If he had resigned over the referendum, you can bet he'd have said soby John Redwood / March 24, 2016 / Leave a comment
If only Iain Duncan Smith had resigned over the EU referendum. As someone who wants the UK to leave the EU I would have welcomed it if Iain had decided to leave the government to devote himself more fully to campaigning to restore UK democracy. Like me, he wants the UK to take back control over our laws, our taxes and our spending. If he had resigned on the issue we would have gained a couple of days of additional media attention for our cause.
That would have helped us get over how we can take back control of the £10 billion we send to the EU and do not get back each year. Armed with that extra cash which we raise in tax there would have been no need for the welfare cuts at the centre of the row. It would have helped us explain how the EU now decides some of our taxes and much of our welfare spending regardless of our views on how much to raise and how much to give to recently arrived benefit recipients. It would have given greater exposure to how out of the EU we will have more democratic control over our own lives, be able to make our own laws, and have more influence in the wider world as we regain our seats and votes in the world bodies that the EU has taken from us.
He did not, of course, decide to do that. The Remain campaign is desperate to put round the falsehood that he did, to fit their misleading analysis of modern politics. Instead Iain Duncan Smith resigned over the issue at the heart of his departmental responsibilities. He left the government owing to a disagreement about how much the welfare budget should be cut, and how we should ensure social justice between differing income groups in our society.
So why did he resign after six years in the job, six years in which he did have to find savings and changes to the welfare entitlements? He resigned, as his letter and interviews made clear, over the muddled handling of the issue of Personal Independence Payments for disabled people. Asked to cut future entitlements as part of the budget, he reluctantly did so as a compromise over the government’s spending priorities. He was prepared to argue for changes which he would rather not have to make. He accepted that there could be improvements to the PIP programme, and agreed that the government needed to limit the rate of increase in such payments.
It was when the government decided to change its mind on such payments without consulting him properly, and then for someone to brief that the changes had been his fault, that he decided to leave the government. An unfortunate exchange with the Prime Minister, remembered differently by the two sides, terminated his role in Cabinet.
Why wouldn’t Iain have written a letter about the EU if that is why he was resigning? That would have generated plenty of publicity on his chosen issue.
These things happen in the best of governments. Ministerial life is always pregnant with the possibility that a Minister will find collective responsibility for various courses of action too difficult, or a Prime Minister will have a change of preference over who he wants in a given post. Governments that have a strong purpose and are delivering reasonable success weather such cold showers. They only become storms or tempests if other things are going wrong and authority starts to be undermined.
Politics for the next three months will be dominated by the all-consuming question of whether the UK will leave or remain in the EU. Gradually with the help of the media campaigners we will get across to people that this issue is not an abstruse or relatively unimportant constitutional matter, nor is it primarily a question about trade and business. The EU today settles our fishing, farming, energy, business, trade, migration and financial policies in many important ways. The EU imposes VAT as its tax in ways it wishes. It tells us who we have to pay benefits to and who we need to let into our country. It has wide ranging powers in criminal justice and now has its own foreign policy. It prevents this government from delivering its target to control migration. Over the weeks ahead there should be debates on all these matters, so people can weigh up what the EU does and what we could better do for ourselves. Iain’ s resignation is not part of that story.