Petition against Iain Duncan Smith knighthood tops 220,000

Iain Duncan Smith visiting Easterhouse in Glasgow in 2002.
Iain Duncan Smith visiting Easterhouse in Glasgow in 2002.
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Almost 230,000 people have signed a petition calling for former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith to have his knighthood revoked.

It was revealed last week, that the Tory MP, who was the architect of controversial benefit changes when he was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in David Cameron's government, was to be knighted for his "political and public service" in the New Year's Honours list.

In response, an NHS psychiatrist, Dr Mona Kamal Ahmed, launched a petition last Friday against Mr Duncan Smith receiving the honour, hoping to gain 300,000 signatures. It currently stands at 227,560.

She said the MP, who was born in Edinburgh, was "responsible for some of the cruellest, most extreme, welfare reforms this country has ever seen" and pointed to the the UK becoming the first country to face a United Nations enquiry into human rights abuses against disabled people.

READ MORE: Disabled Scots turn suicidal as thousands face benefits cash axe
Published in 2018, the report said the the UK had breached four UN human rights agreements relating to women, children and disabled people and that the government had been guilty of “grave and systemic violations of the rights of disabled people”.

Dr Ahmed added: "The suffering and impoverishment which are a direct result of the welfare reforms he has implemented are now undeniable. The callous and humiliating Work Capability Assessments where people with chronic disability are required to continuously prove they are deserving of their welfare payments or else be stripped of their entitlements have caused needless stress and misery.

"They have also been directly associated with relapses of depression and anxiety in patients with chronic mental illness. They have even been linked to excess deaths through suicide."

READ MORE: Dani Garavelli: Something of the knight about Iain Duncan Smith
Dr Ahmed also claimed that the introduction of Universal Credit, had caused "hardship to millions and for which Iain Duncan-Smith is again culpable."

"The fact that Iain Duncan Smith, the individual responsible and the architect of such misery, is to receive the honour of a knighthood is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable individuals across this country who are suffering as a result of his policies and to those who have tragically lost loved ones as a direct result," she said. "He must not be knighted."

Since it was announced that Mr Duncan Smith was to be knighted, a two-year-old clip of him on BBC Newsnight, in which he described some immigrants to the UK as being "low value people", has been unearthed on social media.

The veteran MP, who campaigned for the UK to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, was appointed work and pensions minister and 2010, and faced criticism for the introduction of fit-to-work assessments, Universal Credit system and the so-called “Bedroom Tax”. He later said that Universal Credit needed extra funding and resigned from the Cabinet in March 2016, in opposition to the then Chancellor George Osborne's proposed cuts to disability benefits.

READ MORE: Universal Credit row explained as pressure mounts on Theresa May to change policy
He has spoken in the past of having an "epiphany" on a visit in 2020 to Easterhouse in Glasgow where he witnessed extreme deprivation, and as a result established the think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, where the idea of Universal Credit was first mooted.

Responding to the decision to make him a Sir, the woman who stood against him for Labour in his Chingford and Woodford Green constituency at the election was deeply critical.

Faiza Shaheen wrote in The Guardian: “What sort of message does this send to families plunged into poverty by his cruel welfare policies? Their hardship is effectively being celebrated.”

She added: "Somehow this human suffering does not disqualify IDS from receiving a knighthood for his 'public service'. This appears to be the perfect symbol for the moral bankruptcy that has enveloped this country.”

But former health secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted his support for his colleague’s knighthood. He wrote: “I have never worked alongside someone more willing to face unpopularity for standing up for his deeply held principles and moral convictions.”