Failure IDS is back to wreak havoc in the DWP - but why?

Mon, 18/05/2015 - 13:43 -- nick

The dust is beginning to settle on the shock Tory election win, and the ministerial appointments and cabinet have taken shape.

After Esther McVey lost her seat - to few tears from the unemployed she did so much to hurt but many suggestions for future jobs - a new Employment Minister was found in Priti Patel, who comes from an even harder right wing of the Conservative Party than McVey.

She is pro-capital punishment - she hasn't yet said whether this should include benefit claimants - and is likely to relish implementing the proposed £12 billion welfare cuts her party has promised for the next few years.

Her new boss, the man in charge of pushing them through, is in fact the old boss, the same man who failed those the Department for Work and Pensions was supposed to look after in the last parliament: Iain Duncan Smith.

Given that his poor record apparently led to an attempt by his own party to throw him out of his job less than a year ago, the new term would have been an obvious time to quietly move him on.

The pigs ear he has made of Universal Credit, the unpopularity of the bedroom tax, Atos's withdrawal from the punishing work capability assessment, investigations into the deaths of those on benefits with a suggestion that withdrawing their income was to blame, poor performances in interviews, an attempt to pass blame for some of this on to civil servants and many other failings meant he was seen even within his own party as a big problem.

Yet here he is again, moving into a sixth year in the same job with little to look back on that this 'crusader' can be proud of.

There is only one explanation that makes sense: he is a patsy.

The reason for this is clear. The government has spent a huge amount of effort developing a 'moral' basis for their previous cuts, talking of 'strivers versus skivers' and of people 'sleeping off a life on benefits', while putting forward endless policies that assume unemployed people are workshy and need to be forced to take jobs when the vast majority only want to work.

This morality argument is of course nonsense, but it has found a willing audience among those workers suffering low wages and pay rises who are struggling to make ends meet themselves.

The list of potential cuts needed to meet the new £12 billion commitment stands as an acknowledgement that, despite the public stance, in reality the size of the benefit bill and the fact that only a tiny proportion of it supports unemployed people means the Conservatives will need to breach this moral stance if they are to make the cuts they have promised.

Those likely to be burned by this bonfire of support include children, through child benefit cuts, the working, through tax credit cuts, employers, through bigger maternity payments, and the sick and disabled, through a variety of cuts to their support.

None of these groups fits into the narrative of dishonesty the Tories have been so desperate to propagate, and it looks like they are setting Smith up to take the fall from the public that is likely to result.

Of course, he deserves no sympathy given his record, and he may not be there to take flack for more than a couple of years.

Looking at the ranks of MPs who may step into his place, few humanitarians and sympathisers spring out, and none are likely to change the government's direction of travel.