In just one week, the Tories have gone from a Party of the conspicuously discontented, to a Party suffering a catastrophic public meltdown. The resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from his role as the DWP secretary was like an earthquake in the political landscape of the Tory party, and has further shifted the metaphorical faultlines between a whole host of vying egos in the Cabinet.
Harold Wilson, in all his wit and wisdom, was right: a week really is a long time in politics.
The proposed £4.4billion raid on PIP – essential money that allows disabled people to live independently – was greeted with an extremely public outcry, which many Conservative MPs took to heart as one by one, backbench rebels began to voice their concerns.
When normally placid and line-towing Conservative back-benchers are kicking up a fuss in numbers over Tory policy being too weighted in favour of the rich, you know there must be a problem. Even Graeme Ellis, the leader of the Conservative Disability Group resigned from his position due to the Budget’s plans and is said to be ready to switch allegiance to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – an opposition who have become increasingly effective at harnessing the public’s anger against Osborne’s shamefully underhand Budget announcements.
The Budget, in terms of addressing the nation’s pressing concerns, was an absolute disgrace. The Tories used the occasion to implement policies with the sole purpose of making the rich richer and the poor, yet poorer. 85% of the tax cuts and financial gains benefitted the wealthiest half of society, with cuts landing on the backs of the disabled. It’s little wonder that when the true impact of Osborne’s Budget was delivered by analysts and institutions, the public outcry was deafening.
However, the last name anyone expected to hear resigning due to ‘indefensible’ policies against the disabled, was a man who has spent the last six years attempting to justify his own unjustifiable policies against those very same people.
At first glance it would appear that Iain Duncan Smith had mysteriously, inexplicably, experienced the most unlikely of epiphanies. I for one, find this hard to believe.
Duncan Smith has never been one to back down. When Guardian columnist Owen Jones confronted IDS on Question Time over policies that had directly lead to the deaths of two disabled people, Brian McArdle and Karen Sherlock, the former DWP secretary said he was ‘proud’ of his policies, and of changing people’s lives.
Indeed, upon hearing about Smith’s resignation, Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for mid-Bedfordshire took to social media, tweeting that she had been begged by IDS to vote for ESA cuts little over a week ago, showing that in reality, there seems far more to this story than meets the eye.
Stunned at IDS resignation letter. I was about to vote against ESA cuts when he sought me out – he personally and angrily begged me not to.
— Nadine Writes Books (@NadineDorriesMP) March 18, 2016
Even more evidence, if ever it was needed, that Duncan Smith’s stated reason for resigning was suspicious, is, as David Cameron pointed out in his response to IDS, the fact that the Government had actually agreed not to implement the cuts to PIP in their present form – something the former DWP secretary was fully aware of.
“That is why we collectively agreed – you, No 10 and the Treasury – proposals which you and your Department then announced a week ago. Today we agreed not to proceed with the policies in their current form and instead to work together to get these policies right over the coming months.
In the light of this, I am puzzled and disappointed that you have chosen to resign.” – David Cameron, in response to Iain Duncan Smith’s letter of resignation
Something tells me this is not purely about the PIP cuts, but also a tactical ploy in light of a potential rebalancing of power, post-Brexit, or post-Bremain (yes, Bremain is apparently now a word).
IDS is strongly in favour of Brexit. His opposition to Government policy on the EU has been very public, and he is also to have been known to personally dislike George Osbourne after the Chancellor apparently quipped that IDS wasn’t ‘clever enough‘.
Smith seemed to be between a rock and a hard place during interviews when discussing Brexit, scrutinising the Government, but also seemed quite restricted by ‘Cabinet responsibility’. His opposition to Osborne inevitably sees him supporting Boris Johnson, not only on leaving the EU, but also for the leadership of the Conservatives.
The internal power struggle within the Conservative Party, and the squabbling factions emerging due to the forthcoming EU referendum, have seemingly boiled over very publicly. Resigning from the Cabinet may have been a pre-emptive strike, allowing Duncan Smith to back calls for the resignation of PM and The Chancellor, should they lose the battle to remain in the EU – and also back his favoured succesor as leader – the outgoing Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
The Tories have been weakened by the EU referendum, something which has the potential to cause massive long term damage. Take the example of the Labour Party in 1975, once divided over the EU, were never truly able to repair the damage done from left and right pitching against each other, and were subsequently defeated three years later largely because of this divison.
With revolt against the Budget from within his own Party, David Cameron looks merely a shadow of the unifying figure he once claimed to be. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, oft derided as an ineffective opposition, have played their cards impeccably, capitalising on the Conservative calamity with maximum efficiency.