Saturday, 19 March 2016

Tories in crisis?

Like most people I was caught by surprise at the resignation of Ian Duncan Smith as Works and pensions minister last night. It comes just a day after the Chancellors budget in which £4 Billion was cut from the budget for the disabled. There had been rumours of a growing rebellion amongst Tory MPs but this was certainly quite unexpected.

Duncan Smith's resignation also comes at a time when he lost a court case to keep Universal Credit problems a secret. reports:

A spokesperson for the DWP responded at the time by saying: "Universal Credit is on track and on budget. To suggest anything else is incorrect."

This information is highlighted by Judge Ryan in his final decision, and for good reason. We know now, of course, that the statements coming out of the DWP back then told quite a different story to what actually happened with the programme. Their own figures show that at the last count just little more than 200,000 people are now on the new benefit and recent estimates suggest it's unlikely to be fully implemented until 2021, some four years later than first planned.

So perhaps it's not surprising that IDS is desperate to keep the papers out of the public domain. His legal argument is that publication of the documents would have a "chilling effect" on the working of the department. This term may sound like some sort of threat to national security but it's actually a fairly standard defence against disclosure. Witnesses for the DWP argued that if staff knew that everything they wrote internally was likely to be made public they would be less candid and forthcoming in their opinions.

The civil service unions, Prospect, the FDA and PCS have been warning about growing problems to little effect.

However much is being made of an internal struggle within the Conservative party itself since this is widely seen as an attempt to directly undermine George Osborne as he and Boris continue to battle it out for future leadership and the European referendum campaign.

Meanwhile Stephen Crabb has been made his replacement but all indication is that will not be much of a change.

Jamie Szymkowiak tweeted:

Earlier this week Stephen Crabb's own constituents sprayed "Why do you hate the sick" on the facade of his office. 

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