BBC News reported that Iain Duncan Smith has quit his job as Work and Pensions Secretary over the recent budget changes to disability benefit plans. His main objection? Irreconcilable differences with the Conservative Party plans to cut over £4bn for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This could not have come at a better time for all those involved.
Despite having been a Thatcher-approved Conservative Party leader from 2001 to 2003, at a time when the political party was gaining momentum as the Government’s Opposition, Duncan Smith has faced considerable problems. His lack of charisma led to a no-confidence vote in 2003, leading the way for Michael Howard to step up to the role. This should have been a warning sign when Prime Minister David Cameron appointed him to the Department of Work and Pensions, in a pivotal role which has often compounded the Conservative Party’s brutal austerity image.
Impossible to sympathise with, Duncan Smith has been known for his many media gaffes, which have done nothing for his image but show his true colours. In a letter to Cameron, citing his resignation, Duncan Smith states:
“Throughout these years, because of the perilous public finances we inherited from the last Labour administration, difficult cuts have been necessary. I have found some of these cuts easier to justify than others but aware of the economic situation and determined to be a team player I have accepted their necessity.”
In essence, it’s the usual spiel of compromise having its limits. However, a simple glance at his history when it comes to benefit cuts, the Brexit plan, and his problematic image shows that Duncan Smith is simply not as clever as some analysts are making him out to be. He’s willing to be controversial, and his resistance in the face of Personal Independence Payment issues (which George Osborne already dropped from his checklist) is futile. The attempt to demonstrate principles or a backbone is long overdue, given that the UK is to be investigated by the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights abuses against disabled people, as IDS’ “reforms” have potentially caused 800,000 deaths. In fact, it’s not his abysmally damaging political strategy which should have us worried, but what the future holds as a result, both for the political landscape and the public.
#IDS has voluntarily resigned. Means his benefits can be ‘delayed’ for up to 26 weeks. It is how he would treat others.
— Gerry Hassan (@GerryHassan) March 18, 2016
Duncan Smith is known popularly as IDS. I’ll leave the irony of the resemblance to a particular debilitating disability to you. The disease of which IDS is merely a symptom is one of opportunistic scapegoating. If anything, his swift resignation gives us a deeper insight into Tory party politics, and David Cameron’s plan to keep a Conservative Government alive in his eventual absence when he finishes his second term as Prime Minister. So who stands to gain from IDS’ resignation, and who stands to lose?
IN THE RED CORNER – Jeremy Corbyn and a lacklustre Labour Party
- Minor – Corbyn (and just about everyone else on the planet) is able to take the moral high ground (as per usual) and lambast IDS for lacking conscience in the last 6 years
- The Conservative Party is leading the way in defining social justice as a Government. Moral outrage does not make up for the fact that Corbyn’s image as a buffoon (in the media) has been equally as bad as IDS. All political conversations centre around what the Tories are doing… Labour is but a helpless spectator
- Why was Labour unable to prevent such reforms in the first place? Given that they have failed to create an actual Opposition in Government, it is no wonder that such changes have taken place unchallenged. For a party which is not calling out the Government’s invasive measures, such as the Investigative Powers Bill, Labour cannot claim to be acting in the interest of the individual
— The NHA Party (@NHAparty) March 19, 2016
IN THE BLUE CORNER – David Cameron and a smug successor
- IDS out, yes-man in
- Cameron is ‘puzzled’ and ‘disappointed’ – therefore IDS obviously didn’t know the facts that the PIP plan wasn’t going ahead anyway, and thus
PilateCameron can wash his hands of responsbility and his sacrificial lamb can die for his sins (and the sins of those before him)
- Osborne can talk about austerity, necessary cuts, and negotiation whilst laughing with his pal DC about how IDS’ focus on the Brexit campaign is damaging, rather than principled
- Theresa May is secretly smiling that the reputation of the Tories is being tarnished by Osborne, a hapless Cameron, and thank-God-he’s-gone IDS. She gets to be the principled, level-headed, I’m-going-to-focus-on-security one (albeit with a tinge of evil heavy-handedness)
- Perfect opportunity to disown IDS and ridiculous measures gone, as his resignation means the buck is now with Osborne, meaning he is going to be even more unpopular (chancellors always are, aren’t they?)
- No one is going to forgive IDS’ successor,
- The assault on poverty has turned into an assault on poor people, and now disabled people, and that never plays well. Jeremy Hunt needs to be wary in case the Principal of Principles comes knocking
- Infighting is at an all-time high, and this is the perfect opportunity for a strong Opposition to take a principled stand (never going to happen though)
- Osborne is not going to be the new Tory leader, according to British media – neither a win nor a loss for a confused party whose only direction seems to be right
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) March 19, 2016
— Tim Farron (@timfarron) March 18, 2016
Far, far too late: IDS will be remembered as tormentor of disabled/ill people, definitely not their champion
— Natalie Bennett (@natalieben) March 19, 2016
Silence from irrelevant Nigel Farage (UKIP) on Twitter. Tut tut, wake up Nige.
BUT WHY IS THIS THE PERFECT PLAN?
The EU campaign is in threat (or IDS wants it to be, anyway). Poor, elderly, and disabled people are angry. Labour is terrible Opposition, Osborne is the new IDS/Hunt, and the equally unfortunately named Stephen Crabb (IDS’ successor) is linked to gay cure therapy groups. I mean, give an analyst a break. This goldmine means that no matter what IDS did, it no longer matters, as the ball is now in the Tory factions’ respective parks. Except, none of them know which thicket to find the ball in.
IDS has come out of this well, and he did the right thing to drop out now. It allows the smoke to clear, and the charred remains of a stung Osborne left behind to pick up the pieces. Osborne has a huge job on his hands. A resignation from a prominent member after a Budget is not helpful to his potential bid for leader. Cameron doesn’t really need to care, and that makes him dangerous. He will go wherever the wind blows and chimes with the most coins. Labour, on the other hand, are at serious risk of driving themselves further into the ground. This important year, with London Mayoral Elections, an EU Referendum, and many Local Government elections is a pivotal assessment point as to how close the gap between Labour and the Conservatives is. I doubt Corbyn has done much to close the gap, and without the voting support of Labour in the House, the Lib Dems are unable to offer the moderation of Tories run amok, unlike when in Coalition from 2010-2015.
Seriously, this was the perfect plan. A bumbling fool, who everyone thought was evil, is now out of the picture. Now we can focus on the real crimes of political and strategic inadequacy. History repeats itself.
Rome is falling; don’t you want to watch?