Today Scotland got a stern warning from Iain Duncan Smith, who runs a dept where the admin costs of his new pet benefit vastly exceed the amount actually paid out to claimants, that Scotland will have to find £1.5 billion to set up and run its own benefits system. He also warned that he won’t let the Scottish Government share the rUK’s IT systems if there is a yes vote, which means the money we save not paying for Iain’s admin overruns ought to cover everything we need.
The effectiveness of Iain’s threat depends on a number of things. It depends upon the reputation of Iain for producing reliable facts. So we’re not off to a good start. Let’s quickly gloss over the embarrassing episode in 2002 when the BBC’s Panorama revealed that Iain’s claim to have attended a series of prestigious educational establishments really meant he’d dropped by while on a day trip and he’d confused it with an ice cream parlour.
And it’s really best to draw a discreet veil over the Epiphany in Easterhoose, when having been booted oot as Tory party leader on account of being crap, Iain went on a pilgrimage to Shandwick Shopping Centre where his eyes were opened to the reality of poverty in modern Britain. Whereupon Iain realised in a blinding flash of divine inspiration that rebranding himself as a compassionate conservative could refloat his sunk reputation. He would be ever so umble, at least until the Tories were re-elected, then it could be back to vindictive business as usual. Iain came to Easterhoose with nothing, and left with a highly lucrative career, a means of cowing the poor, a luxury motor and considerable political influence. A trick previously pulled off only by certain local heroin dealers.
Accusations that Iain has misused statistics don’t leave much room for margin of error, except on Iain’s part. Over the past 12 months Iain has been found to have abused, misused, misrepresented, or just made up, statistics on numerous occasions, each of which is comprised of a galaxy’s worth of the twinkly untruths which orbit Iain’s brain. Here’s a statistically representative sample of the articles which crop up when you google “Iain Duncan Smith statistics”. None of which praise the man’s numeracy. That’s statistically significant when it comes to rating your credibility Iain.
In March this year the Huffington Post reported that Iain had been accused of misusing statistics for the fourth time in twelve months. In June last year, the pressure group Disabled People Against Cuts produced a report detailing 35 examples of the misuse of statistics by Iain’s department, which it said “demonstrates a consistent pattern of abuse of official statistics by Ministers of the present Government.” The same month the Guardian’s Zoe Williams accused government ministers, and Iain in particular, of “going off the scale on the spectrum of deceit” over their misrepresentation of statistics. Meanwhile the BBC was reporting that the UK Statistics Authority had criticised Iain over his claims that the benefits cap was working. And in November last year the Mirror reported that an online petition calling for ‘Iain Dodgy Stats’ to be held to account for his dodgy use of statistics had received over 100,000 signatures within a couple of weeks.
Presumably the statistics Iain is giving us today are the same ones conveniently, ahem, “leaked” to Gordie Broon the other day. And equally presumably the thinking between the leaker and the leakee was that another set of dodgy Conservative statistics were better presented to Scotland by a Labour figure with a reputation for misusing statistics than a Tory with a reputation for misusing statistics. Still the same auld lies, still the same auld liars.
No doubt Iain’s claims will be analysed, chewed over, found to be indigestible, and spat back out by statistical carnivores. Because it’s pretty obvious they’re imitation steaks made out of a fungus that grows in the dark feeding on crap. Iain’s claim that Scotland will only be able to fund its benefits system by raising taxes or spending cuts rests upon the assumption that an independent Scotland will continue with the exact same spending priorities as our Tory led Westminster government. So Iain thinks an independent Scotland will still be providing 10% of the billions Westminster plans to spend on a high speed railway between London and Birmingham, and will still be footing 10% of the bill for the rest of the UK’s nuclear energy programme.
He also asserted that he would not share the DWP’s IT and payments systems with the Scottish Government during the transition period after a yes vote if the Scottish Government introduced any changes to the benefits or pensions systems in Scotland. Which is a first, until now Project Fear scares were about what would happen after independence. Now Iain’s saying that if Scotland votes yes, he’d refuse Scotland access to public services while we’re still part of the UK and still paying taxes to the UK Treasury and paying 10% of Iain’s department. That’s probably against the law. But then Iain could always get his pals in Parliament to introduce a back dated bill denying cheated benefits claimants the money they were illegally denied, and get Labour to support him.
And all this without even mentioning the bedroom tax.
But Iain’s just going through the motions. Unlike his cabinet colleagues he’s got a note from his maw excusing him from drive-by duties, and won’t be coming to Scotland to refuse to take questions. He just sent a note saying he was refusing to take questions. Because it’s statistically the case that Iain is one of the top ten reasons for Scottish independence all by himself.
They no longer seem to care whether people in Scotland believe them. In the absence of any other bright ideas, going through the motions is all they’ve got left.