1st March 2016
A Bitter, Personal Feud Dressed Up As A Principled Resignation
The budget came and went and with it vanished at least one politician’s future along with the millions promised for charities from the ‘tampon tax’ as the EU agreed to zero VAT rating (surely Osborne knew that was on the agenda) and the cuts to disability benefits. It could be argued that the only things of substance to remain are a tax on fizzy drinks and tax cuts for high earners.
On Wednesday night it all looked so different. Osborne was being cheered by Jamie Oliver. The Labour response, although right, was failing to cut through. Osborne, Labour rightly claimed, was a failing chancellor and the budget was unfair and would hit some of the most vulnerable in society.
But then it all started to unravel. The man hated by welfare rights campaigners resigned in protest at cuts to benefits. Iain Duncan Smith was repeating Labour’s lines.
But if Iain Duncan Smith really resigned over benefit cuts then why now? During his reign at DWP he has been responsible for some brutal cuts. He has been the poster boy for the dismantling of the Welfare State. But to listen to him now, post resignation, none of this was his doing. He always wanted to protect the poorest in society. He is a compassionate Tory. He only made the cuts because the chancellor was holding a gun to his head.
If you believe Iain Duncan Smith if he had had his way he would have stopped the cuts to housing benefit. He would have been on the front line opposing the hated bedroom tax. And he would have spoken out against benefit sanctions.
But he did none of those things, and this superb piece of writing following his appearance on Marr is worth reading.
The truth is that Iain Duncan Smith spent his six years as Secretary of State at the department for work and pensions NOT fighting or resigning over cuts to welfare and benefits but introducing them and eventually he resigned over a cut that was probably going to be defeated by his own backbenchers and according to Sunday evening news reports will not even make the debating stages of the budget statement.
To all but his biggest fans it is clear that IDS resigned to damage Cameron, derail Osborne’s leadership bid and to bolster a stumbling ‘leave EU’ campaign. Pure political spite carried out by a political pygmy and possibly one of the most incompetent Tory ministers ever. Considering William Waldegrave was a cabinet minister that is some achievement.
The spite is part of a long-standing battle. Not all Tories are created equal and to the son of a Baronet, (George) Gideon Oliver Osborne and other Tories, Iain Duncan Smith is a man with no qualifications, from poor family stock, is and always will be an oik. No matter how hard he has tried, from being one of John Major’s bastards, to his war on welfare, Iain Duncan Smith was and will always be looked down on by the current Tory leadership.
This is his revenge and that is all it is.
At a Tory conference many years ago IDS ranted (angrily), “The quiet man is here to stay, and he’s turning up the volume”. This weekend in true Spinal Tap style he turned the volume dial to 11.
Make no mistake the Tories have declared war on one another.
On one side you have Cameron and Osborne, on the other the IDS clan. What madness has invaded our politics when IDS claims to be more centrist than Cameron? It is quite simple. It isn’t madness it is deceit. If IDS cared about a more equal society (and many sensible people say he does) why resign over cuts that were about to be reversed? Why not resign over other measures that make the widening gap between the haves and have nots wider? Truth be told it has nothing to do with poverty and everything to do with political spite.
If you believe in social justice, eradicating poverty and creating a more equal society, you need to understand that we have entered a very dangerous political period. Just as Blair shifted the centre ground leftwards, Cameron and Osborne have dragged it back to the right. And until this week IDS was one of their biggest cheerleaders.
So back to the Tories and their war on poverty. They say they want to eradicate poverty. They claim to be compassionate conservatives but as Tony Blair warned in 2005, “the only difference between compassionate conservatism and conservatism is that under compassionate conservatism they tell you they’re not going to help you but they’re really sorry about it.”
The recent Tory attacks on welfare have been cruel and heartless and are writ large in the DNA of small government Tories like the member for Chingford and Woodford Green, Iain Duncan Smith. Every cut, every benefit sanction has had his blessing and the blessing of Cameron and Osborne.
So rather than falling for his deceit we should be applauding his departure and hoping the new Secretary of State at DWP brings some compassion and understanding to the department but I won’t be holding my breath.
Updated Monday 21 March 17:30hrs
Page 86 line 73 of the red book from the budget is officially scrapped – so out go the planned cuts to disability benefits. This leaves a huge hole in the chancellor’s finances and the political questions are a) Will MPs vote through a document containing an incomplete budget? and b) Where will the lost £4.4bn savings come from now?
Crabb: “We will not be going ahead with changes to PIP. And no further plans to make welfare savings in this parliament”.
The historical record will show that Crabb achieved in 24 hours something Iain Duncan Smith failed to achieve in six years!
But the fighting isn’t over yet as the Treasury rushed out a statement to clarify:
“Doesn’t at all mean no more cuts in this parliament, just none planned.”
By Tim Carter
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