At dinner with Iain Duncan Smith, even the fine wine couldn’t wash away the taste in my mouth

One of the best Tory party conferences I went to was the one where they didn't let me in. But it wasn't enough to protect me from the nausea and despair of Iain Duncan Smith's company.

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

One of the best Tory party conferences I went to was the one where they wouldn’t let me in. It was in Bournemouth and my police check hadn’t come through. This was not because I have a criminal record. No. The police had screwed up everyone’s pass.

If you don’t have a pass you might as well not be there. You can’t get into the hall and you can’t go to the parties and dinners. As my function there, as far as I could ascertain, was to be the token woman at lunches with top Tories, I needed a pass.

Another woman who was not being let in was making a fuss. It was Rachel Johnson, sister of Boris. This I found reassuring. The system had collapsed so badly that the staff wouldn’t let in kin of Boris.

They told us to wait in a hall full of the lost souls locked out of Tory conference. This was not the seventh circle of hell, I tried to persuade myself: I could go back to my swish hotel and see if they did massages. Then over the PA came the worst announcement I have ever heard.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you can’t get to conference do not worry – conference will come to you. Please give a big hand for Iain Duncan Smith!”

Immediately I was plunged into despair and nausea.

IDS, or In Deep Shit, as his mates call him, is someone I am allergic to. My loathing of him is visceral. And I’ve tried to be professional about it. Having done Ann Widdecombe for breakfast and Grant Shapps for tea, surely I could sup with the Quiet Man who has something permanently stuck in his gullet?

I found, however, that he is none too bright, witlessly cruel yet deluded enough to think himself a decent chap. It’s no surprise to me that he screwed up his reforms, because he is incapable of even the most basic conversation. He can’t listen, delivering croaky monologues instead.

At a dread dinner once, he lectured me on the evils of single parenthood. He had visited some estate and seen some poor women. I sat aghast. At the other end of the table was Petronella Wyatt, ex of Boris and casualty of Tory patriarchy. As IDS impressed the table with his fallen women fantasy, I saw very clearly he was a mercenary who kidded himself he was a missionary.

Maybe I should have said something. Maybe? I sat as acid bubbled up from my stomach while we drank fine wines, trying to swallow my disgust.

But I couldn’t listen any longer, even though my boss was there. Abruptly, I got up and left the table.

One of the guys followed
me out.

“Is everything all right, Suzanne?”

“No. Iain Duncan Smith is making me sick.”

“You don’t understand. He’s a man of faith.”

“No. You don’t understand. I am actually going to be sick . . .” 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article appears in the 01 May 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Scots are coming!