danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
I was surprised by the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith. It's a pretty big event in British politics.

Duncan Smith says, better than Corbyn and McDonnell have managed to say, what the main problems with the Conservative economic policy are; that it is done for political reasons and not economic ones, that it hurts the poor and favours the rich, that it is done in a short term, grasping disorganised way, that we are not all in together and that it isn't actually working.

There are clearly interactions with the EU Referendum campaign and the shape of the Tory Party after that. There are clearly interactions with the inability of the Tory Party to disagree about Europe in a civilised way.

Cameron's retirement and replacement loom large.

And the three things collide - doubts about the Tories' economic policy and their fraticidal EU issues and their leadership issues.

Good, says I.

On Iain Duncan Smith himself I'm minded to take the resignation on face value - mostly. Reforming welfare is a big and difficult job. The only other organisations with as many contacts in their "customer" data base are, banks, energy companies and mobile phone companies. None of whom are exactly well known for their excellent levels of customer service and their cutting edge database management tools. It's a harder job when money is tight. Easier to transistion people from one set of benefit rules to another or from benefits to work if you can slip them an extra few quid and hire in some extra help to make it work.

And I believe Iain Duncan Smith is sincere in his desire to seek social justice for people by providing them with work and the opportunity to better themselves. They might be old fashioned values but that doesn't mean that the Duncan Smith doesn't hold them or that they aren't part of the solution to long-term unemployment, reduced economic growth, inequality, poverty and lack of opportunity.

And I can see how you can set off on one path and end up nudged on to another without noticing at first. That you start off trying to reform welfare so that it is cheaper to operate and targets more helpful social security at fewer people. That you aim to move in to paid work where you and they can. Then you find that not everyone has the same priorities as you. That as other people's mistakes come home to roost you are being asked to change paths from a reform of welfare with a consequent reduction in cost to an ever increasing reduction in cost regardless of whether this helps people in to work or regardless of whether they can actually live on social security.

And the mistake at the heart of this is Osbourne's. His basic failure to understand economics and his short term desire to keep beating the Labour Party with the stick of economic mismanagement by sticking to an austerity policy that by it's own lights wasn't working to reduce the deficit, was damaging other areas of economic policy consideration and which he could not abandon because he had used austerity to frame the election campaigns of 2010, 2015 and 2020.

Had Osbourne been right the UK economy would be growing at about 4% at the moment, productivity would be growing, wages would be growing and our main problem would be inflation. Oh, and the deficit would be a surplus and the ratio of debt to GDP would be falling quickly.

So I'm prepared to take Iain Duncan Smith at face value. Someone trying to do the right thing (in a way that I disagree with) who has been compromised by Osbourne's error and realised that no matter how much he reduced social security spending Osbourne would always be back asking for more.

I expect other resignations to come between now and the 23rd of June.

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danieldwilliam

August 2017

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