Iain Duncan Smith has earned much sympathy for resigning his post as Work and Pensions Secretary on a matter of principle.
My own reaction is rather less unequivocal. After all, the two main reasons Mr Duncan Smith cites for his resignation are both dubious, as is his matter of principle.
Primarily he objects to one plank in the Chancellor’s budget: the symbolic reduction in disability benefits. This, said the man largely credited with welfare reforms, is “a cut too far”.
Actually, it’s a cut not far enough. The current roll of disability benefit recipients suggests that Britain has more cripples now than in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.
One can’t help feeling that this benefit offers even a larger potential for cheating than most others. The minuscule reduction proposed by Mr Osborne won’t even make much of a dent in the abuse and, if properly administered, won’t leave any people genuinely unable to work begging in the streets.
The second and, one suspects, real reason for Mr Duncan Smith’s action is the contempt in which he clearly holds the Chancellor. Here his motivation is hard to fault, for George Osborne is indeed contemptible.
But accusing him, as Mr Duncan Smith does, of putting forth a budget pursuing political rather than economic objectives is disingenuous. He might as well accuse Mr Osborne of being a modern politician.
Modern politicians do politics, not statesmanship. They crave personal power for its own sake, not as a vehicle to promote public good. It’s in this sense that they are all profoundly corrupt – and neither the accused nor the accuser is any different.
Occupying as they did the two key economic posts in the government, both men sold the public on the message of bogus austerity. Britain, they said, wasn’t paying its way under Labour, with politically expedient overspending financed by ruinous deficits. That was going to change under the Tories, hence the austerity in general and Duncan Smith’s much-touted welfare reforms in particular.
As an immediate result of this commitment to fiscal responsibility, Britain’s public debt has doubled under the Tories to its present level of almost two trillion pounds.
Consequently our children are being saddled with an unsupportable debt in six digits each, which may well reduce them to a lifetime of penury. Hence one has to admire the unabashed cynicism with which Osborne described his effort as “a budget for the next generation”. For screwing the next generation, is more like it.
If there’s anything to commend in Osborne’s budget, it’s precisely his cosmetic attempt to reduce the disability benefits and raise the threshold for the 40 per cent tax rate. These are the measures Duncan Smith cites as reasons for his resignation.
The language he used came right out of the lexicon favoured by Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour Trotskyists. This budget, he thundered, favours the rich at the expense of the poor.
Evidently he shares the socialist canard that anybody with an income of over £45,000 a year (the new threshold for the 40 per cent tax rate) qualifies as rich. Mr Duncan Smith ought to check out how much it costs to have a half-decent life in Britain. After all, not everyone has parliamentary expenses to fiddle.
Where all our politicians are fundamentally dishonest is in their attempt to peddle the belief that a little bit of tweaking can actually cure our terminally ill economy. A little nip here, a little tuck there, and we’ll be in the black by the time of the next election (as Mr Osborne promised with characteristic mendacity).
The real problem with our economy is systemic, not symptomatic. Like the NHS, which the present budget ring-fences from even cosmetic cuts, its problems spring not from poor administration but from the corrupt principles on which it’s based.
Modern democracy creates the conditions for politicians to gain power by buying their votes with our money. This is clouded by emetically sanctimonious verbiage that comes from Marx either directly, as it does with openly socialist parties, such as our Labour, or surreptitiously, as with cryptosocialist parties, such as our Tories.
As a standard ploy, they elevate suicidal borrowing to a high moral ground, claiming they are driven by genuine empathy for the poor. In fact, the amount of poverty in a country is directly proportionate to the amount of socialism in the economy – to the extent to which the government is prepared to bolster state power by creating a class dependent on the state.
By spending money we don’t have on the welfare state, we create a pyramid-scheme economy and, which is worse, a vast underclass of those unwilling and by now unable to work. The ruinous effects aren’t just economic – they are moral.
While corrupting the populace, the likes of Messrs Osborne, Duncan Smith et al also corrupt themselves and indeed the very idea of public service. In their able hands public service becomes personal self-service surely and ineluctably.
One suspects that, on balance, Mr Duncan Smith is a more decent man than Mr Osborne, who’s basically a jumped up spiv with overblown ambitions. But there isn’t as much there as some people believe. They are both modern politicians, aren’t they?