back to top

Watch The Moment Iain Duncan Smith Broke Down Over The Plight Of A Single Mother

The former work and pensions secretary cried in a TV interview as he spoke about a 19-year-old who reminded him of his daughter.

Posted on

This is the moment that Iain Duncan Smith broke down on camera as he remembered a 19-year-old single mother who had "written off her life".

View this video on YouTube

The former work and pensions secretary was being interviewed by Ian Hislop for a new BBC documentary on the benefits system. His eyes filled with tears as he recalled meeting a young woman who had given up hope of working, saying she had reminded him of his daughter.

Duncan Smith quit the cabinet in March in protest at the scale of cuts to disability benefits. The interview was filmed in December when he was still in post.

Hislop told the Radio Times: "It was a curious thing. IDS actually broke down. He wept in front of me. It was a very extraordinary moment."

Hislop said he didn't try to comfort the minister: "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."


Duncan Smith said: "I remember visiting a lone parent a few years ago in an estate which had a very high number of single parents, young women.

"And when I sat and talked to her, I sensed that she wanted to do something, she wanted to be better than her circumstances but she had no skills, she'd fallen out of school, she didn't know where to go.

"And I remember leaving there thinking very simply, 'This is my daughter' ... I'm sorry, I'm quite emotional about this now. Nineteen 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. And my point was – what could I have done, what could we do to change her life?"

Workers or Shirkers? Ian Hislop's Victorian Benefits will be aired on Thursday 7 April on BBC2.

Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Emily Ashton at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.