The peculiar leafleting antics of IDS... and what it says about Tory tactics

PUBLISHED: 20:42 30 November 2019

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith canvassing on behalf of Vote Leave. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith canvassing on behalf of Vote Leave. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

2016 Getty Images

STEVE ANGLESEY on a bizarre incident involving former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith and how it provides a perfect microcosm of the Conservative strategy.

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Iain Duncan Smith's offices in Chingford have been vandalised with graffiti. Picture: Emma BestIain Duncan Smith's offices in Chingford have been vandalised with graffiti. Picture: Emma Best

A friend of a Facebook friend was on her phone at home the other day when she heard the letterbox go. There, on the doormat, sat a newly delivered leaflet advertising the benefits of her local Conservative candidate.

Snatching it up, she opened the door. The guy who had obviously just popped it through was now outside her neighbour's.

"Please take this leaflet back. I don't want it," she told him. For emphasis, she dropped it into his hands, on top of a pile of others he was already carrying. And he replied: "I didn't put that through your door."

To which she could say only: "You clearly did, you have a pile of them in your hands. Can't you see the Labour poster in my window? I don't want any of your literature."

And that's when she looked up and noticed it that the leafletter was none other than "Iain Duncan Smith himself. Giving out his own leaflets but, in true Tory style, trying to pretend he didn't do it."

This tale perfectly encapsulates the 2019 general election. It's the story of a Conservative willing to make a big claim and stand by it despite all evidence to the contrary (see the twin debacles of their "40 new hospitals" and "50,000 new nurses" - both unforced errors which reinforce the popular opinion of Boris Johnson as someone you can't trust).

It's the story of a Brexiteer who will not be diverted from his task by logic or the will of the people no longer being what it once was. He went out determined to Get Leaflets Done and by God he was going to Get Leaflets Done, with no amount of Remainer knavery diverting him from his path.

And it's also the story of someone apparently reluctant to stand by his own messaging, just as Johnson (no letterbox fan, he) did at his own manifesto launch when this was the answer he gave to a question about the Tories' Twitter account masquerading as a fact-checking service during his first debate with Jeremy Corbyn:

"When it comes to trust in politics and the facts of this election, what we need to know… there is one giant fact which we continue to chase down, like The Hunting of the Snark, or the quest for the answer to Fermat's last theorem, or the riddle of the Sphinx, or the Bermuda Triangle… the one fact that we wish to discover, the one hard crouton fact that we search for in the great minestrone of Labour's policy on Brexit is what is the position of the leader of the Labour Party on whether he wants to come out of the European Union."

Where this story hopefully diverts from the general narrative of the campaign is that all of the above might just end up having negative consequences for the person involved.

While Johnson and the Tories have fibbed and dissembled to a double-digits lead, Duncan Smith is under pressure in his marginal constituency of Chingford and Woodford Green, where the Greens have stood down and the Lib Dems' Dr Geoffrey Seeff is barely a factor.

A Datapraxis poll showed the former Tory leader up by only 4.2% against Labour challenger Faiza Shaheen, placing him on the Brexiteer Big Beast at-risk register together with Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton), John Redwood (Wokingham), Philip Davies (Shipley) and Steve Baker (Wycombe).

Things on the ground have also been tricky for the father of universal credit.

Earlier this week, and regrettably, his constituency office door was graffitied. And when the London Evening Standard caught up with him on the campaign trail, reported Mark Blunden, "a 4x4 stopped in the road and the woman driving yelled 'w*****' at him". So far, so Alan Partridge, and the feeling is only amplified by Duncan Smith giving the Standard the inside scoop on his press-ups technique. "I go right down and right up, I do about 36 to 40 every day."

If losing his seats triggered a series of events which end with him having to fall back on his own creation, at least this keep-fit campaign would result in IDS being passed fit for work and able to enjoy all the pluses of the system he created - a joyless breadline existence which shuttles claimants from crisis to means test to emergency loan to foodbank to sanctions and back to square one.

Worst of all - and unlike his own leaflet - universal credit seems to be something that Iain Duncan Smith is proud to take credit for delivering.

Talking of unwanted things coming through your door, the Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes tweeted on Monday: "Boris Johnson could urinate through my mam's letterbox and I'd still vote for him."

Oh for the days when the most unsavoury thing being put through discerning Darren's letterbox was £625,000 from Vote Leave in the last days of the referendum campaign!

The complete list of Monster Raving Loony Party candidates for this general election reveals names like Baron Von Thunderclap (Mid Sussex), The Iconic Arty-Pole (Louth and Horncastle), Farmin' Lord F'tang Dave (Denton and Reddish), The Incredible Flying Brick (Islington North) and, erm, Mark Lawrence (Chelmsford) and Mark Beech (Aldridge and Brownhills). When even the Loonies can't be arsed, what price the rest of us?

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BREXITEERS OF THE WEEK

WOODY'S CHIPPY

A Barnsley takeaway owned by a local councillor has had to withdraw an offer to give customers "free cod bits and chips" if the Brexit Party unseat Labour's Dan Jarvis and Stephanie Peacock on December 12.

David Wood, who serves as an independent on Penistone town council, was told his offer was illegal under the Representation of the People Act 1983. He explained: "I am not associated with the Brexit Party, apart from helping the candidates."

Wood, who was only elected in May, was criticised in June over a "humorous Facebook post encouraging religious tolerance" which suggested that the site of a new mosque should also include "an open-pit barbecue pork restaurant called 'Iraq of Ribs'" and a gay bar called 'The Turban Cowboy'. He said then: "I have only just got my feet under the table so I will not be resigning."

SHERELLE JACOBS

The Telegraph's assistant comment editor made it on to Question Time last week, her profile no doubt fuelled by a couple of apocalyptic prediction pieces titled "Labour is on the brink of the most seismic wipeout in British election history" and "Unable to stem their Remainer exodus, the Lib Dems are on the verge of crashing and burning".

But before the champagne corks start popping in Conservative HQ, it's worth noting that Sherelle has form for hype. Other recent pieces by her include "With Boris Johnson snookered by Remainers, the Tory Party is almost certainly finished" and "Sorry Leavers, but the managerial Deep State that runs Britain has officially killed off Brexit".

NOEL GALLAGHER

The former Oasis guitarist, who has instructed Remainers to "get f*cking over it" and said of plans to revoke Article 50 "they used to call that fascism", has revealed that he took out an Irish passport straight after the UK voted Leave in the 2016 referendum.

Gallagher, who qualifies via his Irish parents, told the Irish Sun: "I applied immediately after the vote.

"I got it to make my life easier touring around Europe."

A clear case of Tonight I'm A Shamrock 'N Roll Star for Noel. If only the rest of us were able to Plan B Here Now like him.

MICHAEL GOVE AND DANIEL HANNAN

In the most toe-curling moments of the Tory campaign since, ooh, Nicky Morgan's car crash Good Morning Britain interview of 24 hours earlier, Gove responded to criticism from Stormzy by tweeting "I set trends dem man copy".

These are lyrics from the grime artist's Shut Up, the title of which fellow Brexiteer Hannan might have heeded. Instead he replied: "Big man ting!"

Part of the Tories' cringe tweet strategy or just stupid? In a week when hundreds of thousands of voters joined the electoral roll for the first time, no doubt this digital blackface will break Labour's stranglehold on the youth vote once and for all...

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