note: this was originally posted on my tumblr in 2013
There is this petition going round calling for Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week to prove that he can after he said that he could. While I think it’s a good thing to call out politicians when they say ridiculous things, I don’t think that this would achieve anything at all. For a number of reasons.
He probably could live on £53 per week. I’m almost certain of it. If he did do it (he won’t), he would have a team of people so determined to make it happen, they would make sure it happened.
There are two different mentalities at play, so it wouldn’t be a fair game. If he did do it (he won’t), what would be the point? For us, it is about making him see how unfair and hard it is. We don’t care if he manages to actually live on £53 a week or not; we just want him to see it from our point of view. For him it would be a game. A win/lose game. He would have to win, and we would have to lose. So it would be a waste of time.
This isn’t about taking a pay cut from £1,000 a week to £50 a week. That’s an amusing PR stunt. It’s about taking a pay cut from £54 a week to £53 a week. It’s the fear and terror of knowing that, having had everything budgeted TO THE PENNY, you now have to find somewhere to make savings. And it’s impossible. The families this affects ALREADY buy the cheapest bread and they ALREADY turn the heating off when it’s not unbearably cold. For them this isn’t an amusing and interesting experiment; it’s real.
Poverty is not just living on £53 a week for a week. Or a month. Or a year. It’s forever. It extends into the past and there’s no hope of the future being any different. For Iain Duncan Smith to have any insight into really what these cuts mean, he would have to live this experiment for the rest of his life. If he can just snap his fingers and be back in Whitehall any time, it is pointless.
Even if he did do it (he won’t), it’s all very well living on £53 a week in March. But what about in December? What about two weeks before Christmas? Does IDS know the difference in price between a family chicken and a frozen turkey and how to find the extra money to pay for it?
Evil though IDS is, I don’t think we should be signing a petition to push yet another person into poverty. Whoever that person is.