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Tory war hots up as IDS slams austerity

By James Tapsfield

Published 21/03/2016

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith has delivered a devastating assault on the Government’s austerity drive, accusing David Cameron and George Osborne of balancing the books on the backs of poor and vulnerable working people.

As Tory infighting spiralled out of control after his dramatic resignation, the former Work and Pensions Secretary condemned the Chancellor’s “arbitrary” cap on welfare spending and obsession with “short-term savings”.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd dismissed Mr Duncan Smith’s “high moral tone” and said he was “completely wrong”.

Baroness Altmann accused him of causing “maximum damage” in order to get Britain out of the EU.

The former Conservative leader insisted his decision to quit was not “personal” or a “secondary attack” on the Prime Minister.

He said he felt the Conservatives were abandoning their “one nation” approach and there was “massive pressure” to finalise deep cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) before the Budget.

Mr Duncan Smith said he finally chose to go after finding out that Mr Osborne had “juxtaposed” the £1.3bn a year PIP curbs with tax cuts for the better off.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Asked why he decided to quit even though the Treasury had signalled a last-minute climbdown on the PIP issue, Mr Duncan Smith said the department would still have been forced to find equivalent savings.

He also confirmed he considered resigning a year ago after a series of spats with the Chancellor over cuts to tax credits and to his flagship Universal Credit project.

“This has been a long-running problem when I have felt really semi-detached in a sense, isolated more often in these debates because I am not able to convince people that what we were losing progressively... was the narrative that the Conservative Party was this one nation party caring about those who don’t even necessarily vote for it, who may never vote for it,” he added.

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