Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The stopped clock of Iain Duncan Smith

In the context of further global terrorism, turning the clock back two decades to the March of the Bastards may seem to be a luxury.  However, from a UK and European perspective the events of the private implosion of the Conservative party resonate, if only because it reinforces my earlier hypothesis that the entire charade demonstrates that the Tories have pushed themselves into a corner from which they cannot emerge with credibility.  As with rat-fighting, they will inflict more wounds upon each other until the death of all protagonists is an inevitable fate.

There is a generally-held view that Budgets are either popular on the day or have some long-term merit.  Osborne has managed to preside over two disasters in 2012 and 2016, which is quite an achievement.  This year's fiasco did provide some useful ammunition, and it was moderately satisfying to hear the rather cogent analysis put forward by John McDonnell being reinforced by the opportunistic critiques of the former Quiet Man, now the Noisy Hypocrite.  As a Budget throwing out illusionary gifts to the client groups of the well-off, especially well-off pensioners, this year's was roundly excoriated from all sides.

However, the breathtaking credulousness of the right-wing media in buying Duncan Smith's claim not to be resigning over Europe but over principle, when he has spent the last six years supporting the same policies that he is now denouncing, is both amusing and inevitable.  Many sensible people would argue that there is an urgent need to reform the taxation, benefits and pension systems to achieve efficiency and equity, which is clearly not the aim of the current government given Osborne's tendency to fiddle around with gimmicks (Lifetime ISA, Sugar Tax anyone?), but no real effort is being made by any party to address this.

Duncan Smith could have resigned at any stage - this was opportunist and blatant.  If Cameron had authority he would now sack all the Eurosceptic Ministers on the basis that they have now repudiated the manifesto on which they were inched into power last year.  Instead he is attempting to pretend he is both compassionate and progressive when he is even less principled than Boris Johnson himself.

A longer-term memory is a reminder that the Tories were so desperate to get rid of him last time round that they elected Michael Howard as leader.  Always worth considering when he is being put up as a Poujadist tribune.  He may be right once or twice a year, but that is rather less frequently than a watch with the batteries removed.

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