Farron and Rennie react to IDS resignation

Well, that was a surprise last night. I was lying in my bed feeling ill, as I have been for days, when the news came through that Iain Duncan Smith had resigned. My instinctive reaction was to worry. IDS was probably about as good as it gets when it comes to the Tories and social security. His replacement is likely to have even less of a social conscience.

I totally accept that the bar is not very high here. I do wonder how somebody can happily cut £30 a week off sickness benefits just weeks ago, introduce the benefit cap, limiting of Employment and Support Allowance, Bedroom Tax and impose the Universal Credit cuts and finally resign over the issue of disability benefit cuts which looked like they were being kicked into the long grass anyway.  IDS’s resignation letter talks a good fight in the last paragraph, where he asks what we’ve all been saying for years, whether we really are all in this together, but it justifies many of the things that most Liberal Democrats found unacceptable. This, of course is before you even get to the capping benefits at two children and the “rape clause” that requires a mother of a third child to prove rape in some unspecified way before she can get benefits for her third child. And don’t get me started on benefit sanctions. Have I missed anything?

The fact that he is a key Cabinet EU leaver throws another dynamic into the mix. Is he stepping aside for a few months hoping that Boris will bring him back if we leave the EU and Cameron has to go? That sounds a bit too devious for IDS, to be honest, but it will cause shock waves in a Tory Party which already has a Grand Canyon between those on both sides of the EU divide.

We’ll have to see whether he will make a resignation statement in the Commons. While I suspect he could have the impact of a Geoffrey Howe, it’s unlikely to have the same effect, at least immediately.

Tim Farron’s reaction last night suggested that he didn’t think enough Tory Cabinet ministers had gone:

It is quite right that Iain Duncan Smith has resigned over this heartless plan to cut disability benefits, but the true mastermind of the changes, George Osborne, should also be considering his position.

It is clear that these cuts had nothing to do with the right level of support for people with disabilities, and everything to do with George Osborne’s self imposed spending target.

Now his plan has come unstuck he should follow Iain Duncan Smith, for once, and do the decent thing.

He had earlier said, of plans to kick the disability benefit cuts into the long grass:

This vicious plan to cut benefits should have been a non-starter. The lack of judgement and cavalier attitude to the well being of people with disabilities by the Government has been staggering.

Kicking it into the long grass isn’t good enough. They owe disabled people an apology and a guarantee this plan is gone for good.

Willie Rennie challenged Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to say where she stood on disability cuts, given that she’s been so enthusiastic about tax cuts for the rich. He said:

Iain Duncan Smith was right to make a stand against these unfair cuts to support for disabled people.

Ruth Davidson declared after the Budget that George Osborne’s tax cuts were “absolutely the right thing to do”. Last night we learnt from Iain Duncan Smith that they come at the direct pound-for-pound cost of support for people with disabilities.

Ruth has placed herself on the tax cut side of her party. We need to hear from her how she justifies the cruel cuts to Personal Independence Payments.

Ruth Davidson has been silent on this important matter whilst others have felt they had no choice but to leave the cabinet. Her silence over these cuts is deafening. She needs to explain herself. Does she stand by George Osborne and his cuts or back Iain Duncan Smith?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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24 Comments

  • nigel hunter 19th Mar '16 - 10:41am

    I suspect Ruth Davidson is trying to work out what she says to stop the Tories Scottish campaign going of the tracks.

  • Adrian Sanders 19th Mar '16 - 11:18am

    Sadly, I don’t think any more cabinet ministers are likely to resign and in any event they get replaced and the Tories remain in majority Government. Perhaps we should be suggesting to our members and supporters that there are serious allegations of criminal offences highlighted by the Daily Mirror and Channel 4 that need investigating and we should all be contacting our local police station demanding just that. Until the matter is tested no one can say with 100% certainty that the Tories acted within the law. Over 20 Tory MPs are involved that could bring down the Government. What are you waiting for?

  • Bill le Breton 19th Mar '16 - 11:41am

    Perhaps the more important campaigning point for Lib Dems is the way that the London media covering this story have absolutely no idea about what is happening with the introduction of Universal Credit.

    In the NS today, Stephen Bush, not untypically for the metropolitan elite writes, “the man who is the chief architect of the universal credit, which was supposed to have been rolled out in October 2013, and in March 2016 has been rolled out to the grand total of 141,100 people – and by “people”, I mean “single men without dependents”, the only group whose claims are simple enough to be processed on the universal credit.”.

    Or @djmgaffneyw4 (“research, analysis & grey-skies thinking on labour markets, social security, public finance and equality) who Blogs at http://lartsocial.org . declares that UC is a ‘non-event’.

    I am not sure that LD campaigners in the North West for instance would recognise this given their casework and intimate knowledge of the inhumanity with which this scheme is being rolled out.

    Can’t we campaign that, now IDS has gone, its most pernicious aspects should go with him?

    Cd a Parliamentarian ask how many new applicants are there for UC and how long is it taking for their first payments to come through.

    Also Adrian is right … about the election expenses scandal.

  • Tim Farron calls the cuts to PIP “vicious”. It is easy to see what he means and I am sure he did not deploy that word lightly. But PIP itself is flawed and it was brought in on a shared Tory/Lib Dem watch.

  • It’s a row between two not very pleasant incompetents. Osborne has consistently failed to reach his own targets as well a delivering one unravelling budgets after another, whilst IDS has spent years and millions on a his unworkable pet universal credit project on top of hiring actors to back up his ludicrous claims that the recipients of his sanctioning regime are thanking him. Would you buy a used care from either of these people!?

  • Would be interested to see what people make of the appointment of Crabb – in the week he was seriously speculated about as a future leader.

    Suddenly the government majority of 12 is looking very vulnerable…

  • Richard Underhill 19th Mar '16 - 5:24pm

    Norman Tebbitt once said “If you think I am right-wing, wait until you see Ian Duncan-Smith.”
    IDS announced the cuts to disability himself about 3 days before the budget, so he did not resign at that point.
    The Chancellor repeated the cuts in his statement on the budget, but the cuts to higher rate income tax are blatantly connected.
    IDS has been threatening to resign for ages, unless he gets his own way on everything he cares about.
    As a former leader of the Tory party he was considered unsackable. The usual reason for Tories to resign the leadership is that they lost a general election, Major 1997, Hague 2001, Howard 2005, or were considered imminently likely to do so, Thatcher.
    IDS is therefore in a class of his own. Former tory party chairman Chris Patten said at the time “at least it shows that the adults are in charge of the party again”.
    It is therefore unlikely that IDS would be a leadership candidate now.
    His resignation does allow him more time to campaign in the referendum, but that is probably a consequence, not a motive.
    All Ministers suffer wear and tear and it is therefore possible that IDS has simply had enough. Sunday TV programmes will want to interview him. Maybe by then it will be about the referendum.
    He has been caught before saying things that can be immediately disproved, thereby damaging his credibility.
    The Chancellor found a simple solution to his defeat on tax credits. Does he have, say £4 billion, down the back of the sofa again?
    The best informed person to replace him is a Liberal Democrat, but ‘the professor’ lost his seat in May 2015. The reference to him in the budget statement has caused comment elsewhere. The replacement of IDS by the Welsh Secretary is a big promotion, in that Wales has an elected Assembly, so the PM’s decision shows a reluctance to move other ministers at this point, or a reluctance of cabinet ministers to take this big job.

  • I don’t think IDS has anything to do with the EU referendum.

    I find it remarkable that neither in his resignation letter or the prime ministers response was there any mention of Universal Credit.

    I suspect there are going to be a few reports due to be released on the progress of Universal Credit, it is known that on Thursday IDS lost a court case for the 3rd time to try and stop a FOI request on Universal Credit.

    I suspect that IDS jumped ship before the damning reports.

    No doubt Cameron / Osborne will blame IDS entirely for the complete failure of UC and wasting Billions. They will announce that UC has to be scrapped altogether.

    The worrying thing is, no matter what happens, the only people who are really going to pay and suffer the most are the disabled, who will be clobbered some way or other to try and recover the wasted Billions. Because that’s what Tories do.

  • I agree with Matt. It’s all about Universal Credit – A totally misconceived idea which is, at last, finally and definitively falling apart. IDS has invented a “principled” reason to resign, simply because it will look better than to be kicked out for ignominious failure.

    Osborne’s “Long Term Economic Plan” has been a series of lurches from pillar to post. Now the Tories will no doubt begin a similarly incompetent re-re-design of their benefits policies.

  • IDS is just an attention seeker. I expect we’ll see other stunts by the second rate politicians who are disastrously seeking to persuade us to leave the EU.

  • Tony Dawson 20th Mar '16 - 8:40am

    Tim Farron is being very politically clever in pitching in on this issue as if IDS was genuine about being concerned about the PIP changes. It helps us try to get some of the genuine Tory doubters on this subject to stand firm. Personally, I do not think that IDS is at all sincere on the matter in question.

  • Tony Dawson 20th Mar '16 - 9:56am

    IDS is presently on Andrew Marr show looking amazingly relaxed. Not good for Cameron at all as he is going VERY hard on ‘social justice’. However, if you believe he is not doing this as part of the Euro referendum campaign, I have a suspicion no one else much will agree with you. Timing is very important in politics. Maybe, Osborne has just accidentally of pooping on Cameron (and himself) by pushing IDS over the edge right now?

  • Thank goodness the Lib Dems never assisted awful cuts in benefits that affected the poor and that they had no part in the dreaded Bedroom Tax. The party cant have its cake and eat it and that’s how its coming across a year later. Grown up politics anyone?

  • Nick Hopkinson 20th Mar '16 - 11:23am

    How can IDS pretend to claim the moral high ground when has gone along with severe social security cuts in the past six years? How can IDS claim the high ground when his objections to disability cuts were taken on board on Friday yet he still resigned afterwards? As Baroness Altman notes, IDS has spent much of his time recently plotting. IDS resigned to damage Cameron and Osborne, and to campaign freely for BREXIT in the hope he forms part of a Johnson government.

  • Paul Murray 20th Mar '16 - 1:31pm

    My goodness! “Beware the wrath of a quiet man” and all that.

    Did IDS just murder the political future of George Osborne live on TV? It’s one thing for a bunch of lefty BTL commentators on The Grauniad website to say that the Tories only care about their supporters, it’s a different matter when a former party leader and senior cabinet minister says it.

    It seems to me that this is about picking sides ahead of the EU referendum – and it has the effect of equating the Brexiteers with “principled one-nation Toryism” and portraying Osborne et al as a bunch of wide-boys who are only in it for themselves.

    If the vote is “leave” (which I think is likely) then Cameron and Osborne are out and those who risked most by declaring themselves for “leave” can expect the greatest reward. Step forward… IDS!

  • Richard Easter 20th Mar '16 - 1:44pm

    Osborne is clearly a corporatist, not a conservative. I don’t trust Duncan Smith, but there is a battle between One Nation Toryism, nationalism, libertarianism and corporatism in the party.

    The Brexit supporting Tories appear to broadly be a mixture of all these ideologies too. Bill Cash / Hollobone / Bone are clearly in the nationalist camp, Zac Goldsmith, Dan Hannan and David Davis generally fall into the libertarian camp and the corporatist wing is represented by tobacco company lobbyist Priti Patel. Duncan Smith would probably describe himself as One Nation, although that is debatable!

    Interestingly Labour’s Brexit supporters appear to come from all the different wings of the party too. Kelvin Hopkins, Dennis Skinner, Ian Lavery are all socialists, Kate Hoey is Blue Labour (though economically to the left), and Frank Field is on the right of the party.

  • Philip Rolle 20th Mar '16 - 1:56pm

    I think the vote will be to Remain, and that Cameron could have another three years provided that he is wise enough to see that he will have to move his Chancellor. Osborne’s only chance of becoming leader is to be given a new job and a fresh start.

    Where will he go? Who will become Chancellor?

  • I think Cameron and Osborne are gone whatever the EU vote is. The reality is that about 70 percent of conservative party members are in the exit camp. If we stay in they will turn on Cameron for being out of step and if we leave it will because he’s a failure.
    My hunch is that Cameron decided on the referendum because he didn’t think he would get a majority and was relying on Nick Clegg to take the brunt od the resultant wrath of either not holding the vote or the whatever the outcome of the vote was.
    Having said that I don’t think IDS resigned to position himself for a post referendum EU post. His universal credit project is a mess, he’s lost court cases and he is butting heads with a chancellor who is running out of options. After his first budget back in 2010 many mainstream economists were warning the danger that the cuts would fail and that when this happened Osborne would simply try to impose further cuts. The point being that austerity leads to more austerity and deteriorating infrastructure, which in turn leads to social problems. I hesitate to suggest that IDS has seen the error of his ways, but think he otherwise means exactly what he is saying and has spotted the potential electoral damage Osborne’s salami slicing will cause a Conservative Government with the slimmest of slim majorities.

  • As well as the PIP cuts the most disgraceful aspect of the Budget was the Capital Gains Tax cut from 28% to 20%. Lib Dems fought to get it up from Brown’s 18% because “hedge fund managers were paying a lower rate than the people who clean their offices”. Guess who are some of the biggest donors to the Tory party?

  • @ Ian Swales “As well as the PIP cuts the most disgraceful aspect of the Budget was the Capital Gains Tax cut from 28% to 20%.”

    Hard to argue with that…. and I agree with you, but

    We should be up in arms about the abolition of local government’s role in education – something going back over 100 years.

    This is shameful and should be fought tooth and nail…

  • It’s remarkable what a well timed resignation can achieve.

    What a pity that weapon wasn’t used by the political party led by Nicholas Clegg between 2010 and 2015.

  • Matt (Bristol) 21st Mar '16 - 5:20pm

    I am very very sad that no-one has
    a) used the phrase ‘beware the IDS of March’
    b) pointed out that Cameron has been criticised for being cruel and heartless by the first person to call for UK participation in the Iraq war, who tried to model Conservative foreign policy on that of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz (something IDS has largely hidden under the carpet in his biog these days)…

  • Simon Banks 21st Mar '16 - 5:22pm

    I met IDS when we were both standing for Chingford, when he was first elected. He struck me as a decent and not at all proud guy. He has promoted repellent measures (some of them accepted by us in coalition), but I think he’s mistaken rather than, like Osborne, deeply cynical and manipulative.

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