for benefit cuts, caps, delays and punishments - have led to a huge increase in food bank use, another link which he denies despite all of the evidence.

He has overseen a doubling in sanctions and an increase in maximum sanction periods, meaning an average jobseeker should expect to have their benefits taken away by the time they have been signing on for 11 months, while around a third of appeals are upheld.

Smith has consistently denied the existence of sanctions targets even as whistleblower after whistleblower, including one who spoke to UnemployedNet last year, confirmed them.

This latest piece of pre-election propagandising in the Guardian is, then, as unlikely as it is inaccurate.

D'Ancona pretends that today's extension of Universal Credit is a testament to its founder:

'It is a tribute to Duncan Smith's resilience and determination that a reform once seen as a frontrunner to become "Cameron's poll tax" is being launched during a knife-edge election campaign.'

It is only being expanded to a third of jobcentres, not launched, and only because it is such a lame duck that any pretence of progress is better than the outright failure it has shown to date.

Even The Mail admits the Universal Credit system that should have seen millions of users by now actually has only 26,000, has been delayed by years, has seen tens of millions in write-offs, and has cut projected savings by two-thirds.

In a world where the Mail points out the failures in a flagship Tory policy and the Guardian falsely eulogises it, it is hard to get a handle on the world around us.

The idea of a Conservative party which could enhance the role of one of its falling stars, one that by rights should have burned out when he lost the leadership of the party in 2003, is even more topsy-turvy.