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By Bernadette Meaden and Virginia Moffatt
We thought long and hard about writing an open letter to Iain Duncan Smith. As a way of trying to influence government policy, this method would certainly not be our first choice. We believe in focusing on policies, not politicians. But we also believed we had reached the point where to appeal to Mr Duncan Smith as an individual, and to make a strong public show of concern, was necessary.
We are pleased to note that in addition to reporting the letter from leading Catholics critiquing Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, over the appalling impact of benefit cuts on the sick, poor and disabled, the Daily Mirror has been persuaded to open an online poll on the subject - which has now gone viral.
When the poverty figures were published last week, many people were surprised that they did not show a significant rise. Particularly for people active in their communities, the figures did not seem to reflect the hardship they are seeing.
On Friday, when David Cameron stood outside Downing Street to address the nation, he struck a less strident note then he has for some time. He talked about giving the poorest a chance for 'training, a job, and hope for the future'. He seemed in his speech to be reclaiming the mantle of the compassionate Conservative he appeared to be back in 2009/10. I wish I could believe him.
I have never felt that voting was so important. For many people, the result of this election could, quite literally, be a matter of life and death.
People with disabilities or a long-term illness, having borne the brunt of welfare cuts in this Parliament, fear what will happen after the General Election. With the Conservatives promising a further £12 billion cuts without specifying where the axe would fall, they fear the worst.