Political commentators here in Britain are describing the resignation of the Welfare Minister Iain Duncan Smith as the most dramatic cabinet departure of David Cameron’s leadership. Now the recriminations within the governing conservative party continue with critics and allies of Mr. Duncan Smith lining up to give their opinions to the media. As for the man himself in his first interview since standing down on Friday, he accused the government of risking dividing the country in its search for spending cuts. Here is our London correspondent Rob Watson.
This is certainly the worst crisis for the conservatives since they won last year’s general election. It hits at the government’s central economic policy namely austerity but also touches on something deeper. Reinforcing as it does, the long standing perception of the conservatives as a party that favors the better-off. So hardly helpful to have Iain Duncan Smith until Friday the man in charge of reforming the country’s welfare system touring the television studios accusing the government of balancing the books on the backs of the poor.
I am concerned that this government that I want to succeed is actually not able to do the kind of things it should because it has become too focused on narrowly getting the deficit down without being able to say well that should fall other than simply on those who I think progressively can less afford to have that fall on them.
The Prime Minister David Cameron is said to have been furious at Mr. Duncan Smith’s resignation. And Downing Street has insisted this is a government that wants to help everyone in society. Some conservatives have accused Mr. Duncan Smith of being motivated more by his wish to see Britain leave the Europian Union. While other ministers still in the government like Amber Rudd say they just don’t get it.
I don’t really understand. I’m pretty disappointed. I mean, this is a man who I sat in cabinet with for nearly a year. I mean, he was obviously a cabinet minister for six years, but I’ve sat in cabinet with him every week for the past year. I do respect him. And so to suddenly launch this bombshell on the rest of us in a way that is difficult for us all to understand is just really disappointing.
A kind of open warfare has broken out in the conservative party not just over Europe but now over welfare. Fortunately for the government, voters don’t follow these things as closely as either the media or politicians like to think. But it is a mess and that they will have picked up on.