Tory rifts over IDS resignation

Wow! You’ve got to love our subject; another controversial budget last Wednesday (16th March), a key cabinet minister distancing herself from it on Thursday (live on BBC Question Time), an effective U-turn on the disability payments issue on Friday evening, followed by a sudden shock resignation from the cabinet from the Work & Pensions Minister ,IDS, on Saturday night. … Who said a week’s a long while in politics!?

This is a MUST for AS students on a range of levels.

Notwithstanding IDS’s repeated claims on the Andrew Marr show yesterday (Sat 20th) that this was a resignation forced by his inability to justify the latest planned cuts to disability allowance, the reality is that this political bomb has much that makes it highly relevant and highly user-friendly for you as students across a range of topics:

Unit 1 Democracy & Political Participation – The backdrop of IDS’s overt Brexit stance and open disagreement with Cameroon & Osborne over EU membership makes this relevant to questions into why referendums can be criticised (if for no other reason than divisions in government).

Unit 1 Policies & Ideas – If this isn’t a good example for party factions over policy direction I don’t know what is? The core of IDS’s justification on Andrew Marr’s show was that dogmatic austerity runs contrary to his perception of ‘one nation Conservatism’ and social justice (indeed IDS’s resignation letter makes direct reference to with his when he closes it by questioning Cameroon’s central claim that “we’re all in this together”).

Similarly this cannot be simply divorced from the EU referendum – the context that is defining just about everything in the Tory party – and has done for an age (ask John Major!). IDS is one of the cabinet who’s openly voting for Brexit, so his resignation over the budget is implicitly going to feed those many critics in the party that oppose Osborne’s & Cameron’s pro-EU stance.

Finally, NOTHING dominates party politics more than leadership struggles. Seemingly learning nothing from Blair’s experience in his final term, Cameron’s announcement that he’s to quit the leadership in 2020 means all eyes are increasingly on succession plans. So here too IDS’s resignation has dramatic consequences; this is Osborne’s third controversial budget – and his ‘heir to Cameron’ image may have taken a fatal blow (Remember there is no love lost between IDS and George – arguably going back to 2003 when the ‘Cameroons’ helped oust IDS from the party leadership in favour of Michael Howard).

Unit 1 Elections – This issue is useful when assessing questions on government mandates, and the whole issue of governments being stable. The small majority gained last May means many things, but Cameron has little room for manoeuvre when it comes to his backbenchers.

Unit 2 Parliament – This is more fuel for discontented backbenchers and argumentative Lords in the ‘other place’. IDS will have to give a resignation speech by the week’s end to parliament, which again has the makings for more political after-shocks and divisions within the Conservative Party (… Geoffrey Howe’s ‘dead sheep’ mauling of Thatcher in 1990 has gone into legend!).

Again with the EU ref looming and the leadership race in mind, that small working majority will remain an issue in parliament as will party unity, the strength of whip and the addictive taste back benchers get for rebellion all make IDS’s action significant (Let alone the opportunity such in-fighting grants to opposition parties).

Unit 2 The Prime Minister and Cabinet – Arguably of all the topics this resignation perhaps lends itself to this one.

  • The very power of the PM is under question. He’s been forced to have a referendum he doesn’t really want, and to suspend collective responsibility for his cabinet members in the case of the EU. IDS is campaigning for Brexit, IDS has no regard personally for Osborne and IDS’s resignation makes clear critical reference to Cameron’s “we’re all in it together” vision of the ‘party of the workers’ claimed after last May’s election victory. IDS’s concerns over social justice also hit hard at the ‘one nation’ image Cameron himself identifies with (hence his robust defence of this image in parliament today – 21st) – all of which is potentially very damaging to Cameron and his wider authority.
  • Leadership plots, post-Cameron, are well under way and however this resignation plays out going forward one clear casualty maybe Osborne and his dreams of leadership in 2020.
  • This also has echoes of John Major’s time as PM. …Now what did he refer to elements of his own cabinet as back in 1993? Oh yes, that’s it – ‘the bastards’! Well according to the Mail Cameron used a four letter word on this occasion to describe IDS! Same party, same EU divisions, same leadership and policy tensions and a small majority – get my point regarding similarities!?

So, to conclude I urge you all to keep an eye on this one – it’s pure gold for Edexcel AS scholars of government & politics.