Iain Duncan Smith today condemned George Osborne for savaging the working poor at the expense of wealthy Tory-voting pensioners.
Despite insisting his bombshell resignation was not ‘personal’, the former work and pensions secretary used his first interview since walking out of David Cameron’s government to warn last week’s Budget was ‘unfair’ to the disabled.
Mr Duncan Smith said the Government was abandoning the ‘one nation’ message that was at the heart of Mr Cameron’s re-election campaign amid a furious row over disability benefits.
But as the Tories descended into the worst bout of infighting since the dying days of John Major’s Government in the 1990s, Mr Duncan Smith faced allegations he had quit because of Europe.
A furious Downing Street sent out Energy Secretary Amber Rudd to condemn Mr Duncan Smith. She told Sky News she resented his ‘high moral tone’ and later said he had not been a ‘spectator’ during six years of controversial spending cuts.
Iain Duncan Smith today used a BBC interview to accuse Chancellor George Osborne of favouring Tory voters over the working poor as he attempted to slash public spending
Mr Duncan Smith’s bombshell resignation on Friday night rocked Westminster.
But in a passionate interview on the BBC Andrew Marr programme, Mr Duncan Smith denied he was motivated by Europe – insisting his crusade to improve the life chances for all were even more important to him than a two decade battle to achieve Brexit.
And in a fierce attack on the Government’s austerity agenda, the former Tory leader said: ‘The truth is yes, we need to get the deficit down.
‘But we need to make sure we widen the scope of where we look to get that deficit down and not just narrow it down on working age benefits
‘Because otherwise it just looks like we see this as a pot of money, that it doesn’t matter because they don’t vote for us.’
As Mr Duncan Smith outlined the reasons for his resignation, the extraordinary interview sent shockwaves through Westminster:
- Former members of Mr Duncan Smith’s DWP team clashed on live radio as the deep Tory divide was laid bare. Employment Minister Priti Patel said Mr Duncan Smith had laid out his case with ‘conviction and dignity’ but Pensions Minister Ros Altmann launched a savage attack to claim ‘this has to be about Europe’.
- Energy Secretary Amber Rudd took to the airwaves to insist she was ‘perplexed’ by Mr Duncan Smith’s decision to quit the Government and accusing him of launching a ‘bombshell’ at his colleagues.
- No 10 issued a statement rejecting Mr Duncan Smith’s claims, insisting it was a ‘one nation government’ that would deliver its ‘manifesto commitments to make the welfare system fairer’.
- Tory MP Heidi Allen, who led the Conservative revolt over tax credit cuts which humiliated Mr Osborne last year, questioned the Chancellors future at No 11 and said it depended on how he now responded.
- Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench Tory 1922 committee warned the Government not to brief against Mr Duncan Smith.
- Senior MP Bernard Jenkin accused Downing Street of being ‘deeply insincere’ and claimed Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had taken ‘the same playbook as Blair and Brown’.
- Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith repeated Labour’s demand for Mr Osborne to quit as Chancellor over the row.
Mr Duncan Smith said he did not want to see a change of leadership at the top of Government ‘at the moment’.
He said: ‘I do not have political ambition. I would not stand for leader, I would not support somebody who stands for leader at the moment.
‘I care for one thing and one thing only – it is that the people who don’t get the choices my children get are left behind.
‘I do not want them left behind. I want them to be given that opportunity and everything I tried to do has been about that.’
Mr Duncan Smith said it was ‘painful’ to resign from Government, adding: ‘I don’t want to resign but I am resigning because I think it is the only way I can do this.’
Asked if the Government was ‘immoral’, Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘I think it is drifting in the direction that divides society rather than unites it.
‘As far as I am concerned the risk is there. We are not there yet, but I want to change that.’
Mr Duncan Smith insisted his resignation was not ‘personal’ but launched a blistering assault on George Osborne’s Treasury for destroying his vision of welfare reform
Asked If Mr Osborne would make a good Prime Minister, Mr Duncan Smith offered a cool response.
He said: ‘If he was to stand and was selected by the electorate, which is not just me, I would hope he would – I think the same about anybody else.
‘I have no view about anybody to be Prime Minister because the Prime Minister is there at the moment, I have high regard for him.’
He added: ‘I believe they are losing sight of the direction of travel they should be in.’
Launching an attack on Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne’s government, Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘I do think genuinely there need to be a greater kind of collegiate sense to the way decision are made.
‘This is not the way to government.
‘All I am simply saying is look, I want the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to succeed. I want them to succeed because Britain needs them to succeed.
‘We need to get the deficit down but we need to get welfare reform going.’
Asked why he had not protested against the disability cuts when Mr Osborne presented them to Cabinet on Wednesday morning, he said it was the first time he had ‘realised the full state of what was actually happening as regards to tax cuts and this juxtaposing in this Budget’.
Iain Duncan Smith launched a fierce attack on the Government today, accusing Mr Osborne’s Treasury of pursuing repeated cuts to the working poor
Mr Duncan Smith said if there was a vote tomorrow, he would vote for Mr Cameron to continue in No 10.
‘I want the team to succeed as a One Nation team,’ he said.
‘We can debate how that is delivered but we should not debate the fact what we should be trying to do is not keep bearing down on the same group of people – widen that and talk about sharing that burden a bit more.’
Mr Duncan Smith blamed Mr Osborne’s Treasury for forcing the pace on cuts to disability benefits, insisting he had not wanted to finalise them before Wednesday’s Budget.
And he slammed the ‘very limited, narrow attack’ on working age benefits.
He said: ‘After the election last year, I took a decision that if you are going to join the Government, you have to balance whether you can make changes and do what you hope to do on balance, you have to compromise, and do those compromises benefit or damage society.’
Senior Labour MP Chuka Umunna said Mr Duncan Smith’s call for greater social justice was ‘absurd given all the misery he has presided over’
Angela Rayner said listening to the former minister today had been like ‘some weird dream where all the nasty cuts introduced never happened’
Shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant said Tory MPs had ‘howled’ at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s claim the Budget was unfair before learning the then-work and pensions secretary had agreed
Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘My problem throughout this last period – it didn’t start last week or the week before – through the debate and disputes I have had on tax credits, on the cutting away and eroding of universal credit allowances and a big assault on the taper… I have felt really semi detached, isolated often in these debates.
‘I am not able to convince people that what we were losing, progressively, was the narrative the Conservative Party was a one nation party caring about those who don’t even necessarily vote for it and may never vote for it.’
Mr Duncan Smith confirmed he considered resigning last year and sparked surprise as he made clear his opposition to the cap on overall welfare spending, the triple lock on pensions and cutting working age benefits to hit deficit targets set by the Treasury.
He said: ‘We were running to an arbitrary Budget agenda which had a welfare cap in it.’
In a statement, No 10 rejected Mr Duncan Smith’s attack on the policy direction of the Government.
A spokesman said: ‘We are sorry to see Iain Duncan Smith go, but we are a ‘One Nation’ government determined to continue helping everyone in our society have more security and opportunity, including the most disadvantaged.
‘That means we will deliver our manifesto commitments to make the welfare system fairer, cut taxes and ensure we have a stable economy by controlling welfare spending and living within our means.
‘Under this government there are over two million more people with the security of a job and a pay packet, almost half a million fewer children growing up in a home where nobody works and over a million fewer people trapped on out-of-work benefits.
‘But there is more to do. That’s why we will stick to our plan so we finish the job of delivering stability, security and opportunity for working people in our country.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: ‘The Conservative Party is tearing itself apart over an unfair Budget. David Cameron and George Osborne’s claim that ‘we’re all in this together’ now lies in tatters.
‘No-one will believe Iain Duncan Smith’s sudden change of heart. After all this is the man who introduced the Bedroom Tax. But what his comments do reveal is growing anger within the Conservative Party about George Osborne’s management of the economy.
‘The Chancellor’s unfair Budget is falling apart at the seams. George Osborne now needs to urgently clarify whether these cuts to disability benefits will go ahead and, if not, how he will make up for the huge hole in his Budget.
‘Jeremy Corbyn is right. Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation is a symptom of a wider problem made at the Treasury. George Osborne should take responsibility and resign. He has failed his party, failed the economy and failed our country.’
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told Murnaghan on Sky News that she does ‘respect’ Mr Duncan Smith but to ‘suddenly launch this bombshell on the rest of us in a way that is difficult for us all to understand is just really disappointing’.
Ms Rudd also said Mr Duncan Smith was ‘completely wrong’ to suggest the Conservatives were falling short of being a ‘one nation’ government.
She said: ‘I do resent his high moral tone on that when the rest of us are absolutely committed to a one nation government.
‘I do find his manner and his approach really disappointing.’
Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said she was ‘disappointed’ by the ‘bombshell’ from Mr Duncan Smith but senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin blamed the ‘Blair and Brown playbook’ used by Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne for igniting the row
Senior Tory MP Bernard Jenkin said: ‘They have taken the same playbook as Brown and Blair.
‘Everything is dictated from the top for short term political advantage. This cannot go on.
‘We need to reset how Whitehall operates. The prime minister is supposed to be primus inter pares [first among equals] not a dictator.
‘The Chancellor should not control individual departments. And Iain is not the only minister who has got hugely frustrated.’
Pensions Minister Ros Altmann led attacks on Mr Duncan Smith in a letter to Sky News.
She said she was ‘extremely shocked’ at the manner of her former boss’s resignation.
Pensions Minister Ros Altmann today blasted Mr Duncan Smith for the manner of his resignation
She said: ‘Having worked alongside him as a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, I have seen that he championed the very package of reforms to disability benefits he now says is the reason he has resigned.
‘I’m particularly saddened that this really seems to be about the European referendum campaign rather than about DWP policy.
‘He seems to want to do maximum damage to the party leadership in order to further his campaign to try to get Britain to leave the EU.’
Mr Duncan Smith’s Friday night resignation sent shockwaves through Government and Mr Osborne’s Budget.
Mr Duncan Smith blasted proposed changes to the personal independence payment which were due to cut an average of £3,500 a year from 340,000 people.
He said: ‘I have for some time and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled and the context in which they’ve been made are, a compromise too far.’
In a direct attack on Mr Osborne, he said: ‘Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill.
‘There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.’
He concluded: ‘I hope as the government goes forward you can look again, however, at the balance of the cuts you have insisted upon and wonder if enough has been done to ensure ‘we are all in this together’.
In response, Mr Cameron said he was ‘puzzled and disappointed’ at the resignation – pointing out the contentious benefit reform had been pulled for further work hours earlier.
The Mail on Sunday today revealed the pair had a furious row hours before Mr Duncan Smith’s resignation became public at around 9pm on Friday.
Stephen Crabb was appointed as the new Work and Pensions Secretary yesterday, with Alun Cairns replacing him as Welsh Secretary.
ONE DAY AFTER BUDGET, IDS LETTER SUPPORTING THE CUTS
Iain Duncan Smith signed this so-called ‘Dear Colleague’ letter – the term for correspondence sent to all Tory MPs – on Thursday. It was 24 hours after George Osborne’s Budget, and the day when the Chancellor was going on the airwaves to defend his measures.
IDS makes no mention of his opposition to the disability cuts, which he would later cite as the reason for his resignation, bar an ambiguous line pledging to ‘take this response forward’.
On a second page, reproduced below, IDS explains changes to the Personal Independence Payment, with the paragraphs we have highlighted showing his defence of the shake-up.
One of his arguments is that the benefit, intended to help people who struggle to use the toilet or get dressed, was being used for the unnecessary purchase of ‘items like beds and chairs that people have already’.
IDS makes no mention of his opposition to the disability cuts
Why we are changing the Personal Independence Payment
- Our welfare reforms have helped more disabled people back into work so that they have the security of a job.
- And as we reform welfare, we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our society and targeting the extra support we are providing for disabled people on those who need it most.
- We introduced the Personal Independence Payment to help meet the extra costs that someone with a disability faces.
- We introduced the Personal Independence Payment to help meet theextra costs that someone with a disability faces.
- Recent legal judgements have broadened the scope of what is considered an ‘aid and appliance’ to include items like beds and chairs that people have in their homes already.
- The number of people who qualify for PIP solely due to aids and appliances –which in many cases are provided by the NHS or local authorities – has tripled in 18 months.
- Yet in 96% of these cases reviewed by health professionals, they found that the likely on-going extra costs of daily living due to their disability was low or even zero.
- And in his independent review Paul Gray recommended that ‘the Department should review how aids and appliances are taken into account in PIP assessments against original policy intent’.
- That’s why last year we brought forward a consultation to explore how best to take account of aids and appliances and help disabled people meet the extra costs of their disability.
- We have carefully considered the responses and are continuing to talk to disability groups and colleagues about the best way to do this before bringing forward legislation.
- No one currently on PIP will see any change until their next review.
- We are also providing support for disabled people through the mobility component of PIP, Employment and Support Allowance, local welfare provision, support through the NHS, adult social care, Access to Work and the Disabled Facilities Grant.
- Facts on disability and Personal Independence Payment spending
- Personal Independence Payment spending will rise in every year of this Parliament in real terms.
- This year we are spending around£50 billion on support for sick and disabled people, more than the entire £34 billion Defence budget this year.
- We are spending more in real terms supporting disabled people in every year ofthis Parliament than the £42.6 billion Labourwas spending in 2010.
Michael Gove rallies to George Osborne’s side by praising a ‘radical and progressive’ Budget after IDS’s explosive resignation over disability benefit curbs
Michael Gove today rallied to the support of George Osborne after Iain Duncan Smith’s bombshell resignation left the Tories reeling.
The Justice Secretary insisted the Budget was progressive and radical and a package he would ‘enthusiastically’ vote for when it is tested in the Commons next week.
Mr Gove said he backed Mr Duncan Smith on Brexit and warmly endorsed his work in Government to reform benefits and help people back to work.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove, left, today appealed for Tory unity in the wake of Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation before warmly endorsing the Budget of Chancellor George Osborne, pictured right on Friday
But as Mr Osborne’s Budget unravels and the Tory civil war over Europe explodes to greater heights, Mr Gove pleaded with his party to put unity first.
In a column for the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gove said: ‘David (Cameron) has shown extraordinary generosity of spirit in allowing ministers to campaign against him – and for Brexit – while still remaining at their posts.
‘The country therefore has the chance to make this momentous decision – after a fair and open debate – because we have a majority Conservative Government.
‘And after this country has made its decision we’ll need a strong, united and resolute Government not just to steer Britain through new times internationally, but also to continue with reforms to our economy, welfare and education which are vital to our future.’
Mr Gove insisted he ‘can’t and won’t’ take issue with with Mr Osborne or Mr Duncan Smith on their key policy directions and choices.
Of the former work and pensions secretary, Mr Gove said: ‘Few politicians are admired enthusiastically by both Nick Clegg and Norman Tebbit. Indeed I suspect Iain is the only one.
‘He has earned the right to make his own decisions on matters of high principle.’
And turning to the Chancellor, he added: ‘He is a brilliant Chancellor who has not just fought to repair the nation’s finances after years of mismanagement, he’s also a thoughtful and considerate social reformer.’
Tory wars break out into full public view as David Cameron is accused of being a ‘dictator’ using the ‘Blair and Brown playbook’
1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady said the motives of Mr Duncan Smith should not be questioned
The tensions at the heart of the Tory Party broke into public view today as Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation broke the dam holding back furious rows.
Bernard Jenkin, the Harwich and North Essex MP, launched a stinging attack on David Cameron and slammed him for using the ‘Blair and Brown playbook’ to dictate policy to departments.
Others, including Graham Brady, the 1922 Commmittee chairman, warned the Prime Minister’s team against briefing Mr Duncan Smith’s shock decision to quit was motivated by Europe.
The Conservative Party is split down the middle over June’s EU referendum as Mr Cameron leads the Government for remain while more than 100 of his MPs are passionate backers of Brexit.
Mr Jenkin told Sky News: ‘Everything is dictated from the top for short term political advantage,’ he said.
‘Everything is tactical. This cannot go on.’
Mr Jenkin said the prime minister is ‘not meant to be a dictator’.
Mr Brady told BBC Radio 5Live: ‘I think people who are giving briefings which are suggesting ulterior motives from colleagues, I think it is very unwise.
‘I think it will make it much harder for us to pull the party back together after the referendum and much harder for us to get on with the task of offering the good, solid, decent government that the country expect.’
Former defence secretary Liam Fox said: ‘I do urge my colleagues to stop personalising some of this debate.
‘There is a real debate for us to have about how we go about welfare reform at a time when we’re still massively over-spending.’
Despite the backlash from the eurosceptic wing of the Tory party, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd took to the airwaves to blast the ‘bombshell’ from Mr Duncan Smith.
She said to ‘suddenly launch this bombshell on the rest of us in a way that is difficult for us all to understand is just really disappointing’.
She also said Mr Duncan Smith was ‘completely wrong’ to suggest the Conservatives were falling short of being a ‘one nation’ government.
She said: ‘I do resent his high moral tone on that when the rest of us are absolutely committed to a one nation government.
‘I do find his manner and his approach really disappointing.’
George Osborne’s leadership chances hang by a thread as a senior MP warns the Chancellor is ‘damaged but not destroyed’ by his collapsed Budget
Tory grandee Peter Lilley said George Osborne was ‘damaged but not destroyed’
George Osborne’s hopes of succeeding David Cameron as Tory leader and Prime Minister are ‘damaged but not destroyed’ a veteran Tory MP declared today.
Peter Lilley, who has been a Tory MP since the political civil war in the party of the 1990s, said the fumble over disability benefits was another signal Mr Osborne was ‘not necessarily the best person’ to takeover in No 10.
After David Cameron reaffirmed his plans to quit Downing Street before the next election, speculation on who will succeed him has been feverish.
Long-term favourite Mr Osborne was damaged by last year’s humiliating climb down over tax credit and this week’s row over tax credits provoked the bombshell resignation of Iain Duncan Smith.
Meanwhile, Mr Osborne’s key rival Boris Johnson delighted the Tory grassroots with his Brexit declaration.
Mr Lilley told the BBC: ‘He’s an extremely able person and in many ways… well, I was going to say a safe pair of hands but not in this case.
‘But generally a safe pair of hands.
‘And so not necessarily therefore the best person.’
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell today called for Mr Osborne to scrap his whole Budget and start again because of the blackhole left by a climbdown over personal independence payments reform.
He told BBC Radio 5Live: ‘I can’t see how the Budget can now go forward this week because a huge hole has now opened up within the Budget itself.
‘Already Osborne had to find £3.5bn of cuts which were unidentified but now there’s another £4bn so I can’t see how this Budget can proceed this week.
‘I think something has got to happen between David Cameron and George Osborne where they come to Parliament, most probably that they’ve got to withdraw this Parliament and start again.’