Saturday, 2 November 2013

What Really Happened

The other week on Twitter I read that a senior civil servant at the Department of Work and Pensions, Robert Devereux, is being set up to take the fall for the imminent and inevitable failure of the supporting infrastructure for Universal Credit. This is largely because Iain Duncan Smith has been dodging scheduled appearances before the Work and Pensions and Public Accounts select committees: Devereux has been the only one showing up to take the heat. (Whilst writing this post it has now been reported that Devereux will resign if he's directly criticised by the PAC in their report published in a few weeks)

Iain Duncan Smith behaved impeccably at conference, leading me to predict that he would not be removed in a reshuffle though not because he was strong but because whilst he is much weaker than before, he is still needed. The current Prime Minister has made extensive use of scapegoats to shield himself from media scrutiny, which has been extraordinarily light-touch, enabling him to lose a historical vote on military intervention and carry on like nothing happened where this would have been a resigning matter for any of his predecessors- including Blair in 2003. He is well-practised and un-sentimentally callous in his scape-goating. Smith is no longer safe, the option of allowing himself to be removed and then pinning the blame for the disasters happening on the very act of his removal is now closed and it's the only defence he had against Cameron.
Smith's ideas are entirely belief-based

His legacy is in shreds, even if his belief in it has been cut only at the furthest margins. To cling on until 2015 he's resorting to something that will appease his boss and he thinks will get him off the hook. But for this to work, it is not enough to pin the blame on Robert Devereux; already David Freud the Minister For Welfare Reform is being scape-goated *publicly* as one official after another responds to criticism of unpopular policies by "it was Lord Freud's idea". That won't be enough either; they will run out of patsies, even if they make Smith one of them. The man-made crisis they are responsible for is that large and now not even the most complacent in the mainstream media can ignore it now. Given how politicians do demonstrate some foresight when it's a matter of self-preservation, this will ultimately come down to their success in re-writing very recent history. The worst thing about this is that it could work; the public and media have very short memories that are easy to manipulate. If they don't want to know something, they usually manage to re-arrange their recollection to satisfy that.

Not this time. It has to stop now because politicians should not be able to get away with things like shutting care homes and then pretending they don't know why invalid and disability benefits shoot up, or means-testing benefits that then lose public support, absolving themselves of direct responsibility for employment levels whilst imposing ever harsher conditionality on the unemployed, saying they'll help but ignoring the evidence of what works and introducing measures designed to kick a certain number of claimants off benefits no matter what and saying that this is about 'fairness'. Each and every time- they have failed and each and every time they have failed, they have been allowed to make astonishing revisions of the record.

They're going to ramp that up. Right-wing figures in Britain believe Smith to be popular- he isn't; acting tough on benefit claimants is popular. He just comes decorated with a superficial righteous cherry-on-top and once the public kind of grasp that he's incompetent, they will look to someone else to deliver the same policies but with a 'hard-thinking realist' decoration. Newspapers like the Guardian and Independent are only just starting to behave how they should have been two years ago when they were warned well in advance of the looming disaster. Their only interest is in selling newspapers and if the government's historical revisions(and those of Labour, who still will not come clean about their actual 1997-2010 record) do that, then journalists will play right along.
Mainstream media: Too little fact-checking, too much delay
Be prepared to go right back to the source materials and reports that were being circulated two and three years ago- the story running up to the 2015 election will be a complete fabrication that directly contradicts the evidence. 


  1. "File on 4" on the "work programme"

  2. Westminster Hall Debate -bedroom tax-

  3. Hope you've got zoom-