As Jeremy Corbyn said: “Why now?” The stated pretext for resigning now does not make sense.
Osborne made the same egregious mistake over his attack on Tax Credits. Some of us could have told him that this would have caused deep wounds in a large number of Conservative marginal seats. Unfortunately he was a little more intelligent than I gave him credit for, and U-turned immediately, heading off the threat to the government’s slim majority which seemed to me a real possibility. Much the same must be true of this attack on the disabled. Although some doubt IDS’s mental prowess, it would surely have been better to wait and see what, if anything, Osborne has learned from his earlier mistake. The mind does boggle at such an attack on the disabled in the same breath as yet another tax cut for the better off. Mind you, the possibility of a vote of no confidence triggering an election before the Referendum is intriguing
The preposterous hypocrisy of Iain Duncan Smith’s claim to have been protecting the poor from Osborne’s savagery is in character, but there are a number of motives for resignation on which we could speculate, Brexit. loathing for Osborne . . .but my own surmise is that among them is that this is the least humiliating exit IDS could make. Specifically, Universal Credit, the centre piece of his ‘make work pay’ strategy is nowhere near reaching more than a small fraction of those it was supposed to help. I have criticised it in my blog even if it had been realistic, but the scheme was announced in 2012. Advance planning would be possible once the government had access to civil service resources from the election in 2010. The Public Accounts Committee had repeatedly warned that its failure was looking increasingly probable.
“When the Committee first reported on Universal Credit in November 2013, there were serious concerns about the programme’s lack of detailed plans. The Committee concluded that the “management of the Universal Credit programme has been extraordinarily poor. Oversight has been characterised by a failure to understand properly the nature and enormity of the task, a failure to monitor and challenge progress regularly, and a failure to intervene promptly when problems arose.”
“Given the scale of the project and the initial problems, the Committee has kept the programme under review, reporting on progress in February 2015. At that point, the Committee made six recommendations aimed at improving transparency around costs and progress; developing contingency plans; and strengthening accountability arrangements to secure better value for money for the taxpayer in future.
“The Committee remains disappointed [ In February 2016] by the persistent lack of clarity and evasive responses by the Department to our inquiries, particularly about the extent and impact of delays”.
‘Final’ complete roll-out is now 2021, but the track record of slippage hardly inspires confidence. There were other problems, such as the increasing reluctance of charities to be a party to ‘workfare’ schemes, but in short, IDS has failed to ‘make work pay’.
This is a crucial moment for the Green Party, but does it realize this? The task now facing Stephen Crabb is to dismantle the whole tottering edifice. But what will fill the vacuum? Clue: Caroline Lucas’s Early Day Motion 974 on the Basic Income. The case for it is all there in Dynamic Benefits: towards Welfare that works, the report which recommended the Universal Credit, avoiding the more natural conclusion.
I am tired of watching golden opportunities go by.
[Readers might be interested in the intriguing sequel in my blog on 24th April 2016, indicating that IDS’s successor, Stephen Crabb, might actually try to save the Universal Credit]