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IDS's fight for change

Michael Crick | 17:52 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I'm told that when David Cameron gets back from India on Friday, he'll almost immediately join the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, to launch the government's long-awaited consultation document called 'Twenty-First Century Welfare'.

Poor old IDS has been in a really grumpy mood, I hear, over the last few weeks.

For life as a Cabinet minister hasn't been quite as easy as he'd envisaged, and he's had a real struggle getting colleagues to approve his new document, and let him deliver the revolutionary change he was talking about when he came to office in May.

"I'm only here to deliver change," was the thrust of what IDS said when he was appointed.

But since then IDS has been involved in what one fellow minister diplomatically calls "lively discussions".

I understand that colleagues told him to go away and rethink and refine several of the radical proposals he wanted to include - many of the ideas drawn up the think tank with which he was closely associated in opposition, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

These include the CSJ's scheme for Universal Life Credit. This would be a new benefit for people on low incomes, which would replace a whole raft of other benefits and credits - including housing benefit, council tax benefit, disability living allowance, working tax credit and child tax credit.

But members of the Cabinet's home affairs committee were pretty sceptical about Universal Life Credit and told him to go away and come up with alternative ideas as well.

"Nothing's been watered down," says one of my DWP sources. "It's more a question of 'Don't go too fast.'"

In a time of economic stringency, IDS was always likely to run into trouble trying to revamp the welfare system.

The trouble with a lot of IDS's revolutionary ideas for getting people off welfare is that though they save money in the long-term, there are inevitable extra up-front costs.

IDS's position reminds me of Frank Field back in 1997, another man asked to "think the unthinkable" on welfare. That all ended in tears when Field was sacked in 1998.

Will IDS eventually feel obliged to resign if his colleagues carry on slowing him down?

David Cameron certainly couldn't afford to lose IDS, as he'd become a powerful rallying figure for the Right.


  • Comment number 1.


    IDS gifted Blair his illegal war by whipping his dumb Tory minions into almost total compliance, AND he set up the Centre for Social Justice. Somehow he never got round to a Centre for Collateral Damage.

    I guess inside that Homer Simpson dome there is another monkey bashing symbols.


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