Why IDS is still in his job is revealing of Conservative attitudes to social security

Iain Duncan SmithWhen Andrew Lansley’s health reforms ran into trouble – and his inability to take with him the public or those working in the NHS proved toxic – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Jeremy Hunt was brought in to make nice to the health sector and patients.

When Michael Gove’s education reforms started to run before they could walk – and his inability to take with him the public or the teachers proved toxic, especially in marginal constituencies – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Nicky Morgan was brought in to make nice to schools and parents.

Yet when Iain Duncan Smith’s social security reforms fall flat on their face – and his inability to admit the failure of both unpopular policies like the bedroom tax and administrative cock-ups such as universal credit becomes starker by the day – David Cameron keeps him in his post for a full parliament. No-one has yet been brought in to make nice to those who depend on social security.

Presumably this is because David Cameron reasons there are more votes to be won being seen to crack down on benefit claimants than in running the system fairly and well. But it re-inforces the impression that Conservatives care little for those who have little.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Jenny Barnes 10th Dec '14 - 6:04pm

    Uc is not an administrative cockup. It’s an undeliverable policy. I DS appears to be unable to detect that. Specialist subject: ignoring the obvious.

  • Jayne Mansfield 10th Dec '14 - 6:30pm

    The final paragraph of the article brings to mind the Malcolm X quote:-

    If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

    This certainly seems to be true of some sectors of the right wing, opinion forming press.

  • TBF Michael Gove survived a hell of a lot longer than he should have done, and others have remained in post depite horrific ballsups. I think Cameron is just reshuffle-shy.

  • Maybe. I think its one of the few things that there’s almost universal agreement on from all the parties – that the *principle* of universal credit is a good idea, and reforming welfare is a nightmare that will take years to implement. Whoever’s next in government will probably reap the benefits of the pain being caused at the moment.

    And that’s not the belittle the chaos in the welfare system that’s happening right now, as someone with a family member who has waited 10 months for an ESA assessment (and is still waiting) I know first have how could have been managed much better.

  • Ruth Bright 10th Dec '14 - 7:23pm

    But Stephen, where was the distinctive Liberal Democrat line on this stuff? Perhaps IDS survived because both coalition partners were singing from the same song sheet – all that verbiage about “alarm clock Britain” , decent hard-working families who do the right thing etc, people “languishing on benefits”.

  • Jenny Barnes 11th Dec '14 - 8:31am

    “there’s almost universal agreement on from all the parties – that the *principle* of universal credit is a good idea”

    The “principle” of uc is indeed a good idea. The fact that it is undeliverable is the problem.
    The “principle” of a perpetual motion machine is a good idea. But the 2nd law of thermodynamics says you can’t have one.

  • Bedroom tax seems fair in my book unless you suggest everyone gets a handout for extra space. Why a council tenant should be more privalaged than anyone else is beyond me. I will however accept that in some limited cases disabled may Need not just want more space

    Just one other point you voted for the policy it just seems like tuition fees again this is what we will do then sorry it’s not what we meant, any wonder people are sick of politics

  • Peter Watson 11th Dec '14 - 12:18pm

    There were two aspects to the Bedroom Tax. The first was the principle of whether or not there should be a cost associated with having more space than is deemed necessary, and the second was the practice of imposing that cost on people who already lived in such accommodation. It is possible to support the principle but oppose the callous way it was implemented with sudden large costs or disruption for some of the most vulnerable families.

  • The most illustrative comments on the Coalition’s achievements regarding social security were, for me, in the radio interview quoted in this piece in the Independent recently (and there is a link to the actual interview). I find the speaker more convincing than IDS on the subject:


  • @Bolano

    His situation may be genuine, in which case it is wrong that people are in such a situation and benefit levels are not adequate. We do not know the full extent of his circumstances, whether he is claiming all the benefits he is entitled to etc.

    Or it may not be genuine or may be more complicated than it sounds. One anecdote does not prove anything about a benefits system handling hundreds of thousands of cases every year.

  • @ RC

    I think it’s genuine. One, it would be an extraordinary piece of acting, and script writing, otherwise; two, the Radio Station concerned has followed up the case with additional broadcasts, and are contacting him direct through his local job centre.

    You’re wrong. This proves this example. There is nothing more to the success or failure of the benefits system than a collection of exactly these anecdotes, these lives. The success of the Lib Dem’s collaboration with the Tories can only truly be measured by the answer to the question – are these lives made better? Not a percentage increase loudly defended at PM’s Question Time, not an opinion in a paper, but the real experience of real people, enabled to speak their lives like this guy has – these anecdotes.

    Listen to the follow-up – listen to him describing climbing over a wall to get access to a supermarket bin to scavenge for food in New Cross, finding women there doing the same thing to feed their children. Listen to his anger and tears. These are lives lived today – not all lives, of course – but these are real people. These are the people IDS is allowing to fall, to fail. These are the people presumably, the Lib Dem joined the coalition to protect. It’s not enough for the party to wring hands and say oh but it could have been so much worse, so much worse. This is on “your” watch.

  • Dean Crofts 11th Dec '14 - 9:10pm

    The Lib Dems need to take welfare seriously if they think IDS is a bad thing for the welfare benefit system. Yes mistakes have been made however for the first time in decades this department has had continuity from a minister that has not been re-shuffled and who actually re-searched the subject for 10 years before he came into office.
    I am not in the habit of defending conservative ministers and do not wish to continue this.
    However, the welfare benefit system we currently have puts individual into poverty, creates health problems, depression, anxiety , stress with the hoops, jumps and somersaults claimants have to go through to make a claim. Remember it was Labour who introduced ESA, gave ATOS contracts and made ESA the mess it is. It was Labour that gace us tax credits and overpayments having to be repaid by the working class poor. It was Labour who forgot claimants on incapacity benefit and left them to rot. This is no way to run a liberal welfare state.

    Until we recognise these problems, the budgeting hell individuals have to go through because there benefits are paid weekly, fortnightly, four weekly with a monthly wage, how many of us could manage income that comes in at these times???

    Universal credit will solve this, monthly payments, it will reduce overpayments, real time information and claimants will not have the torture of updating 4 different departments as they do now to make sure that they get their correct entitlement. Remember we are dealing with an IT system that can cope with 9.7 million claims, who ever said this would not be easy.

    At least this department is listening , introducing slowly instead of making such a mess which is what we had when tax credits were introduced by Mr Brown.

  • David Crofts,
    So why aren’t the disabled cheering IDS! The fact is he’s been wasting money on a scheme that has less wings than Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose., a huge ambitious flying boat famous for one abortive hop and then mothballed. Consistently failing is a form of continuity.

  • stuart moran 12th Dec '14 - 6:59am


    Yet more LD members defending extreme right-wing properties……do you actually want anyone to vote with you again, and if so, who?

    It looks to me now that there has been an ideological shift and the LD are going to become an very right wing economically liberal party with socially liberal policies….perhaps in the end merging with the Osborne wing of the Tories!

    I am not sure quite how this happened……did Conference vote for this type of party because all the rhetoric from the leadership and most members on here suggests it has

  • Nick Collins 12th Dec '14 - 6:28pm

    “Presumably this is because David Cameron reasons there are more votes to be won being seen to crack down on benefit claimants than in running the system fairly and well. But it re-inforces the impression that Conservatives care little for those who have little.”

    Quite so. And the Liberal Democrats have been their partners in crime. throughout the life of this appalling government. Is it any wonder that so many of your former supporters have left you in disgust?

  • @Stephen Tall

    Full respect Stephen, but now tell me when labour bring the vote on WEDNESDAY to abolish the BEDROOM TAX how should your LIBDEM MP’s vote.
    How can it be that in the 21st century we can cut tax for the richest in society but cut benefits for the disable and their carers.

  • I suspect the unfortunate truth is that even after the new trouble IDS has made Cammers’ is scared of looking at the DWP and unpicking the mess himself.

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