Friday, July 02, 2010

In Praise of Iain Duncan Smith

When I heard the ministerial line-up at the Department of Work & Pensions I felt it was one of the strongest in the coalition - led by three people who know the subject back to front. Step forward Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Steve Webb. I've seen nothing that makes me want to change my mind. Iain Duncan Smith's performance on Question Time last night reinforced my view that if he can't reform the welfare system, no one can. He was incredibly passionate and made Alan Johnson look like an amateur, and an amateur amateur at that.

It's as if his whole political life has built up to this moment. James Forsyth's column in this week's Spectator makes the very valid point that he is in a very strong position as he is completely unbiddable. Unlike, say Liam Fox, he has no leadership ambitions and can therefore plough his own political furrow without constantly wondering how it affects his longer term political aims.

It is more or less impossible to achieve the kind of spending custs envisaged in the budget if the welfare budget isn't gripped firmly. But IDS won't just grip it, he will reform it so the weakest in society benefit. And that's something everyone in the coalition can surely support.

The good thing about IDS is that he is in the process of building his own coalition of support for what he is planning. Last night he got the support of Simon Heffer, Camila Batmanghelidjh and Mary Beard for the broad approach he is taking. That takes some doing.

The quiet man is again turning up volume. And this time, we're all listening.


Maverick Ways said...

True about Alan Johnson - but he's the best they have at the moment:

[word verification is an anagram of my name! how random/spooky is that?]

OldSlaughter said...


In Christopher Lee's autobiography Lord of Misrule he describes IDS's father as one of only two men he had met in his life who were entirely without fear. No concept of it.

Apparently DS senior redefined steady under fire.

Thought it might be of interest.

The Grim Reaper said...

He's one of few Tories that inspires any sort of confidence in me at all. Doesn't say much, mind you.

thebluemenace said...

Liam Fox, leader of the Tory party?

yeah, right.

Somebody pinch him and wake him up.

Lossie Beachcomber said...

Just watched Newsnight on iPlayer and have to agree, good performance from IDS.

I also thought that the last audience contributor got it entirely correct with his interpretation on Norman Tebbitt relating the story of his father getting 'On his bike.'

Roger Thornhill said...

"But IDS won't just grip it, he will reform it so the weakest in society benefit."

Lets hope this happens. Whenever people try to fix the welfare state, lanes are coned off on Hell St in anticipation.

TheMatureStudent said...

IDS has done wonders this week and enhanced his reputation immeasurably.

I live far from Westminster and am not involved in politics but everyone that I've spoken to today who saw QT last night, irrespective of their political persuasion, was impressed by him, his passion and his ideas.

English Pensioner said...

I think major reform of the welfare state and benefits is well overdue, and I agree that he is the one person who is likely to do anything.
What he will have to do is to ignore the screams from a wide range of pressure groups who want to retain the status quo for their particular supporters. Most people don't mind paying to help the genuine sick and needy (indeed most, even if they won't admit it, would consider it their Christian or moral duty), but we all resent having to pay for those who could work, but won't work.
How many are like a member of my daughter's staff in the Civil Service - He is off with stress and claims that she has caused it. And all she did, when taking over the section was to ask him to come in on time and attend for something like his full number of hours!
I accept there are genuine cases, but "stress" now seems to be a catch all for those not wanting to work.

Unknown said...

IDS was amazing on Question Time - thoughful, progressive, passionate, determined. I hope he succeeds.

Tapestry said...

IDS was just as good from 2001 to 2003, but Iain Dale was too bothered about David Davis to notice. It's not Smith who's grown up all of a sudden. It's Dale who has eventually made his way to understanding what makes a good and trusted politician.

It's a shame this discovery was not made ten years ago. We might have got rid of Blair a lot sooner.

happiness said...

But will he be allowed to? Usually the vested interests manage to stop reform. Will the politicians lose their nerve once the screaming and strikes start? Probably.

Unknown said...

IDS could have done a "Ming" - gone away and sulked. Instead he saw an opportunity to do something he'd always wanted so set up his Think Tank and got on with it.
We - and him - are now reaping the rewards. It was especially satisfying to see Hefferlump changing his views from his usual scribblings.
IDS has earnt much goodwill and deserves success. Many will benefit (pun intended).

Johnny Norfolk said...

I will be looking forward to see the list of reforms that have actually been put in place and the cost +/-.

I wont hold my breath.

Unknown said...

As someone who works in DWP he could saves billions from the admin budget alone if he really is interested in hearing from (some of) the frontline.

Quite simply, we could deliver the same core service with half the current staff if bad staff were sacked or effectively dealt with, if the ridiculous 9.5 days privilege leave was ceased, if levels of management were cut, a few legislative tweaks were introduced and local budgets were given to real managers.

Some examples: when the recession hit it was decided to knock through a partition wall between two rooms to make a larger room. A bit of paint, twenty chairs and it cost £250k. How on earth it cost so much I'll never understand. Each of our desks has two metal "desk tidies", and each one cost £200. WTF? We had a bolt installed on a finance door. A bog-standard bolt, probably wouldn't cost more than a tenner. Cost to the taxpayer? £150.

I am inspired to make suggestions to IDS, but wonder whether my attempts will be intercepted by his staff (all senior civil servants) who at the end of the day prefer empire-building to genuine reform.

Iain Dale said...

J, if you want to email me directly, I will ensure your suggestions get to him.