“Labour politicians tell a story that captures both his vanity and his folly. A few years ago, Duncan Smith met Douglas Alexander, Rachel Reeves and Stephen Timms. He enthused about his belief in a universal credit that would merge taxes and benefits. He would free 6 million people from the poverty traps of welfare dependency and show them that work made them better off.
The Labour politicians admitted that universal credit was a fine idea. They had thought about implementing it many times. But you had to merge incompatible IT systems and find a way of updating the information on millions of people so that Whitehall knew almost instantaneously how much they were earning, what taxes they should pay and what benefits they should receive. Reforming a complex system would take years. If Duncan Smith rushed it he would be engaging in the vast and self-defeating social engineering the right accused the utopian left of forcing on the human race.
Duncan Smith would have none of it. The technicalities were trifles. All that was needed was the political will. And he, Iain Duncan Smith, the man of destiny, had the will to make it work. “We looked at him as if he was mad,” one of the participants told me.”
Today, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn thinks, like Iain Duncan Smith before them, that they will make Universal Credit work.
But for whom exactly, Jeremy Corbyn?