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Shit Is Iain Smith

A few weeks ago, DWP fuhrer and arch fantasist Iain Duncan Smith was interviewed by James O'Brien on LBC radio. 

This piece is one of the most extraordinary glimpses into the unique psychopathy of the Tory attitude toward welfare, fuelled by big business and filtered through the singular zealotry of a former failed leader of the same party. We may never fully know what transformed the 'quiet man', in his own mind, into the raging ideologue he has now become, but this gives a few insights and lays bare much of his own rampant hypocrisy. The interview was conducted in the wake of the revelation that 1700 people had applied for 8 vacancies in a Costa Coffee in Nottingham, and a week or so after the DWP were spanked for their handling of their own disgusting workfare policy.

The first bone of contention is the nature of the work IDS claims is representative of now 'record' employment. He is confronted by the fact that the work is mainly part time. His response is both to say that it's full time work, not part time, and to then go on and talk about it as part time work. 

"All the jobs taken are full time work"
"When we look at the part time work..."

Which is it then?

He claims his figures represent success by saying that those that have found full time work were successful at finding full time work. Except for the 2 and a half million that don't have full time work, comments James, clearly amused at Smith's utter stupidity. I don't think this is lost in IDS but then he's in a permanently haughty and aggressive mood anyway, so it's hard to tell.

"Those who find full time work are finding the full time work they are after".


Now we step into the thorny bear pit of workfare and the recent court case. We'll ignore the obvious stupidity that assumes shelf stacking is of any value to one's career whatsoever.
"Work experience is us allowing them to earn Jobseeker's allowance, but also allow them to take in experience at companies that allow them to do that."
Quite a mouthful, but the key word is 'earn'. The second is 'allowing'. IDS is allowing the poor scrounger to work for his benefit. His rationale for this ridiculous scheme is based around the notion that lots of kids want to work but can't because they have no experience and that these people have asked him to be allowed to get that experience, conveniently for the benefit of big business. This is warped: there has never been anything stopping people gaining work experience - ie working for nothing in, for example, a voluntary capacity (like work in a charity shop, in a traditionally unpaid capacity). JSA claimants have always been allowed to do that. He gives himself away by using the word 'earn'; they are allowed to earn their keep says Victorian Smith. But they were anyway - because they weren't being paid!

"Involving yourself in a supermarket is as vital as any job that you might have to do."

Like driving an ambulance for example.

And then we get that glorious moment where the mask slips. Confronted by the first mention of that terrible uppity scrounger, Cait Reilly, IDS loses what passes for his cool.

"She was getting paid! What do you think the taxpayer was paying her for god's sake? Jobseeker's Allowance?"

At the merest mention of the possibility that someone other than a Tory might be paid for the work they do, IDS loses it. How dare she!
However it turns out that DWP policy is not to use benefits as remuneration. This fact is put to IDS, but, in typical true blue doublethink, he dismisses whilst going to make the point repeatedly that she was getting paid. 

This is the biggest canard of them all: we need workfare because it allows people to get experience while keeping their benefit. This could have happened anyway as not only would she not need to be exploited and lied to, she was doing voluntary work of her own volition that could have been simply allowed by the DWP without all this heartache. But of course that's not the point: this isn't about letting people keep their benefits; it's about letting them 'earn' their money, further devaluing welfare as intended.

There is still no reason that Poundland could not have paid her. She could have declared that as paid work and in a sane welfare system there'd be no problem. In fact I'd go one further: knowing that the 'experience' was not a proper job nor was it intended to be (something else that isn't made explicitly clear), I'd have let her keep what she had earned as part of the work experience. Call it a bonus.

"We don't have a work fare programme."

But you've just said people earn their benefits.

"What I found when I arrived is that young people were not allowed to go and do work experience and be paid JSA for more than two weeks."

Now there may be some arcane piece of legislation pertaining to young JSA claimants here I'm not aware of, but nonetheless the point remains: it is not DWP policy for benefits to be paid as wages, and people have always been allowed to do voluntary work. The problem IDS has is that he has muddled the two on a colossal scale, hence the court ruling. Cait Reilly was lied to; never mind that she had her own placement, she was told that she had to go to Poundland or she'd lose her benefit. That is the essence of her complaint and that is what was upheld.

Of course there has always been an issue regarding experience, but that is a problem caused by big business who don't like having to pay wages and expenses in training people. That's their fault and their problem. It is not an excuse for capitalists to exploit people. Frankly if we are all meant to be a nation of entrepreneurs and aspiring strivers, maybe these businesses should be prepared to stick their necks out; the unemployed have to do so constantly.

"In many cases the businesses once they've seen them for two months say to them actually we're going to create a job around you because we think you're worthwhile."

So 'in many cases' there were never jobs to begin with for these people to work towards - for two months (does it really require two months to learn shelf stacking?)! Then if they are lucky the business will use them to create work!?! This is pure exploitation!

When confronted with the court of appeal's decision regarding people being forced to do workfare where they should have had a choice (which is separate from workfare where they unfortunately don't - Mandatory Work Activity, as I understand it all), IDS uses human rights as a man of straw. While it is true that there is a human rights component to the case, that was not the basis for the court of appeal's decision, nor was it anything to do with what James asked.

"We have deliberately set them (the rules) general around all work schemes."


"Young people want it. The vast majority enjoy it. They get something out of it and they get to work for it."

Utterly disingenuous; what they want is to earn a wage, not their benefit.

"What she was saying (CAit) is that we're not being paid, we don't earn any money. My answer is you do the taxpayer is paying you (again) JSA. We have allowed you to do work experience and not lose your JSA. In the past she would have lost her JSA if she'd gone to do more than 2 weeks work."

But this is a complete misunderstanding of the very system you are in charge of: if she was - as she indeed was, again of her own volition, working in a volunteer/unpaid capacity then her benefit would never have been at risk. This scheme is completely unnecessary because it has never been against the rules to work for nothing just so long as you still have time to search for work (there may have been a 16 hour weekly limit on voluntary/unpaid work). But that is not the point of this scheme, is it Mr Duncan Smith!

"She is benefiting from the work experience so that she will then go on and be more likely to be employed in the future."

An easy and cheap point to make. Of course if this scheme becomes as ubiquitous as I'm sure IDS intends then it will have even less value; if everyone does their 2 month National Poundland Service then what will give them that edge over everyone else? It's self defeating. The whole point of experience is to learn skills: we learn to read and write not to be better than the rest of the population but so we can read and write! You don't learn to stack shelves (chances are if you own a cupboard you've already mastered that skill anyway) ffs!

So what is minimum wage legislation for, asks James. Good question these days!
"They are doing up to two months work experience. I don't quite understand why you think that they shouldn't be doing that and that they should be paid a full wage because the companies aren't committed to taking them on. Many of them then do."
Many isn't all; straight away the scheme is inherently unfair. Those that get a job are employed, those that don't aren't, and in each case the company has undertaken no risk and made no loss. What is there for the company to commit to when they have nothing to lose? Given that they still often have no say in the whole process, including whom they work for, how can this lead to anything positive? What if they don't want to stack shelves as a career? No doubt they get branded as uppity little madams and ungrateful ingrates.

"The British labour market is doing better than expected."

Because people are working for free without choice and the work programme is also used to massage the figures. Even so, the 1692 people that didn't get the 8 jobs in Costa just have to keep looking - as if that alone will magically create work. What good will telling people this do Iain? What good does it do to keep looking? Isn't this just a road to insanity - if not the detriment of the claimant's mental health (who here can't attest to that!)? Keep looking, it's there, you just have to keep looking! Meanwhile go and work for nothing in a shop because that might itself create work.

"There are 15,000 vacancies in the same area"

And yet there are still almost 1700 people unemployed; doubtless then they must be feckless - but not so lazy as to not apply for 8 positions they had individually a very slim chance of getting. 

"The positive figures today are a good indication that the private sector is creating jobs. There are more people in work. There are more vacancies. The claimant count is falling."

Of course the private sector is creating jobs. The point is that there aren't enough jobs for the 2 and a half million out of work (not counting others that don't work). But the private sector is always technically creating jobs. That isn't something unique to this government; the private sector would have done so regardless - in fact had there been better economic conditions it might have created more. 

Whether they are decent vacancies is another matter entirely.

"Long term unemployment is falling."

Would that be because this group is the target of these insidious schemes intended to massage the claimant count?

"au contraire; this debate is incredibly illuminating!"

Never a truer word spoken James!


  1. Thanks for posting this interview - I remember listening to it on another site elsewhere, and it's just as extraordinary now as the first time I heard it.

    And isn't it nice to have someone in media with the gumption to ask some serious questions of IDS and to actually challenge him, instead of the usual lapdogs we seem to get via the BBC?

    1. No problem.

      James O Brien is one of the good guys I think. He's pretty sharp.

      Don't think he'll have IDS back on anytime soon though!

  2. IDS is the stupidest man in government, yet he is in charge of the biggest spending government department. The mind boggles!

    1. At least he's consistent in his hatred for the poor...


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