Saturday, 19 March 2016

IDS: Read Between the Lines

Let's be clear: Iain Duncan Smith's resignation has little to do with benefits inequality. There may be Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions tensions, but no more than say with police cuts between the Treasury and the Home Office. The Bedroom Tax and the inadequacy of the one room Local Housing Allowance (for others) plus the 20% Council Tax, plus all other cuts, are all approved by this man. There is evidence that he asked Nadine Dorries MP not to rebel over the proposed benefit cuts (unless, of course, she wants to undermine him for the benefit of the Government).

He pre-informed The Times and sister newspapers. He timed his resignation for the 10 pm News. His explanatory letter was held by The Times. His use of "all in it together" was a deliberately phrased knife at Osborne and Cameron.

We know that Osborne is the Chief Executive of all the Government and Cameron is its Chair. Cameron does the PR, with his 'give it a left, give it a right' presentation to waiting microphones before racing off oh so decisively for his fake negotiations, or his 'surrounded by factory workers' shirt-sleeves speeches. He does it better than Osborne surrounded by puzzled and bored children. But it is these two who have led the pro-Europe campaign. Alan Johnson (Labour) has been invisible in comparison.

First of all weeks back IDS complained that he and antis were being denied government papers; the government responded that it is not neutral. So he had the freedom to oppose, but wouldn't get government papers beyond his own department's necessities.

But now he has realised that the best way to skittle the government's pro-Europe campaign is by skittling those in charge, specifically Cameron and Osborne. The more incredible they look, the less they can 'lead' regarding the in campaign.

And so his departure had to be like a Howe or a Lawson, to have impact on the night and impact on the party.

Perhaps the reason the government machine sounded uncertain on the Benefit cuts was because they knew that close politics was bubbling. The argument for the IDS defence is that his department had to uphold a policy of benefit cuts and tax benefits, including to MPs (Nadine Dorries included), while the government wobbled. The government bigwigs wanted to take away the basis for IDS's and others' complaints, yet at the same time did not want to back down. So it was a question of timing for IDS - go before the government backs down.

Corbyn and company are right to ask for the Chancellor's resignation, as here is another Budget shambles. As I blogged just after the Budget, Osborne has run out of road space evidenced by his creative accounting, never mind the despicable cuts while giving the rich a treat. The ideas are sour and competence utterly lacking. Productivity and investment are stuck. But the IDS target is Osborne and Labour needs purchase fast and here is a gift. Nothing will benefit Labour more than the incompetence of the government and shaking it to its foundations. After all it might lead to what  many have considered impossible: a compassionate and yet productivity-seeking Labour government.

However, let's be clear. It isn't Labour that is causing this. It is Cameron's miscalculation. A referendum should follow a party in government decision that needs confirmation by the wider public, not a situation where the public vote is to sort out a fundamental disagreement in the party. So Cameron is a gambler, to finally put paid to the Eurosceptics. Instead, the tension of the vote either or is proving too much for the Tory Party, and it is more likely to split. Indeed, a number of Tories so-minded can vote against the Budget and do for Osborne and his campaigning for Europe now.

If Cameron/ Osborne wins the referendum, the Eurosceptic nutjobs (including IDS) will never forgive him or them and make government impossible, and if Cameron/ Osborne loses there will be a clear-out at the top. Iain Duncan Smith will be back and under Boris Johnson or someone similar. The gamble is greater than this institution can bear.

So this is a good example of that. By timing, the skids are put on the Budget and on the leadership itself, and its competence to discuss Europe at all. But as regards this resignation: read between the lines, because they are the only lines worth reading.


Kenneth Robertson said...

For once , Adrian, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Obviously I have listened to Iain Duncan Smith's protestations that this is all about welfare. It beggars belief to think that he has been 'on the side of the angels' throughout these six years, given all that has been introduced to reduce the living standards of the poorest, when the poorest received statements that 'the law believes this is what you need to live on'. Even if he couches his actions in the narrowest of terms, it is also the case that he and Osborne do not and did not get on, and he must be naive not to consider that by going for Osborne like he has there is the benefit of serving his strong Eurosceptic views. No doubt he was defending a policy that others in the government were wobbling over in public, but his idea of compromise were others' reality of desperation with living. His compromise too far now rather begs his view of social justice as to why it wasn't a compromise too far long back. And, on top of this, we know he is a highly incompetent minister, well below his pay grade - look how the Universal Credit is way behind schedule. He'd rather get it right, he has said, but obviously by his own admission it will not function as was intended.