When you see rottenness in a system you must ask: does it come from one bad apple or does the whole barrel stink? The rank smell emanating from the coalition is impossible to miss. At first sniff, it appears to come from the blazered figure of Iain Duncan Smith. It has taken me some time to identify its source, because appearances deceive. From his clipped hair to his polished shoes, Duncan Smith seems to be a man who has retained the values of the officer corps of the Scots Guards he once served. Conservative commentators emphasise his honour and decency. They speak in reverential tones of his Easterhouse epiphany: the moment in 2002 when he saw the poverty on a Glasgow estate, brushed a manly tear from his eye and vowed to end the “dependency culture” that kept the poor jobless.
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– all of them scroungers, not strivers, who sponge off the taxpayer from their Whitehall offices – brief reporters with unpublished figures.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.”
It is not just Duncan Smith. The health secretary says he will stop foreign “health tourists” costing the NHS hundreds of millions. He has no reputable evidence to support that figure. David Cameron says he wants tax breaks for married couples, when there is no evidence whatsoever that they encourage lovers to marry.