Iain Duncan Smith, the very English manifestation of a Stalinist inquisition, claims he could live on £53 a week. That he currently lives on £225 a day, after tax, is neither here nor there I suppose. Anyhow, in gentle, and yet again very English – possibly even tea-laden – protest, you might want to sign this change.org petition which asks him to live on the aforementioned wage for no less than a whole year:
This petition calls for Iain Duncan Smith, the current Work and Pensions Secretary, to prove his claim of being able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week.
On this morning’s Today Programme David Bennett, a market trader, said that after his housing benefit had been cut, he lives on £53 per week. The next interviewee was Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was defending the changes. The interviewer then asked him if he could live on this amount. He replied: “If I had to, I would.”
This petition calls on Iain Duncan Smith to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the conservative party`s current mantra that “We are all in this together”.
This would mean a 97% reduction in his current income, which is £1,581.02 a week or £225 a day after tax*.
Please join me.
Iain Duncan Smith, Department for Work and Pensions
I call on Iain Duncan Smith to prove his claim to be able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week, by doing so for one year.
I’ve signed it, anyhow. I even feel it could give certain wings to my famous Point-Of-View Machine. It might, after all, be an example others would care to follow. Get a real fly-on-the-wall feel for how the other ninety-nine percent are living their lives.
What interests me most about this story, however, is not so much the great lengths an intelligent and supposedly political man is prepared to go to be insensitive but, rather, that he shouldn’t have first reacted by saying: “How unredeemably disgraceful it is in 21st century England that a man should have to live on less than three thousand pounds a year.”
Now there is some debate which is circulating around this case which seems to indicate the man in question might be earning a little more. So, for the purposes of this post, let’s err on the generous side. Let’s say our typical IDS-man of unfortunate means lives on as much as £3000 a year.
At current rates, if my Google friends are right, this just about equals $4700 (the US sort of course). And if judged to be something we should not throw up our hands in horror about, this sort of sets the scene for the next few very English years. At the time of writing this post, it would appear that Mr Iain Duncan Smith is suggesting that, if necessary, being at number 118 of the world’s gross national income per capita list is something we could – and presumably should – be getting used to. So let’s play a little game, shall we? Here is Tonga, rewritten as an imaginary England some six years in the future (four, that is, after the next British general election):
England’s economy is characterised by a large non-monetary sector and a heavy dependence on remittances from the half of the country’s population who live abroad (chiefly in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States). The royal family and the nobles dominate and largely own the monetary sector of the economy – particularly the telecommunications and satellite services. England was named the sixth most corrupt country in the world by Fibs magazine in 2019.
England was ranked the 165th safest investment destination in the world in the March 2017 Eurobollocks Country Risk rankings.
The manufacturing sector consists of handicrafts and a few other very small scale industries, which contribute only about 3% of GDP. Commercial business activities also are inconspicuous and, to a large extent, are dominated by the same large trading companies found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In September 1774, the country’s first commercial trading bank, the Bank of Banksters, opened. There are patently no coherent financial-services sector laws in England.
Rural Englanders rely on plantation and subsistence agriculture. Plants grown for both market cash crops and home use include potatoes, wheat, rape seed, runner beans, and root crops such as horseradish and ginger. The processing of potatoes into crisps and chips was once the only significant industry but deteriorating prices on the world market has brought this once vibrant industry, as everywhere throughout the island nations of the Northern Hemisphere, to a complete standstill. In addition, the feudal land ownership system means that farmers have no incentive to invest in planting long-term tree crops on land they do not own. Pigs and poultry are the major types of livestock. Horses are kept for draft purposes, primarily by farmers working their allotments (a plot of urban land). More cattle are being raised, and beef imports are declining. The export of orange squash to Japan once brought relief to a struggling economy but recently local farmers are increasingly wary of this market due to price fluctuations, not to mention the huge financial risks involved.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Once you take onboard the idea that number 118 in the world’s list of richest countries is something we all should consider viable – a national duty even – you will get all the shit that comes with being 118th.
Corruption; economic inefficiencies; political and business graft. A land, that is to say, of under-employment which bodes well for very few people at all.
For IDS’s real crime lies not in his insensitivity in answering as he did. Neither is it in the fact that none of us – least of all him – believe that he would ever take up the challenge of living on such low wages.
It’s not even in the fact that living on such wages is not the most difficult thing about the situation: in truth, what’s really hard about £53 a week is doing it month after month; never knowing when it will end or whether it will get worse; and always fearing that, one day, unusual payments (boiler breakdown; washing-machine death; illness at the hands of a fragmenting health service) will signal a final nail in the coffin of survival.
But no. IDS’s real crime is not in all of the above. IDS’s real crime is in his tacit acceptance that Tonga, as a goal, with everything that such poor standards of living bring, is something we should contemplate coping with – even looking to emulate.
He’s not a bad man for not wanting to live it himself.
He’s a bad man – and I mean really, unconscionably, bad – precisely because he’s happy to contemplate it as something we should all begin to contemplate. His lack of ambition; his throwing in the towel for his country; his failure to fight his corner for his people; his inability to take on the complex elements of modern governance; his general cowardice; his utter lack of moral fibre … all of this, and much much more, serve to constitute the totality of IDS’s real crimes.
He doesn’t love England at all, now does he? Or, at least, he doesn’t love the country enough to fight fiercely on all its people’s behalf.
In accepting he’d be prepared to live in and rule over a country which rewarded its citizens with a spending power of £53 a week, and in so doing finding himself able to tolerate the situation, he shows us exactly how much he expects of old Blighty.
Lie down and think of England, for England will no longer think of thee.
That’s going to be about as much love as you can expect from IDS’s England.
And just about the sum of the love IDS is capable of giving it back.
But maybe, after all, there is more of a psychodrama to all of this than we could reasonably acknowledge – or, indeed, at first, be inclined to accept.
He was, after all, born in Scotland.
A country which has firmly turned its back on all things Tory.
How out of place he must feel when he returns to his glorious city of birth. And how curious an impact that must have on his soul.