In his book, Freud in the City, David Freud was coming towards the end of his City career.
Reading it, it is impossible to imagine that one day Freud would be the government minister responsible for welfare reform. It is possible, though, if you know that to be the case, to picture him being caught out at the Conservative Party conference suggesting that some disabled workers are “not worth” the national minimum wage and should be paid just £2 an hour.
Freud comes across as an outspoken, error-prone character, who treats his journey through investment banking as a romp. He had a habit of speaking his mind. Freud spent most of his career valuing output. That’s the likely reason for why he slipped into saying: “There is a small... there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say, they’re not worth the full wage...”
As welfare reform minister, Freud was an accident waiting to happen. He had already had three run-ins – one when he declared the benefits system let people “have a lifestyle” on the state. Asked whether his wealth meant that he could not understand life on benefits, he replied: “You don’t have to be the corpse to be at the funeral.”
Another was when he suggested more people were using food banks because there were more food banks. The other was his suggestion that the children of families affected by the “bedroom tax” could use a sofa bed when visiting a separated parent. None of which would raise a single eyebrow in the City. Most City folk would regard what he said as eminently sensible – except they would choose to end benefits, scrap food banks and would struggle to get their heads round anyone not having a spare room.