Politician to hand back MBE in protest at Iain Duncan Smith’s knighthood

Mike Smith-Clare (left) is returning his MBE honour because Iain Duncan Smith (right) is receiving a

Mike Smith-Clare (left) is returning his MBE honour because Iain Duncan Smith (right) is receiving a knighthood. Photograph: Archant/TNE/House Of Commons. - Credit: Archant

A politician is to hand back his MBE medal in protest at a decision to knight Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith in the New Year's honours.

Mike Smith-Clare, a Labour party councillor from Great Yarmouth, was awarded his MBE in 2016 for services to community education but said he could no longer be associated with "an honours system that rewards social cruelty above social conscience".

It was revealed Duncan Smith was to receive a knighthood following his efforts chairing Boris Johnson's election campaign.

In government under David Cameron he had overseen the introduction of the disastrous universal credit scheme, arguing the changes were designed to end the benefits trap, ensuring that it always paid for claimants to take work, while simplifying the system.

However, complications with the roll-out of the new system and delays in making payments were blamed for driving thousands of low-income families into poverty.

The decision to award a knighthood to the Brexiteer provoked a backlash, with a petition calling for the decision to be reversed attracting more than 200,000 signatures.

Speaking to local newspaper the Great Yarmouth Mercury, Smith-Claire said: "It is with genuine sadness that I have decided to return my MBE.

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"I have made this difficult decision following the recent announcement that Iain Duncan Smith has been awarded a Knighthood.

"Having seen at first hand the shocking poverty brought about by the introduction of Universal Credit to my town I am incredulous that the architect of such appalling social and personal misery should be so richly rewarded."

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The area Smith-Clare represents was one of the first places in the country to trial the government's welfare changes.

He said: "I can only hope that the incredible people providing support for those affected by universal credit or pension changes will receive equally prestigious awards."

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The councillor will return his MBE to the Lord Lieutenant's office at Norfolk County Council next week.

He received it in 2016 for services to community education, with the medal presented by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

"It was a lovely occasion," he said, "but I cannot be associated with an honours system that rewards social cruelty above social conscience."

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