It may not be the headline issue
in the recent report of Lord Freud’s unguarded comments at a Tory conference fringe meeting, but there’s something gratifying about seeing a verbatim transcript of the noble Lord’s pronouncements, displaying his characteristic crispness and clarity of thought, suddenly being flung into the public domain like a sack of soiled underwear. Compared with some of his more gnomic babblings this is still pretty straightforward, but it gives a sense of the amount of industrial activity required to make him make sense on the pages of Parliament’s Official Report. For those who missed it:
“You make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through, and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the minimum wage. But we do have… you know, universal credit is really useful for people with the fluctuating conditions who can do some work—go up and down—because they can earn and get… and get, you know, bolstered through universal credit, and they can move that amount up and down.
“Now, there is a small… there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually…”
Here either the transcript or his actual sentence
just tails off, possibly out of sheer ennui. Unfortunately, the part of that passage that's clearest, that requires the least parsing or interpretation, is the part where he readily agrees with the contention that disabled people are worth less, and this is worth building into policy.
The problem for the noble Lord is that this is what his opponents have contended all along that he thinks and says in private. However much he denies that, the fact that he agreed with such alacrity, safe in the knowledge that he could speak freely as he was among Conservative friends, will from now on trail round after him like a swarm of angry bees
. “I care passionately about disabled people,” he says in his apology, a statement—in the light of what’s being done to them
with the sweeping away of vital benefits and meaningful support—eerily similar to the dependable claim that “I love
women” made by irredeemable misogynists.
His manner is very controlled—he speaks quietly, even when he's winging it and not making any sense, and smiles when he is told stories of the hardships his reforms are causing—but his claim last year not to understand why there was a huge increase in people visiting food banks, coming from a man whose entire career was built on analysis, suggested a deadpan sarcasm at work, a knowing wink
to the right-wing gallery.
But what makes this inscrutable man tick? What are
his inner thoughts? Oh God, there’s only one thing for it, isn’t there?
2. David Freud
, Freud In the City
, 2006( Collapse )