Politicians live by words but are they willing to live by their words? Yesterday a raft of changes to the UK health, welfare and benefits systems came into effect and the chief architect of the welfare and benefits portion, Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), quipped on a radio interview that he could live on the £53 which is what a previous interviewee on the same programme had had his income reduced to. Now, there’s a thought.
The ever-listening Internet swung into action and there is a petition (which I have just signed) asking that he put his money where his mouth is and live on that amount for a year. I don’t expect that he will do it in full but it is possible that he might try it for a shorter period of time. It would be a way to at least temporarily silence his critics and my impression is that IDS does have some hint of a social conscience. It would certainly be more of a reality experience than his parliamentary colleague Nadine Dorries who flew off to be involved with one of the “celebrity” programmes.
There would have to be some discussion on the rules. For example, would he have to support his family or would he perform the experiment as a two or three week holiday from them? Would he have to find accommodation or would a suitably low-end bedsit, not too far from where he would be working, be figured in? You could certainly enjoy a nutritious diet on the budget although you would probably have to cut out the booze. Of course, that assumes you’ve got a kitchen in good working order and I don’t know if the fuel to run cooker, fridge and other appliances is covered by other benefits or has to be topped up from the £53. Walking is a free method of getting around although having to replace a pair of shoes would bite deeply into the budget.
Yes, I think he could do it. The question that would be much harder to answer (at least within reasonable ethical constraints) is how long he could sustain it without the certainty that he would soon be returning to his regular millionaire lifestyle?