Iain Duncan Smith warns ‘unfair’ budget will damage Britain

Former Conservative leader resigns from post after cuts to disability benefit announced

Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. Cameron allies say his resignation was prompted by his pro-Brexit stance. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. Cameron allies say his resignation was prompted by his pro-Brexit stance. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

 

Britain’s Conservatives are in danger of dividing society by ignoring the interests of people who don’t vote for them, former party leader Iain Duncan Smith warned yesterday.

Mr Duncan Smith, who resigned unexpectedly as work and pensions secretary on Friday night, said he had felt increasingly “semi-detached” from policy making. Last week’s announcement of cuts to disability benefits in a budget which eased the tax burden on the better-off was the last straw.

“Juxtaposed as it came through in the budget, that is deeply unfair and was perceived to be unfair. And that unfairness is damaging to the government, it’s damaging to the party and it’s actually damaging to the public,” Mr Duncan Smith told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Direct attack

George Osborne

“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,” he said.

Mr Duncan Smith’s resignation has exposed bitter divisions at the top of the Conservative party, which is split down the middle over the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

Mr Duncan Smith was one of six cabinet ministers to back Brexit and David Cameron’s allies were quick to suggest that his resignation was more about the referendum than about benefits.

Pensions minister Ros Altmann said she believed Mr Duncan Smith had timed his resignation to cause maximum damage to the party leadership in order to further his campaign to get Britain to leave the EU.

“As far as I could tell, he appeared to spend much of the last few months plotting over Europe and against the leadership of the party and it seemed to me he had been planning to find a reason to resign for a long time,” she said.

Energy minister Amber Rudd said he had launched a “bombshell on the rest of us” after sitting in cabinet for six years without speaking up against cuts to benefits.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said Mr Osborne’s budget was falling apart at the seams and that he should resign too.

“The Conservative Party is tearing itself apart over an unfair budget. David Cameron and George Osborne’s claim that ‘we’re all in this together’ now lies in tatters. No one will believe Iain Duncan Smith’s sudden change of heart. After all, this is the man who introduced the bedroom tax. But what his comments do reveal is growing anger within the Conservative Party about George Osborne’s management of the economy,” he said.

Nothing personal

“I am concerned that this government that I want to succeed is not actually able to do the kind of things that it should because it has become too focused on narrowly getting the deficit down without being able to say where that should fall other than simply on those who I think progressively can less afford to have that fall on them.”