Dancing with the Devil: Why Iain Duncan Smith isn’t our final foe
What’s that saying…?Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) has been the subject of my disability-related anger and hate for a long time now. He’s been a useful figurehead when I needed a corporeal body to attack for ruining the lives of myself and so many other disabled people. There isn’t the same satisfaction as blaming a collective entity like the Conservative Party because it’s very difficult to nail down accountability but when you have a person to blame? So much easier. I can shout, I can scream at him. Did your mother raise you to be like this?! You can’t ask the Conservative Party how they were raised in order to prove a point about their bad behaviour. If the Conservative Party had a mother, she’d have sent them to bed without dinner or grounded them by now. But, it doesn’t. Fundamentally a political party is an abstract concept, a collective of people aligning to ideals and last week’s fallout has shown the alignment to those ideals are pretty weak. Accountability is easy when it rests with one person. I should know. I started a campaign and when 38 Degrees asked who I was going to send it to, I knew straight away. Iain Duncan Smith of course! He’s the one to blame. He’s the one with the power to change things.
Actually, he’s not. Depending on who you listen to, IDS resigned for political benefit and to get back at George Osborne and the Cameronites for longstanding exclusion and insults or IDS resigned because he has a backbone and finally found the line he wasn’t prepared to cross. Don’t let the resignation fool you. IDS signed off on the PIP cuts in the budget. Yes, he may have been forced to a week in advance to rush it into the budget but he signed off on it. His resignation statement didn’t call into question the morality of the cuts themselves but instead the juxtaposition of announcing these cuts in a budget that provided tax breaks for the wealthy and funding these tax breaks via PIP cuts. In other words, yes you can attack PIP but for goodness sake, even toddlers know you don’t take from the poor to give to the rich. That’s literally the exact opposite of what Robin Hood was doing, and we all know who the hero was in that fable. When you Google ‘evil guy in Robin Hood’, I can tell you who doesn’t come up as a suggestion — Robin Hood! The traditional villain is always the one who takes from those who have few to give to the plenty and this has been driven fairly deeply into the British consciousness.
The power of IDS rests as a figurehead — he is a symbolic evil. His resignation was so damaging because it highlighted very publicly that we are not ‘all in this together’. Since the early days of the coalition government we have known that we are not ‘all in this together’, but it is the deviation from the party line and the open admission that we’ve been lied to for the last few years that has it’s effect.
Many of my friends are celebrating IDS’ resignation and that was my core feeling too. Yes, woohoo — ding dong, the witch is dead and all that. That lasted all of three minutes. When a minister resigns over a principled issue such as their stance on these cuts to disability benefits, guess who is going to take their place? Is it some forward thinking disability studies graduate with common sense and an understanding of who needs benefits and why? Move over Stephen Crabb, I’m just casually throwing my hat into the ring… No, the person who will replace IDS is someone who will not embarrass the government like this. Someone who will not rebel and make the mistakes of the past. The replacement will be someone who will happily dance within the party lines and ask for his parent’s permission before even thinking about stepping out of them. I’m not being pessimistic here, do you all remember when Gove managed to anger every teaching organisation in the UK? What happened with that… quietly replaced by Nicky Morgan who aggressively pushed on with the ridiculous school reforms*. Stephen Crabb is the new IDS, but worse.
Do you know every welfare change and omnishambles that IDS presided over? All of those terrible things that the Government were happy with and weren’t enough for him to leave? Guess what will probably happen with Stephen Crabb in charge? All that and more. Do you remember when we all realised the Lib Dems were telling the truth and they had been preventing the Tories from being even worse? That’s the kind of situation we’re about to fall in now. If we want political reform that will benefit disabled people, we need to be cynical. We’ve got a very short window in which the politics of disability welfare in the UK matters. It’s a point for the Labour party to attack the Government on, it’s a vulnerability for Osborne with post-budget politics and people are scoring points in the run up to the EU referendum and the potential implications it will have on Tory leadership. If Osborne has ambitions for party leadership like everyone says, the disability welfare issue matters. How he is perceived as a leader will come down to this. Is Osborne really that short-sighted he would have completely missed the fact that maybe paying for tax breaks for the rich with disabled people’s money woudn’t go down too well? I don’t think so. It’s about his ability to judge situations as a leader.
Now, disabled people matter because the uproar we cause could ruin his leadership ambitions. In business, money talks. In disability politics, we’ve got the money right now. I’ve come to accept that disabled people don’t matter to the Conservatives. I came to that conclusion about three months into the Coalition Government. Do you know what does matter to the Conservatives? Power. Ambition. Party funding. Can a disabled people’s movement shame Tory donors into withholding their money? Can a disability rights organisation cause enough noise to make Osborne’s position untenable? How much damage can disabled people do to an oppressive system that abuses the concept of reform?Now’s the best time to find out. I’ve not read the Art of War but I can guess somewhere in there is the line kick them while they’re down. The Tories have been kicking us for years. Now is our opportunity to finally kick back.
*delightful news for you in the budget. Every school is due to become an academy. Imagine Gove having a very enjoyable nightly dream whilst teaching staff everywhere cry. The industry is also being de-professionalised with the proposed abolition of QTS status… a move so ridiculous even Gove didn’t bring it up in office.