Could you live on £53 a week? How Cameron and Osborne responded

Iain Duncan Smith's cabinet colleagues have chosen not to match his boast that he could live on £53 a week.

Iain Duncan Smith's declaration on yesterday's Today programme that he could live on £53 a week ("If I had to, I would") has inevitably prompted journalists to ask his ministerial colleagues whether they could match the Work and Pensions Secretary's frugality. Below is how they've so far responded; I'll update the list as more answers come in. In the meantime, the petition urging IDS to "prove his claim" has now garnered 218,030 signatures. 

Iain Duncan Smith

"If I had to, I would."

David Cameron

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister, like the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, feels that benefit levels are fair."

George Osborne

"I don’t think it's sensible to reduce this to a debate about one individual's personal circumstances. This debate is not about any individual."

Greg Clark (Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

"I think it’s an incredible struggle to do that and I think any MP, anyone earning the comfortable wage that an MP has would certainly struggle.

"I think the context is this – we’re all having to tighten our belts…right across the board there are difficult choices to be made, it is an incredibly difficult situation."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said if he "had to" live on £53 a week he "would". Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Labour picks Gillian Troughton to fight Copeland by-election

Troughton, a Copeland councillor, was critical of Jeremy Corbyn during the summer leadership race. 

Labour has picked Gillian Troughton, pro-nuclear former doctor to fight the Copeland by-election.

After accepting the nomination, in an email shared online, Troughton said she was "pro-nuclear; no ifs, no buts", and that her husband worked in the nuclear supply chain. She is also a local councillor and a practising Christian. 

She described the election as a choice about the NHS: "I have been part of the campaign against the proposed cuts to A&E and the maternity wing because I know that our community needs this service."

Like Jamie Reed, the current MP for Copeland, Troughton is a critic of Jeremy Corbyn and backed Owen Smith in the 2016 Labour leadership campaign.

She also campaigned to remain in the EU, and now must win over a voting population that voted 62 per cent to leave - the strongest Eurosceptic vote in Cumbria. 

Her victory is a symbolic defeat for the Labour leadership, as she beat Corbyn supporter Rachel Holliday, also a councillor with ties to the nuclear industry and the NHS. 

However, the decision to pick a non-Corbynite may be a relief for those within the Labour leader's camp who worry about "owning" a possible by-election defeat. 

Corbyn said of the selection: “I am delighted that Gillian Troughton will be Labour’s candidate for the Copeland by-election. 

“Gillian is a local councillor with a strong track record of getting things done for her community. She has campaigned tirelessly to maintain local hospital services. 

“As a St John’s blue light ambulance driver, Gillian has seen first-hand the extent of the crisis caused by this Conservative government, which has chosen to fund tax cuts for the wealthiest instead of our health service. 

“I am proud that Labour has selected a local candidate with such dedication to her community.”

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.