Anyone who has listened to the utterances of Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform over the last three years as he blunders through the minefield of welfare will no doubt have a personal anti-favourite to quote.
There was “The poor should take more risks as they have the least to lose”
Later, sick and disabled people were shocked to find ourselves referred to as “Stock” like so many cattle.
There was the time he referred to sickness benefits as “An incubator for lifelong idleness”
And more recently of course, he really outdid himself with the suggestion that food banks were only on the rise because people would always grasp at the chance of free food
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Here is a man who really does not like poor people. He doubts their motives, believes they are motivated only by greed and laziness, and bases every policy announcement on the belief that all will cheat if given the chance. In the belief that we are all “feckless” and “idle”, he provides a constant barrage of measures that hurt, judge and restrict. Every pronouncement suggests that people are inherently bad, inherently dishonest.
Lately, I’ve been musing on what this says about Lord Freud himself. This is a man remember, who when faced with losing three significant votes in the House of Lords over welfare reform, tried to hold the votes again when most of the Labour peers had gone home to reverse the decisions. Shabby and dishonest to say the least.
I’m no psychologist, but I’ve heard it said that we judge the world on our own place in it. We dislike in others, what we see in ourselves. Only a cruel, greedy, callous man could surely see so much cruelty and greed in others?
And here is the problem. A problem shared by Iain Duncan-Smith, and even David Cameron himself. You cannot design a compassionate system if you have no compassion for those dependent upon it. You cannot achieve justice and equity if you believe in a fundamentally unfair and unequal society. You cannot empathise with the lives of others if you believe that people are inherently greedy and selfish.
Every time that Lord Fraud opens his mouth, it seems we learn a little more about him, but not so much about society in general.