The fight for compassionate Conservatism

Why Iain Duncan Smith winces whenever a Tory denounces benefit claimants

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

‘Has the Secretary of State, like me, managed to watch programmes such as Benefits Street and On Benefits & Proud? If so, has he, like me, been struck by the number who complain about welfare reform while able to afford copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos, and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television?’

This question, from the Tory backbencher Philip Davies in Parliament this week, was not one Iain Duncan Smith would have welcomed. The Work and Pensions Secretary is desperate to avoid any language that casts the poor as the indolent authors of their own misfortune. But as he knows, not all of his Tory colleagues see welfare reform that way.

So concerned is he about the survival of his ‘social justice’ agenda that he plans to make a series of speeches and interventions early this year to restate what he sees as the government’s compassionate mission on welfare. He wants to reinforce his argument that changes to housing benefit, and the £26,000 benefit cap for workless households, are meant to reduce long-term benefit dependency — and that they’re working.

He will also announce the details of a plan to increase support and training for people who have just moved into work, so that they improve their skills, take on more hours, and move out of entry-level jobs and up the employment ladder.

Duncan Smith characterises the difference between left-wing and right-wing compassion as ‘How can we help you in your current state?’ versus ‘How can we change your situation so you don’t live like this?’ The difference was further spelt out by Michael Fallon, the business minister, who recently told me that the party should question whether young people ‘really need the full panoply of employment protection and all those kinds of rights when they’re just starting off’. Reduce the protection, he thinks, and young people will get what they need most — more jobs.

Fallon, along with many other colleagues who are not metropolitan modernisers but compassionate Conservatives nonetheless, would like to see further proposals in the next Tory manifesto on deregulating the labour market, so that employers might find it easier to take on young people.

Critics of compassionate Conservatism do make valid points about some clumsy policies that undermine its core mission. The ‘bedroom tax’, the least-loved welfare policy in Westminster, has a noble cause, but fails to distinguish between those hogging a needlessly large space, and those who are trying to move but cannot. Tellingly, no minister will take credit for this benefit cut: some describe it as ‘Lord Freud’s policy’ while others blame the Treasury.

IDS and his allies always wince when they hear anyone on the right denounce benefit claimants — their goal is instead to reform a system that ensnares and impoverishes. But can they persuade voters that the Tory party, as a whole, agrees with them? That question will determine whether this much fretted-over tenet of compassionate Conservatism can keep breathing.

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  • David Kay

    maybe if the Tories stopped mass immigration and kicked out everyone who came here from the 3rd world after 1997 we wouldnt have a problem with our own people being out of work. These politicians should be apologising to the unemployed.

    • It’s well-known immigrants overall more than pay their way. Even the Tories know this, they have a report which says so which they’re refusing to release. we could use more, not less.

      • David Kay

        absolute nonsense. But, for arguments sake, im willing to accept it as true. My countrys history, culture and identity are priceless and immigrants are destroying it

        • Not nonsense at all http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/01/15/cameron-suppresses-report-showing-immigration-good-for-uk I suspect if you knew more of your country’s history you’d probably disown it, first to set up concentration camps etc. This is a very nasty place.

          • David Kay

            Total and utter nonsense. Just because a bunch of marxists say immigration is good (because it leads to their goal of international socialism) doesnt necessarily mean its true.

            i’d never disown my country. I love it and till death do us part. I’ve got medals for serving it. Im very proud that my country was the first to outlaw slavery, then used the royal navy to free the black man because all men are born free.

            Look at the greatest gifts Britain gave the world, the rule of law and the industrial revolution for starters. And without Britons, we wouldnt be having this conservation because a fellow Brit invented the WWW. Be proud of what you are. Be proud of your country and its history. Be proud to be a Briton and stop being a self loathing lefty

            Rule Britannia and god save the queen

          • This country was very deeply involved in slavery, how proud are you of that? The first concentration camps (Boer war) how proud of that are you? Bristol flourished because of the opium and slave trade, proud of that at all? It’s recently come to light that the Blitz was in retaliation for our carpet-bombing German civilians, proud of that or just ignorant about all of this?

          • David Kay

            yes im proud of it, warts n all.

            I’m most proud though of Bomber Command and the USAAF 8th Army. They bombed the socialist nazi scum back to the stone age. if only we had nukes at the time we would have nuked Germany. And you know what? they would of deserved it

          • Er… yes. Of course it is (backs slowly away).

          • David Kay

            i’ll give you some free advice. Rather than back away slowly, you treasonous socialists are best running away from me with the speed of a thousand gazelles

          • Of course we are 🙂

          • David Kay

            im glad you admit it. There is hope for you though. I firmly believe inside every socialist is a UKIP voter just waiting to break out. Thats why UKIP are doing so well in the North of England. Repent the evil scocialist ideologies of marx and hitler and embrace Farage

          • roger

            It seems the Germans and the British had agreed not to bomb civilian areas (brokered by a Swede) but one British leader (WSC of course) felt that bombing was about the only thing Britain could do to ‘get to grips with the enemy’ so used a German raid on Chatham that strayed to attack a whole German city (RAF not being able to precision bomb) which broke the agreement.

          • David Kay

            the “stray attack” broke the agreement once the first bomb hit the ground

          • Weaver

            Everyone everywhere was deeply involved in slavery, Bill. It was a universal institution. Some still are.

            I don’t think the UK experience looks particularly bad compared to its peers, and better than most.

          • roger

            Which country repented of their sin and led the fight against slavery? Britain.
            When the Brits (SAS) deposed the old sultan of Oman in 1968 they also freed his slaves. Slavery is not un-islamic you know.

      • Chris

        No. No they dont. Even the recent cream report pointed out non eu migrants never contributed more than they took out overall. And as for EU = 2% gain. For now. When they get old; then they will become a drain.
        Stop lying.

        • See my link below.

          • Chris

            I think, I will await the said report, and will review it myself, before accepting the findings.
            I will take into consideration the motives of the report authors, the political affilitation of the report authors, the evidence used and it’s statistical robustness. I will also wait to establish exactly what they deem to be “good for the British economy” as this covers a multitude of sins – be this inflation reduction via wage suppression or the resultant increase in profit margins for businesses (which does not benefit the average person greatly).
            One of the great travesties of the modern Britain is the manner in which “reports” and “statistics” are not questioned, and have become a form of propaganda. But this is more the fault of the general public whom believe anything stated by a declared “expert” in lieu of their own experience and what they can patently see with their own eyes.
            And I note the masters of this dark art- the civil service had the following to say regarding the report – “Civil servants complained that the central claims of the report were not backed up by the evidence within it.”
            That’s akin to being called a liar by Tony Blair.

      • Owi Wowi

        Even if this dubious fact were true it would still mean that it is sensible to prune the best immigrants that are going to genuinely contribute from the blood-suckers via sensible immigration policy.

        • Why? what’s it going to do when the problem is the andowners (no LVT) and the bankers (controlling the money supply and charging us for the use of money)?

  • Kitty MLB

    Please not the wretched ‘ Compassionate Conservatism’ !
    That ideal and the words ‘ nasty party’ gave permission for Cameron
    to go forth on his failed modernising agenda-
    smashing the foundations of the party of Thatcher.
    Labour are the ‘ nasty party’, without Compassion. Was it compassion that made them create a welfare state to trap people, was it compassion that made them destroy our economy,
    sell off all our gold, wreck pensions, make the public sector grow too large, destroy
    our education system and unlimited immigration- all these had a detrimental effect
    on this country- they also did not give a toss about their own voters-
    If they did care about their voters they would apologise, and reform-
    instead of Milipede being a blank sheet of paper Browns old note book,
    with Balls dictating notes.
    Some in The Conservative Party like many others were tricked by ‘ the messiah ‘
    Blair, drank from his poisoned chalice and chose someone like him as their leader-
    how on earth was that ever going to work out.
    Its quite easy really, Labour mess things up, and Conservatives clean things
    up, well usually, if we had a Conservative Leader instead of this imposter.

  • ‘Has he, like me, been struck by the number who complain about welfare reform while able to afford copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos, and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television?’
    Dunno. Have you ever been struck by the grotesque and bloated greed of the biggest benefit scroungers in the country who just happen to have been born with a royal title?

    • Owi Wowi

      I think you’ll find that the income from the crown estates covers the costs of the royal family – 200 mil vs 40 mil. If we ended the civil list we would lose 160 mil from the treasury – there is also about 7 billion spent in tourism which is massively associated with the ‘living history’ that is the royal family.

      If the smoking, tattoo-ed Sky watchers contributed a millionth as much as the royals we would be a much richer country.

      • Weaver

        Yeah, I think the cross-sectional tourism numbers suggest that the Royal Family is a fairly good Return on Investment.

  • Fulke Jasperville

    Compassion is not charity. Compassion is about understanding the suffering of others and acting accordingly. Those who go through life living off of the taxpayer often suffer from indiscipline and ignorance. It is only by curing these ailments of the mind that their path to economic and social advancement can be cleared. The route to emancipation is education.

    • Kooljeff

      “..Those who go through life living off of the taxpayer often suffer from indiscipline and ignorance..”

      Like the scroungers on Parliament Street? Like the tax-dodgers (often living on Parliament Street)?

  • john

    Once again the fundamental class basis of British politics is clear. The silly term “Compassionate Conservatism” simply meeans that the Tory elite will pretend to be interested in the welfare of everyone else. They have no such interest and are entirely self-interested. Everyone else needs to look after their own interests and boot out the elites.

  • Ricky Strong

    I keep hearing this complaint about those on benefits needing to justify how they can afford so many cigarettes: do you honestly think they are stupid enough to buy them in a shop? For good or bad, the black market is not defined by inflated and subsequent burst bubbles, and the people running it deserve some degree of credit where its due.

  • Roy

    It is officialdom gone crazy. They can’t read or understand people and always take them at their word. The person on the streets knows how to take advantage of government welfare organizations and the people that run around giving public money away. This spoon-feeding should be a last resort. Only at the skin and bone stage should anything be handed out. With this slight pressure brought to bare it would be surprising how suddenly a work force would spring up as if from nowhere. Then at last the wonderful flood of new blood coming to our shores would find a sort of competition from the once couch potato. Although still sleepy eyed, if not a bit stiff from under utilization, creeping back along streets once quiet but for the snoring of residents still dozing on till mid morning. A whole new revitalization, as if a new stream of immigrants had appeared as if from nowhere.

    • Kooljeff

      How about the Tory corporate masters who know how to take advantage of the tax system? If it is wrong for benefit clamants to take advantage of the benefit system then it is wrong for individuals and businesses to take advantage of the tax system.

      • Roy

        By Tory corporate masters you perhaps mean business people who have had the assiduity to put in the effort to survive. Anybody at all who wishes to do business has the same opportunity to work through the rule book of tax exemptions etc. The business only pays tax on profit, if the business shows to make very little profit it is fare and above board that his tax is rated accordingly. The welfare benefit system on the other hand has a spurious system of recognition for ones to receive cash handouts.

        • Kooljeff

          You are relaxed about Fat Cats and Banksters takng advantage of the system but begrudge it to the ordinary man. Talk about lickspittle toadyism. As far as I am concerned it is alright for the ordinary man to take advantage of the Social Security system he/she has paid into all their lives through tax and NI when they fall on hard times. It is not cash handouts, but a return on National Insurance. And when a rich man says he got where he is through hard work, ask him whose?. Because the only hard work he will have been doing is exploiting other people.

          • Roy

            In the vigorous and vital system of free enterprise it soon shows who has been using their brains and their brawn to get ahead. By exploiting other people you mean employing them no doubt, which to you is bad? Can’t help your sort of people! My small import above does not condemn social security when it is used correctly. The fact is: it has fallen foul of the smart-Alec’s of this benefit world, taking the administrators for the tax payer for fools. Whatever system you think would be better, it will always have fat cats. What system do you envisage to bypass all these disadvantages? A Bolshevik revolution perhaps?

          • Kooljeff

            JSA fraud 0.7% . (About 1 billion – Tax fraud estimated between 60 – 100 billion). To make work pay you don’t lower benefits, you raise wages. Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits are welfare handouts to greedy landlords and poverty wage paying employers.

          • Roy

            If benefits come from the public purse and the purse is empty of such cash necessary, should they have a magic wand?

            To blame greedy landlords is a typical ploy of the left when unbeknown to them, these landlords form a useful place in society. They develop and bring into being rentable or resalable property and market such property at the market rate. The market rate is a phenomenon unknown it seems in Marxist circles. It is – put simply – what the public is prepared to pay according to how much is present on the market. When you are so enthusiastic of government intervention – more often than not intervention causes a disruption of market forces and explodes any smooth running forces previously present.

  • RedMiner

    Iain Duncan Smith is the greatest calamity to afflict the poor in
    Britain for decades, perhaps centuries. I see his victims every day,
    good people, hard working people until the incompetence of the last
    administration saw them cast into a job’s market where they must compete
    with agencies recruiting cheap labour direct from the continent without
    advertising in Britain. Now IDS and his media conflates them with the
    small number of low life toerags who have always existed and always will
    – these are now presented as typical of Britain’s working class. Any
    distortion, any lie is now permitted to excuse the grotesque poverty
    gripping parts of Britain to the extent the Red Cross was distributing
    food parcels over Christmas for the first time since the Second World
    War. Everyday, people of all political persuasions come together to try
    to ameliorate the worst effects of this incompetent, toxic oaf.

    What a disgrace. And what is Iain Duncan Smith’s response: to
    humiliate and denounce anyone who dares challenge his sociopathic
    self-belief. A young woman who went to court to have sanctions declared
    unlawful was roundly trashed by a powerful minister, who dismissed
    anyone who expects a wage for working as some kind of pernicious idler –
    that will be most of the population then.

    Now he badmouths the Trussell Trust, which has connections to the
    Conservative Party itself, retreating ever further into his fantastical
    DWP bunker as good people everywhere cope with the fallout of putting
    such an inadequate man in charge of such important tasks.


    • Kooljeff

      Spot on. IDS is one of the worst benefit scroungers there is – underpants anyone?

  • Bitter Cold

    Ultimately, it is knowledge that is power: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KY878

  • If hardworking taxpayers can no longer afford to pay for spare bedrooms people allegedly don’t need, how is it they can afford to pay for spare land people definitely don’t need?

  • Psychjim

    Does anybody really know how much of their “hard-earned” taxes goes towards unemployment benefits? I believe it works out to some 0.00035p for those on £20,000 pa. So I guess you all should be a little bit offended when they buy a packet of ciggies. But I would be more curious as to where the rest of my taxes are being spent. As for IDS suddenly becoming “compassionate”, well I guess we’ll be hearing a lot more of this nonsense as the campaigne trail gets underway.

  • Kooljeff

    “Compassionate Conservatism”, a perfect example of an oxymoron. (IDS being the biggest moron of the lot). To join the Tory party you have to have a compassiondectomy. You don’t make work pay by cutting Social Security (“Welfare” is crass Americanism). You make work pay by not paying poverty wages or employing people on Zero Hour Contracts. Housing Benefit and Working Tax Credits are benefits for greedy employers and landlords.

  • Everi Daen

    Tory party has no compassion for the poor.


  • Chris

    Compasionate conservatism is a sign of the intellectual degeneracy of the age.

  • john

    Compassionate Consevatism: Lady of the Manor handing out food baskets to the staf at Christmas.

  • Alex_Cheshire

    Are there two people called IDS? I only ask because the IDS I know bears no resemblance to the one described in this article.

  • drydamol1


    Speaking to the Daily Mail, she said young people should
    be “realistic” about their abilities, adding: “You could be
    working at Costa. But in a couple of years’ time you might say, “I’d like to
    manage the area” or might even want to run a hotel in Dubai.”

    That was Mcvey’s comments after urging young people to
    apply for jobs at Costa the Coffee shop chain were 1,700 applicants had applied
    for 8 jobs .

    It epitomises the depths the Tories have sunk to making her
    a minister of Employment .She would be more at home in the fantasy Alice in Wonderland .

    Politicians are supposed to wonder why we don’t take any
    notice of them when they promote a blonde bimbo as a minister with full Gravy
    Train status .Politics are a joke up front but very seriously devious behind
    our backs .Is there nothing Politicians wont stoop to .


  • Neville Walker

    ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ means reclassifying people with Cystic Fibrosis, Parkinson’s and Spinal Muscular Atrophy as likely to recover and be fit for work, according to The Independent. The company subcontracted to do the dirty work is aptly named, because IDS really doesn’t seem to give Atos.