BREAKING: The Conservative Party.

The Conservative party is in meltdown. On Friday (18th March 2016) Iain Duncan Smith resigned from the cabinet. Duncan Smith cited as his reason for his resignation that the disability cuts were defensible in narrow terms of deficit reduction but not in the way they were placed in a budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers.  IDS says he had come to regret that he had agreed even to contemplate cuts in the disability benefit. For him this was apparently a compromise too far.

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I was at a my local constituency Labour party meeting, someone checked their smart-phone, and broke the news to the room. Satire died. Iain Duncan Smith resigning over the harshness of welfare cuts (the cuts to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)  -essentially cutting over the next four years in the region of £4.4bn – would see 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 a year) is ridiculous. As Secretary of State for  for Work and Pensions, in the last six years, he has presided over some of the harshest cuts implemented via the Conservatives. To quote Jeremy Corbyn:

He’s suddenly found a conscience now. I wonder where the conscience has been hiding for the last six years? This is a man who’s presided over some pretty appalling policies.

And it is true. The Bedroom tax (introduced by Duncan Smith in April 2013). A recent court case delivered a damning verdict describing it as ‘discriminatory’ and that the policy ‘unlawfully discriminates against women and domestic violence victims and against children’. 

He did not resign over the negligence & incompetence of  ATOS or Maximus (private firms contracted to deal with work capability). During the period December 2011 and February 2014 2,380 people died after their claim for employment and support allowance (ESA) ended because a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were found fit for work.

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Increased food-bank useage? Iain Duncan Smith did not resign over this.  Food bank usage skyrocketed in conjunction with government cuts to welfare spending. Figures from the Trussell Trust, showed last summer that the number of times their food banks were used had risen from 61,000 in 2010-11 to more than one million in 2014-15.

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Iain Duncan Smith did not resign over the immense failures in the implementation of universal credit. A DWP whistleblower told Channel 4‘s Dispatches in 2014 that the new system, which is supposed to save the government millions in reduced staff costs, is “completely unworkable”, “badly designed” and “out of date”.

He did not resign when government figures showed that homelessness under the Conservatives had risen 55% when compared to 2010. Rough estimates fromhomeless link‘ (based on figures submitted annually by local authorities to the Department for Communities and Local Government) confirm this.

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Iain Duncan Smith didn’t resign when official figures revealed child poverty had 1) risen and 2) was going to continue to rise of the course of this parliament. Child poverty reduced dramatically between 1998/9-2011/12 when 800,000 children were lifted out of poverty. The number of children in absolute poverty has increased by 0.5 million since 2010. As a direct result of tax and benefit decisions made since 2010, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) projects the number of children in relative power will reach 3.6 million by 2020.

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Neither did he resign when it was revealed the United Nations (UN) had begun a probe/investigation into “systematic and grave violations” of disabled people’s human rights by the UK government. The inquiry by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CRPD) marks the the first time a country has been investigated by the committee over human rights breaches.

… this is the first time any country has been investigated by the UN using the optional protocol in the UNCRPD, it is a historic and momentous event that would make most politicians recoil in shame. Whether or not it will have this effect on the Tories we will have to wait and see. – Linda Burnip, founder of Disabled People Against Cuts  (DPAC) 

And further, he did not resign over the cuts to Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

The £30-a-week cut was argued to incentivise disabled people to find work, as claimants would lose the support if they are judged to be disabled but fit enough for work-related activity….. This has been roundly condemned.

Reducing Employment and Support Allowance will have a harmful impact on disabled people. We’re deeply disappointed that the Government is pushing ahead with its plans despite opposition from the House of Lords and many MPs. Half a million disabled people will be affected by this proposal – losing around £30 a week – at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet. Reducing disabled people’s incomes won’t incentivise them to find a job. It will just make life harder. The Government has committed to halving the disability employment gap, but cutting financial support is not the answer. – Elliot Dunster, Group Head of Policy, Research and Public Affairs at disability charity Scope

Forgive my cynicism, but Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation (a good thing nonetheless) was not out of his concern for the well-being of the disabled and the vulnerable in our society. It boils down to one thing. Europe. One of the most prominent Brexiters was looking for a reason to resign.

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Beware the IDS of March….

The idea that the cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) were too much to bear, and that he had some epiphany as to the morality of his policy decisions is laughable. All of the above were political choices, not necessities or regrettable choices in office, none of the severe cuts implemented are necessary.

This entire drama is about politics, and don’t for one second let Iain Duncan Smith’s crocodile tears on the Andrew Marr show fool you.

PIP payments are meant to help people cope with the extra cost of living with a disability or long-term health problem and are used to fund everything from mobility cars to adapted baths and showers.

A recent YouGov Poll shows support for the cuts to PIP were seen by the public overwhelmingly as wrong. 70 per cent of those polled  believe the policy is the wrong priority. Further 38% when surveyed said the budget was not fair.

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The backlash to the budget and public opinion means the proposed cuts with regards to support for disabled people are immensely unpopular.Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government had declared war on the disabled.  The Nasty Party are terrified the public are figuring out that they are the Nasty Party.

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However, one thing is certain, Iain Duncan Smith has delivered a scathing condemnation of the Conservative’s austerity agenda. When interviewed by Andrew Marr Smith warned that the government risks dividing society. He launched a blistering attack claiming the Chancellor’s welfare cap was arbitrary and the brunt borne by working people and families.

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.

His interview with Marr revealed the central weakness of the Conservative party’s austerity agenda; that these choices ARE political. Osborne could have made different choice in his budget, and not place the burden upon the poorest, upon the vulnerable, upon those who can least afford it.

Iain Duncan Smith has tipped the prime minister and the chancellor into the sticky stuff. He has blown apart the lie that the cuts the Tories have imposed, that have caused suffering to so many, are a necessary and exposed the arbitrary nature of the cuts. Duncan Smith described the chancellor’s budget last week as deeply unfair and argued Osborne was trying to reduce the deficit in the wrong way. When you read between the lines he is saying: the Tory Party  are hitting the poorest because they don’t vote for them or vote at all. The Tory civil war is in full swing.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, told Murnaghan on Sky News that Mr Duncan Smith 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 added that the former work and pensions minister was completely wrong to suggest the Conservatives were falling short of being a one nation government.

I do resent his moral high 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.

Ros Altmann, the pensions minister, made an extraordinary statement attacking IDS on her Twitter account. She posted:

Shocked by IDS news. He championed reforms he now says he’s resigning over. Sadly seems all about EU referendum. IDS undermined my efforts to help on important pension policy issues like women’s pensions. Looking forward to working with Stephen Crabb.

The Conservative party is now in open warfare, and Duncan Smith has fired the first shots, strafing both the Prime Minister and George Osborne. I personally (being biased) could not be more delighted. And I would to thank Mr Duncan Smith of hastening the Tories implosion over Europe.

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I also think a huge amount of credit needs to be placed at the door of Mr Jeremy Corbyn. His staunch stance against the ideological cuts implemented by the Conservatives has hastened something building in the Tory party to finally bubble to the surface revealing a possibly devastating and irreparable split. Austerity has hit the buffers; Corbyn’s speech in response to the budget was damning in its indictment of Osbornimics.

In one speech he’s blown apart the Tory front bench, made likely two substantial revolts, destroyed the cabinet and made the Tories look like incompetent fools – Paul Mason

The fallout over Europe means the Conservatives are tearing themselves to pieces. Jeremy Corbyn has landed some serious blows on the government. The goal is wide open for Corbyn’s Labour. Go on Jezza score a hatrick.

By Frederick Antonio Gallucci | International Law LLM | @gibblegbble

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