As I See It
Duncan Smith spears Osborne’s leadership hopes
Whenever there is a falling out, there is usually blame on both sides and Iain Duncan Smith’s departure as Work and Pensions Secretary – which he insists was about welfare reform and not Europe – has inevitably given the target of his concern much to think about.
Chancellor George Osborne was on a high on Wednesday afternoon after unveiling a giveaway Budget with a surprising number of tax cuts, more so for being so far out from the next General Election.
The warm glow emanating from Number 11 Downing St spread around the country, but had begun to cool that evening when questions were being asked about his ability to fund his remarkably generous cuts to corporation tax, national insurance contributions, oil and gas taxes, business rates, and the rise in income tax thresholds.
When the number crunchers revealed that the less fortunate would be paying for the largesse heaped on the better off, Mr Osborne’s famous mantra that “we’re all in this together” began to look more hollow than usual.
By Friday he was thrust into an unexpected and full-blown political crisis when Mr Duncan Smith resigned amid claims that the cuts to disability allowances were a “compromise too far”. His unmistakable target was the man who had just delivered it.
Mr Osborne’s Budget statement included a sub-plot – his ambition to succeed David Cameron – but this weekend his hopes of entering Number 10 have taken a serious knock.
The haste by which the disability reforms were “kicked into the long grass”, before Mr Duncan Smith wrote to the Prime Minister, indicated how much damage the government knew this episode could cause, not just to Mr Osborne but to his boss and the party itself.
Mr Osborne has delivered eight Budgets and this is not the first time he has been forced to reverse many of his announcements. From oil taxes to pasty taxes, he has become the U-turn Chancellor. Only days before the Budget he was forced to abandon his planned pensions reforms.
But none under his stewardship of he public finances has forced a Cabinet resignation until this latest furore. It is said that all political careers ultimately end in failure and the real test of Mr Osborne’s credentials will be his ability to sail through this crisis.
Mr Duncan Smith today said his resignation was not personal, something we will have to take as read because the BBC’s Andrew Marr – criticised last week for interrupting Boris Johnso – failed to get any real insight into Mr Duncan Smith’s relationship with the Chancellor.
For all we know, he may have insisted beforehand that he would not speak about it, but it was the issue that most of us wanted to know about.