By Matthew Barrett
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Iain Duncan Smith's interview in the Times (£) this morning covers a number of different issues, four of which I've pulled out below.
Difficulty of cutting welfare
Firstly, IDS stresses the difficulty of cutting welfare, in light of George Osborne's call for further cuts to the Work and Pensions budget. The Chancellor said in his Budget speech: "If nothing is done to curb welfare bills further, then the full weight of the spending restraint will fall on departmental budgets. The next spending review will have to confront this." IDS responds:
"…the Work and Pensions Secretary warns the Chancellor that the poor must not be the only ones to carry the burden. “This is my discussion with him,” he says. “My view is that it’s not [all going to come from welfare] … We’ll have a look and see what scope there is but we’re all in this together.” Having already made £18 billion of savings, he insists: “There is no such thing as an easy target in welfare … We have a responsibility to support people in difficulty, we can’t run away from that.”"
Middle class benefits
IDS also rejects the Brownite method of introducing middle class benefits to make millions of Britons who don't need help feel part of the welfare system, rather than just limit the welfare state to those in genuine need. Of particular note is his personal opposition to benefits like the winter fuel allowance. This may open the door to such middle class benefits being withdrawn in the future:
“The welfare system is there to support you in times of need and when you get clear of it you should be clear of it … It’s rather daft to take tax off the middle classes and pay them a little bit back … That’s a very expensive way of giving a bribe.” He says that he would not want to receive the winter fuel allowance himself and hopes that other people will return it. “I’d be inclined to send it back … If you honestly think it’s going to pay for your holiday then give it back, because it’s not what it was meant to do.”
The next passage is equally notable. Although the quotes aren't as clear as they might be, his support for gay marriage is implied:
"Although he is a Tory traditionalist and a devout Roman Catholic, Mr Duncan Smith appears to have modified his views on gay marriage. “I’m for things that are about stability,” he says. “I think our biggest problem is actually with cohabiting parents breaking up at the rate they do — heterosexual cohabitees, not gay couples — because they’re the ones leaving the trail of devastation afterwards.”"
Class and competency
Finally, IDS rejects Nadine Dorries' attack on Cameron and Osborne as "two arrogant posh boys":
"Class, Mr Duncan Smith insists, is not the issue. “People out there want to know that whoever’s governing them is competent, cares about the way they live, understands what they’re doing and helps them improve their lot. If we get this right, if the economy grows, if my welfare reforms work and we get the education stuff beginning to bite, I’m convinced that the voters will say, ‘These people are OK, you don’t have to love them but they do a good job’.”"
This would appear to be a good point, except that ComRes reported yesterday that by a 2-1 margin, people think the Coalition Government is incompetent.