So finally today, IDS will face the Work and Pensions Select Committee to answer questions about Universal Credit. http://t.co/3l9Vzw1vNR
I say finally. I’ve written the sentence above about 5 times, only for Mr Duncan-Smith to have “prior engagements” or for him to get mysteriously stuck in Paris.
But with a sprinkle of reindeer dust and a magic Xmas wish, we should get to hear from the man himself, what exactly is going on with Universal Credit.
Oh, we know it will be lamentable. The project has wasted £1.4 Billion in failed IT and a poorly implemented rollout “With no apparent overall strategic control” according to staff. The rollout has been repeatedly delayed and on the morning of Osborne’s Autumn Statement, IDS tried to sneak out an admission – after months of denials – that Universal Credit would be delayed yet again, this time until after 2017.
With the new disability benefit rollout (PIP) also delayed not once, but twice, sickness benefit reform failing desperately, backlogs increasing, tribunals increasingly under strain, Atos doctors pulling out of assessing disability living allowance and the Work Programme failing dismally, this is no longer a matter for concerned laymen and eagle eyed bloggers.
Make no mistake, this is an unprecedented policy disaster unfolding before our very eyes. Foodbank use increase rises threefold, but reports are supressed linking their use with welfare reforms. Conservative councils produce damning evidence of the failure of the bedroom tax and the policy is found to discriminate in law against both disabled adults and disabled children. Work Capability Assessments, so delayed and inaccurate, have been found in law to discriminate against people with mental health conditions. IDS at the DWP has ignored the ruling. The closure of the Independent Living Fund, a fund that supported just 20,000 of the most profoundly disabled adults to stay in their own homes has been found unlawful by the court of appeal.
Yet here’s the real danger – IDS stays in the job.
Clearly he has failed spectacularly at it. Yet you might be forgiven for thinking that welfare reform was the one area of coalition policy doing well. How can that be? How is it that the public generally think welfare reform is going well, when absolutely the opposite is true? As the DWP sinks titanic-like beneath the surface, why is it few will even admit the boat is rocking?
Why indeed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the answer was that it was best for us? That the public were best served by “Keeping Calm and Carrying On”? Wouldn’t it be great if campaigners like me were wrong?
And how very sinister and worrying it would be if the only reason IDS were still in his job was because the right wing and grassroots of the Conservative party love him? Because the Daily Mail and the Telegraph love him. Love the mantra of “Welfare Reform” dearly, even if they are a little sketchy on the details.
Of course it would be beyond a “statesman” such as Cameron to risk the security and wellbeing of millions of his citizens just to keep the part of his party that detest him (most of it) nice and quiet.
And Osborne plans to make the next election about welfare! What on earth would happen to that strategy if the party had to admit, that actually, their welfare reforms have been a complete dog’s breakfast and the only thing we can really do is start again from scratch?
Cameron needs IDS. He needs to keep a good stiff-upper-lip, military Tory in charge of the “toughest” department of them all. His members are leaving in droves and really don’t like Cameron or Osborne much at all. IDS is his salvation. He has sold a miracle and IDS is his zealous Messiah. There are loyal followers to consider. Sometimes the myth is so much better than the reality.
But of course there’s a huge flaw in the plan. You can only keep the hull just poking above water for so long. In the end the whole ship goes under. And whether you believe it today, or realise it in a few months, at some point they will have to admit the ship has sunk.
Better they do it now, today, than later when more have drowned.
And of course no democracy worthy of its name would refuse to send lifeboats just to win an election. Would they?