• Hugo Swire defends voting for benefit cuts to disabled as work and pensions secretary resigns

    20th March 2016 | News | Claire
  • What has absolutely incensed me, though, has been the announcement on cuts to people’s benefits who are ill and disabled – and then using that money to fund tax breaks for the well-off.

    Apart from the announcement being astonishingly and utterly shameless in its “no one can touch us attitude”, it also gives a lie to Osborne’s perpetual attack on the state, until now billed as vital….

    … otherwise known as austerity. 

    This casually cruel approach appears to be based on the view “well they won’t vote for us anyway so why should we care?”

    To the majority of us – and I am sure – even many life-long conservative voters, this looks like a morally bankrupt way to run a country. 

    No doubt, this plan, if it goes ahead, will affect hundreds, if not thousands, of people across Exeter and East Devon.

    Disappointingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, East Devon’s MP, Hugo Swire, not only voted in favour of these cuts, but actually mounted a robust defence of his actions in a story webbed by the Echo, last week. 

    Ironically a few hours later the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith published a vitriolic resignation letter, deeply critical of the conservative leadership’s direction – and its fixation with cutting the income of those people who have the least. 

    With high profile Tory MPs up and down the country taking to Twitter to back either the leadership or Mr Duncan-Smith – and some national newspapers describing the situation as “open warfare,” Messrs Cameron and Osborne appear to be experiencing their first proper crisis since coming to power last May.

    Whatever your views about the motives for Iain Duncan-Smith’s resignation, it has certainly caused an absolute furore, with briefings and counter-briefings being issued both from MPs and from Downing Street.  Even the right wing press has become hostile, perhaps temporarily – we will see, to the conservative government.

    Mr Duncan-Smith’s actions – and his subsequent explosive interviews, appear to have plunged the conservative party into chaos.

    With the EU vote looming and many conservative MPs backing an exit, the future could become more febrile yet for the Tory leadership.

    Back to the vote on disabled people losing vital income, Mr Osborne’s plans now look shaky, with significant numbers of conservative MPs (AFTER voting in favour of the proposal) now saying they are opposed to it.

    This is the first big schism in the Tory party since last year’s election. The question is whether they can get it together quickly enough for it to be considered a spat rather than a war.  But now Downing Street has a powerful enemy in its ranks who seems determined to wreak revenge.  At least for now.  It remains to be seen whether Mr Duncan-Smith’s fury will continue to unleash in the weeks and months to come.

    Most importantly, let’s hope that Mr Osborne will cease his unforgivable obsession with punishing the ill and disabled, in favour of the wealthy.