Saturday, 12 July 2014

Why Iain Duncan Smith should go

Someone yesterday started a story of a conversation supposedly overheard on a train to the effect that in the forthcoming reshuffle "Ian" was to be replaced by "Esther".  Despite there being no substance to this story at all it's made it as far as the BBC website.  One thing that this demonstrates is that Iain Duncan Smith's future is the biggest talking point in the reshuffle.  Will Cameron move him?  Will he have the guts to fire him if he refuses to be moved?  Who would replace him?

I have blogged before about IDS's failures, as have a great many people.  There's an excellent piece on the Labour Left website which lists "Iain Duncan Smith's 100 biggest failures".  It's a heroic effort, well worth study.  But let's distil it into the most obvious areas where his ambition has far exceeded his competence.

  • The Work Programme.  This was the first of IDS's grand schemes to be put in place.  It was going to solve unemployment; and the most revolutionary aspect of it was "payment by results".  But it was never that.  The providers were guaranteed an "attachment fee" which would keep them going if they did nothing; and they were able to look forward to an "incentive" payment even if they failed badly.  And fail badly they did.  After 4 years it's clear that job outcomes (below even the minimum performance demanded and way below the providers' promises) depend on the economy and not on anything the companies do.  Helping to drag down the WP is:-
  • ESA.  The companies were never going to be able to help those on ESA into work.  Indeed, most have been parked.  And overall, the companies have spent less than half the amount per client which they promised.  Remember, they get contracts because of the promises made in the bid documents.  And now they've got contracts to scoop up the people they've failed into:-
  • Community Work Placements.  Okay, these appear not to have actually started yet.  But that's because a huge chunk of the voluntary sector want nothing to do with them, and a growing number of councils have also refused to take part.
There were a number of other, almost incidental, schemes along the way which have also been disasters, notably
  • The bedroom tax.  (Let's face it, no one was ever going to call it "the removal of the spare room subsidy".)  It has cost councils a fortune, saved no one any money and inflicted huge distress and misery on thousands.
  • Universal Jobmatch.  This was, it seems, entirely IDS's baby.  A grand one-stop-shop for employers and jobseekers alike which would have the added advantage of monitoring the activities of claimants.  The contract was given to a company with a poor record but which claims that much of what went wrong with UJM could have been prevented - but they were told not to put the necessary refinements into the software.  The system has been used to control and punish claimants without ever being the wondrous solution IDS envisaged.  But its costs are enormous.
  • The sanctions regime.  A ludicrously impractical "claimant commitment" has been coupled with a vicious imposition of punishments which breach people's human rights.  Yet time and again IDS and his ministers have simply lied about sanctions; McVey repeated again this week in Parliament that they are "a last resort".  The human cost is appalling.  
The biggest failure of all, however, is:-
  • Universal Credit.  This was to be the lasting legacy of Iain Duncan Smith, transforming "welfare".  At the outset opposition parties said yes, great idea, but it's never been done because it's too difficult.  Not for IDS, though.  Millions have been spent on IT that didn't work, more millions on trying a different IT system, and on patching up the problems thrown up by the very limited trials of UC.  We needn't rehearse all the problems.  But through them all IDS has insisted that it will all be fine.
We're told that it's Osborne who is keen to get IDS out because the Chancellor wants to slash the welfare budget and IDS resists that.  We're also told (in the Mail today) that Smith will again refuse to go.  This man's failures have cost us dear.  Surely he must go.

24 comments:

  1. As I have said before "If IDS goes I'll buy you all a drink". PIP (nothing to do with breast implants so don't google it) is another big failure to be rolled out from October next year. What else from Welfare can be cut I wonder.

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  2. He won't be going.

    I think this is naive hope at best.

    I'd love to be wrong, but even if it somehow turns out to be true it won't really make any difference.

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  3. Stranger things have happened but I can't see Smith going. It would be an admission of failure and it would be impossible for any minister to even begin to try to sort out the mess he has left in time for the election. Better, from the point of view of a cynical politician like Cameron, to leave him in place creating an ever bigger disaster for Labour to face. Besides, is there any department that would be willing to accept Smith? Those professionals left among the upper ecehelons of the civil service who haven't entered through the revolving door to the businesses from which they are meant to procure services and regulate would view the prospect of their department being lumbered with Smith with absolute horror. If placed in charge of defence he would probably order 50,000 muskets and nuke Cornwall.

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  4. Playing devil advocates a bit - if Osbourne wants to slash the welfare (Social Security) budget again - and we know that means cuts to JSA - perhaps IDS is the best of a bad bunch...

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    1. Welfare cuts also mean PIP - the repacement to DLA. This is a benefit currently paid tax-free to those disabled people who qualify and does not depend upon you having a job. It is yet to be "rolled out" and causes a lot of anxiety if, like myself, you have claimed it since 1992 and were told you would receive it for life, and now worry if you will receive it after October 2015.

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  5. I hope McVey doesn't replace IDS, not because I like IDS or think he's doing a good job, but because McVey could prove to be a much more capable minister than IDS ever could.

    Just think if the brutality of IDS was coupled with a modicum of intelligence. Just think how much worse things could have been for the disabled and unemployed if McVey, not IDS had been in charge since 2010. Universal Jobmatch, for example is a coercive tool designed to spy on claimants. It was IDS' incompetence that prevented a very nasty but clever idea from achieving its true aim - to monitor the unemployed in real time. If McVey took over at the DWP Universal Jobmatch, the Work Programme, Help to Work and all the other horrors designed to imprison the jobless in what amounts to a "virtual workhouse" could be even more effective, and therefore even worse.

    Better the devil you know as far as I'm concerned...

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    1. I can't go along with your presumption that McVey would be "a much more capable minister than IDS ever could". Indeed, I've said that she is quite possibly the most stupid person ever to be made a minister. She has repeatedly said that sanctions are only used as a last resort. Is that ignorance or deliberate untruth?

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    2. If she gets into cabinet at this point in her 'career' then she must have some serious pull. I would be very surprised if this shallow grandstanding haridan got any closer to power than she already is.

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  6. Smith AND McVey are perfect examples of the Peter Principle - someone promoted to a position well above his or her capabilities. The sad thing is that sub-par ministers like Smith and McVey will get away with it as long as they keep up the ideological rhetoric.

    As I have already said here and elsewhere, the odious Smith needs to do three things:

    Explain why he thought his policies were workable. Apologise. Then resign. In that order and in public.

    The man is a dangerous sociopath.

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  7. I hope that IDS will be made to abandon the W&P portfolio. Whatever his grandiose ideas, none of them actually either work or save any money.

    One of the rumours has been of a possible job-swap between IDS and Philip Hammond who was Cameron’s first Shadow W&P Secretary:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Hammond

    However, some newspapers say that Hammond might become the UK’s EU Commissioner.

    Hammond is formidably clever and formidably wealthy because of his “other job” as a successful property developer. I hope that he will replace IDS because my impression is that Hammond is a realist whereas IDS is a hopeless dreamer whose ego is much greater than his ability.

    I’ve read that Esther McVey is tipped to move into Maria Miller’s old shoes at Culture. McVey and “culture” are mutually exclusive ideas, imho, but she does not have sufficient know-how to manage the DWP’s huge budget. Hammond does.

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    1. A tax dodger in charge of the DWP? Interesting times!

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  8. I honestly don't think it matters which minister is in charge of the DWP as the Tories have made it perfectly clear with the 'progress' of their policies their intention to replace JSA and ESA with some kind of 'workfare' scheme i.e. you will have to work for your benefits - regardless of whether you have paid NI.

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  9. Grabbed this from 'The New Statesman' - confirms what I expected - if IDS is sacked Osbourne will attack JSA, ESA and Working Tax Credit, arguing that they have to sacrificed to 'save' the State Pension.

    'Further disagreement has come over post-2015 welfare cuts. While Osborne is committed to achieving £12.5bn of savings through further reductions to working-age benefits (in addition to the £21.5bn already announced), Duncan Smith believes that "you can’t keep hacking at the same people" and that wealthy pensioners cannot remain exempt from austerity. He would like to see universal payments such as the Winter Fuel Allowance, free TV licences and free bus passes means-tested in order to achieve a more "balanced" approach. But dismissing the prospect of cuts, Osborne has stated that pensioner benefits are "not where you need to make the substantial savings required". Another consideration is the electoral importance of the over-65s (the age group most likely to vote) and the risk that a raid on their benefits would allow Ukip to outflank the Tories by promising to safeguard all payments.'

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    1. If Working Tax Credit goes doesn't that mean that any entitlement to Housing or Council Tax Benefit increrases?

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    2. Sounds like ESA claimants with mental health problems are to be targeted - sorry helped - into work. What about those who have alcohol or drug missuse problems too then...

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    3. According to the Libdems Osborne wants to cut long term JSA claims by 10% each year they remain unemployed.

      I can well believe this.

      I think it more likely IDS will be reshuffled, if he ever is, after the election and if the tories win. I don't see it making any sense to do so now; IDS is not unpopular with the tories and the right wing.

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  10. They want people on ESA to prove depression now.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/13/depression-benefits-torie_n_5581863.html

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    1. I don't think that one is going anywhere. MPs on their own side are vehemently against it.

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    2. They have to anyway, that's why people get tested.

      The real problem will be when they demand people get no help until they can get a diagnosis which will take ages.

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  11. IF.......
    George Smith gets the Steve Bell treatment

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cartoon/2014/jul/14/steve-bell-if-iain-duncan-smith-universal-credit

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  12. Hello, unfortunately IDS has not been "reshuffled". As I am ever so generous I will however honour my promise to buy you all a drink! My local Hostelry has closed (something to do with "the economic climate" whatever that is). If you would like to send me your bank account details I'll then transfer some money and... Oh, there seems to be 2 Police Officers smashing in my door. Speak to youuu...

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  13. New website I've just been made aware of:

    http://dwpunspun.org.uk/

    Will look at it in more detail....

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  14. According to the Torygraph, Esther McVey might become Cameron’s new ‘Minister for Television’ in effect…..

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10964997/David-Cameron-to-promote-young-women-to-refresh-Cabinet.html

    The Torygraph does not mention IDS, so I wonder whether he’s resisting Osborn’e alleged determination to get rid of him?

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  15. If Osbourne gets his way and say you've been out of work for three years does that mean if you are on a Help To Work placement (for the long-term unemployed, remember) you will only get £50 (£70 less 30%) for a weeks hardwork.

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