If you pay people to be poor, you'll never run out of poor people

Iain Duncan Smith and I have just spoken to 400 Conservatives at Ascot Racecourse. (Have you been to Ascot since they built the new stands? You really should go. But I digress.) You might think that being leader of the Conservative Party would be the pinnacle of IDS's career: "a damn' fine thing to be, if only for five minutes", as Lord Melville is supposed to have said. You'd be wrong. [via telegraph]

IDS's real achievement will be much longer lasting. He is capturing the field of social justice for the British Right. For most of my life, the question of how to relieve poverty has been owned by socialists. You might vote Conservative because you believed in low taxes, strong defence, controlled immigration, free enterprise or school discipline.

But if you were chiefly interested in how to improve the condition of the indigent, you'd almost certainly end up voting Labour. IDS tried to change that as party leader, but the press and public weren't yet ready to listen. Any Tory talking about helping the worst off was assumed to be posturing. Since being toppled as leader, though, IDS - through his Centre for Social Justice - has succeeded in building a comprehensive and convincing conservative critique of poverty and inequality.

His big idea is very simply stated. Poverty is not simply an absence of money. Rather, it is bound up with a whole set of other circumstances: lack of qualifications, demoralisation, family break-up, substance abuse, fatherlessness. It follows that you do not end poverty by giving money to the poor: a theory that British welfarism has amply demonstrated over 60 years. Only when you tackle poverty holistically will you facilitate meaningful improvement.

The Tories of Berkshire applauded as warmly when I laid into the EU racket as when IDS spoke of the need to rescue those left behind on our sink estates. Conservatives naturally grasp the connection between living in an independent state and living independently of the state. IDS has done the poor the greatest service anyone could do them: he has ensured that they will no longer be left to the Left.

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