Show Hide image

Commons Confidential: Is the EU fobbing off Nigel?

Plus a guest appearance from the bicycling baronet.

The deputy speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, is a mild-mannered chap until riled. The Chorley cannon came out all guns blazing after the BBC oop north broadcast an investigation claiming that Rugby League was bust. Hoyle, whose father, Lord (Doug) Hoyle, is chairman of the Warrington Wolves club, was incandescent. “They’d never dare show a programme saying that about the chaps of Rugby Union,” Hoyle, Jr announced in the Strangers’ cafeteria, his Lancashire ire interrupting many a lunch.

The 13-man league game in northern England brings out the chippiness in fans, who resent the money and attention lavished on a 15-man union code played in the country’s private schools. As we approach the 110th anniversary of George Orwell’s birth, perhaps Hoyle should seek comfort in the Old Etonian’s apocryphal remark that a bomb placed under the west stand of Rugby Union’s Twickenham HQ would have set back British fascism by 50 years.

Are Eurocrats taking revenge on Nigel Farage for his Little Englanderism? My Brussels snout whispered that the Ukip leader’s pass was demagnetised during a recent EU summit. Poor Nigel had to be escorted by a security guard to an early-morning interview with ITV’s Daybreak in the Justus Lipsius building. Britain’s chief Europhobe moaned that this had never happened to him at 23 previous summits. An unfortunate, random glitch, Nigel, I’m sure.

The bicycling baronet Sir George Young’s stripping of the Tory whip from Nadine Dorries is backfiring on the Cameroon high command. Local party bigwigs in Mid Bedfordshire unanimously passed a vote of confidence in their MP and she’s never been so popular on the rubber-chicken circuit. The Peterborough MP, Stewart Jackson, is flogging tickets for an I’m a Celebrity-themed fundraiser in his constituency next month, at which an unrepentant Dorries will talk about crushing creepy crawlies. She’ll also discuss her week in the jungle.

Aidan Burley’s discomfort continues on the Commons workless and pensionless committee. The Nazi stag party MP was well and truly Glenda’ed when Ms Jackson channelled Elizabeth I to deliver a slap-down worthy of another Oscar to Hurly-Burley over single parents. The imperious member for Hampstead and Kilburn did so on a rare point of order and was heard sighing, “I enjoyed doing that,” as her target sat in stunned silence. Burley, I’m told, looked like a glum, scolded boy.

Your correspondent suggested to the lefty Jeremy Corbyn that he resembled a priest taking confessions as he squatted in a passport photo booth, the curtain half-pulled across the entrance. “I’ll hear yours now,” he said, “but tell that chap Blair to come tomorrow when I’ve a whole day free.”

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 18 February 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq: ten years on

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

No, IDS, welfare isn't a path to wealth. Quite the opposite, in fact

Far from being a lifestyle choice, welfare is all too often a struggle for survival.

Iain Duncan Smith really is the gift that keeps on giving. You get one bile-filled giftbag of small-minded, hypocritical nastiness and, just when you think it has no more pain to inflict, off comes another ghastly layer of wrapping paper and out oozes some more. He is a game of Pass the Parcel for people who hate humanity.
For reasons beyond current understanding, the Conservative party not only let him have his own department but set him loose on a stage at their conference, despite the fact that there was both a microphone and an audience and that people might hear and report on what he was going to say. It’s almost like they don’t care that the man in charge of the benefits system displays a fundamental - and, dare I say, deliberate - misunderstanding of what that system is for.
IDS took to the stage to tell the disabled people of Britain - or as he likes to think of us, the not “normal” people of Britain -  “We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.” It really is fascinating that he was allowed to make such an important speech on Opposite Day.
Iain Duncan Smith is a man possessed by the concept of work. That’s why he put in so many hours and Universal Credit was such a roaring success. Work, when available and suitable and accessible, is a wonderful thing, but for those unable to access it, the welfare system is a crucial safety net that keeps them from becoming totally impoverished.
Benefits absolutely should be the route out of poverty. They are the essential buffer between people and penury. Iain Duncan Smith speaks as though there is a weekly rollover on them, building and building until claimants can skip into the kind of mansion he lives in. They are not that. They are a small stipend to keep body and soul together.
Benefits shouldn’t be a route to wealth and DWP cuts have ensured that, but the notion that we should leave people in poverty astounds me. The people who rely on benefits don’t see it as a quick buck, an easy income. We cannot be the kind of society who is content to leave people destitute because they are unable to work, through long-term illness or short-term job-seeking. Without benefits, people are literally starving. People don’t go to food banks because Waitrose are out of asparagus. They go because the government has snipped away at their benefits until they have become too poor to feed themselves.
The utter hypocrisy of telling disabled people to work themselves out of poverty while cutting Access to Work is so audacious as to be almost impressive. IDS suggests that suitable jobs for disabled workers are constantly popping out of the ground like daisies, despite the fact that his own government closed 36 Remploy factories. If he wants people to work their way out of poverty, he has make it very easy to find that work.
His speech was riddled with odious little snippets digging at those who rely on his department. No one is “simply transferring taxpayers’ money” to claimants, as though every Friday he sits down with his card reader to do some online banking, sneaking into people’s accounts and spiriting their cash away to the scrounging masses. Anyone who has come within ten feet of claiming benefits knows it is far from a simple process.
He is incredulous that if a doctor says you are too sick to work, you get signed off work, as though doctors are untrained apes that somehow gained access to a pen. This is only the latest absurd episode in DWP’s ongoing deep mistrust of the medical profession, whose knowledge of their own patients is often ignored in favour of a brief assessment by an outside agency. IDS implies it is yes-no question that GPs ask; you’re either well enough to work or signed off indefinitely to leech from the state. This is simply not true. GPs can recommend their patients for differing approaches for remaining in work, be it a phased return or adapted circumstances and they do tend to have the advantage over the DWP’s agency of having actually met their patient before.
I have read enough stories of the callous ineptitude of sanctions and cuts starving the people we are meant to be protecting. A robust welfare system is the sign of a society that cares for those in need. We need to provide accessible, suitable jobs for those who can work and accessible, suitable benefits for those who can’t. That truly would be a gift that keeps giving.