Iain Duncan Smith broke down and wept about the plight of a single mother during a television interview months before he quit as work and pensions minister, according to Private Eye editor, Ian Hislop.
Hislop said Duncan Smith started to cry while being filmed last December for a documentary on Victorian attitudes to poverty. “It was a curious thing,” he told the Radio Times. “IDS actually broke down. He wept in front of me. It was a very extraordinary moment.”
Duncan Smith presided over sharp cuts to the welfare budget during his six years in charge of the department before dramatically quitting in March over what he described as the deeply unfair impact of George Osborne’s policies on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
In the programme, to be aired this Thursday, Duncan Smith’s voice quivers and his eyes fill with tears when he talks about meeting a 19-year-old single mother who had given up hope of work. Saying that she reminded him of his daughter, he says: “I’m sorry I’m quite emotional about these ... 19-years-old ... My aspiration for my daughter was boundless. And here I’m sitting with a 19-year-old girl who had written off her life and had no aspiration and no self-worth. She was a product of a system.”
Asked whether he tried to comfort Duncan Smith, Hislop said: “No, I just watched him cry. We’re sitting in the Department for Work and Pensions talking about his desire to increase the lot of those without any privileges or start in life and he starts welling up.”
It is not the first time the former Conservative party leader - nicknamed the quiet man of politics – has wept in front of the cameras. In 2002, on a visit to Easterhouse in Glasgow he appeared to get upset over conditions in a derelict house, although his concern was later questioned.
Hislop’s documentary considers “controversial benefits cuts, anxieties about scroungers, sensational newspaper reports, arguments about who does and doesn’t deserve welfare” during the Victorian era.
• Workers or Shirkers? Ian Hislop’s Victorian Benefits airs on 7 April on BBC2.
This article was written by Jane Martinson, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 5th April 2016 00.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010