Duncan Smith’s belief that the welfare state holds down the very people it is meant to serve is pleasing to Conservative ears. To maintain his supporters’ illusions, he has to lie. Last week, the UK Statistics Authority gave him a reprimand that broke from the genteel language of the civil service. The work and pensions secretary had claimed that his department’s cap on benefits was turning scroungers into strivers – even before it had come into force. “Already we have seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs.” How sweet those words must have sounded to Conservative ears. The government was forcing the feckless to stop sponging off hard-working taxpayers. (Taxpayers are always “hard working” in British politics, in case you haven’t noticed. We never try to get by doing the bare minimum.)
It seems that the Statistics Authority disagreed.
The figures did not show that, the statistics authority said. More to the point, they could not possibly have shown that. Duncan Smith’s claims were “unsupported” by the very statistics his department had collected.
It appears that Andrew Dilnot, the chair of the statistics authority, is so concerned Duncan Smith’s habit of manipulating statistics to suit his own purposes that he thinking about sending his inspectors into the Department for Work and Pensions.
As journalists know, Duncan Smith’s modus operandi is well established. His “people” – all of them scroungers, not strivers, who sponge off the taxpayer from their Whitehall offices – brief reporters with unpublished figures. The Tory press uses them, and, as the Financial Times explained, when his spin doctors meet an honest journalist, who asks hard questions, they end the call and never ring back. By the time the true figures appear on the DWP website , and informed commentators can see the falsity, the spin, the old saying applies: “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.
I’d like to think that there will come day when Duncan Smith – and his kind – will be exposed for what they are, but, as they say, I’m not holding my breath.