IF David Cameron believes that hiding Lord Freud away from the public eye will allow the furore over his heartless comments to subside, he’s wrong.
Telling his minister not to turn up in the House of Lords to speak in the Social Justice Strategy debate shows that the Prime Minister recognises his current toxic status.
Cameron knows that the “apology” squeezed out of Lord Freud is worthless because, when he told a Tory conference fringe meeting that some people with disabilities are “not worth” the minimum wage, he meant every word.
His non-apology simply went through the motions, making clear that he has no understanding of the anger he has excited.
“I am profoundly sorry for any offence I have caused to any disabled people,” he observed airily, oblivious to the fact that his suggestion of looking into ways of paying people £2 an hour so they could price themselves into work offends all decent people.
This was precisely the sentiment voiced by Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago when she told people to take jobs whatever the pay on offer.
Although Lord Freud tries to downplay his unfeeling attitude by claiming to have simply accepted “the premise of the question” posed to him, he cannot erase the enthusiasm with which he welcomed it.
This is not a gaffe on his part. It falls in line with a succession of declarations by this multimillionaire former City banker, with luxury homes in Highgate and Kent, that illustrate his inability to understand or empathise with less well-off people.
“We cannot have people simply loafing about, doing nothing and expecting the state to finance their lifestyles,” he said after being appointed an adviser on welfare reform by new Labour.
People angered by his comments may feel that we cannot afford to pay £300 a day expenses to unelected politicians like him just to give vent to their prejudices.
There is no point in asking Lord Freud to attend Parliament to “explain” his comments.
He’s said enough already and no amount of PR-polished attempts to wheedle his way out of this scandal of his own making will do. He should go and go now.
More empty words
LABOUR’S new scheme for housing, unveiled yesterday by Ed Miliband, is the latest in a line of initiatives designed to give the impression of activity but with little real impact.
He and shadow communities and local government minister Hilary Benn tried hard but in vain to make their Housing Growth Areas plan sound relevant.
Labour’s goal of building 200,000 homes a year by 2020 is too little too late and its plan to allow local authorities to designate Housing Growth Areas for new homes in which local first-time buyers might have priority is largely irrelevant.
The two million people languishing on council house waiting lists won’t be able to take advantage of a two-month window for preferential treatment.
They are the victims of a short-sighted housing policy shared by all three major parties that concentrates on private-sector provision of homes for sale.
This suits the landowners, property speculators and estate agents, but it does nothing about the suffering of people on waiting lists and growing numbers of local authority tenants evicted because of redevelopment that ignores the need for low-rent council homes.
What low-income homeless people need is a huge expansion in government-funded council housing, similar to that instituted after the second world war.