Who saw that coming? When I watched George Osborne deliver his Budget speech last week, I thought it another vintage Gideon performance. Rush past the bad news (basically all the numbers), re-announce some nice stuff that’s already been mentioned elsewhere, make some charmless ‘jokes’, and trumpet some minor stuff to grab headlines. Job done.
So Jeremy Corbyn made a decent fist of the response, sounding genuinely angry, and not being derailed by the wall of sound made by braying Tory backbenchers. Corbin was most insistent about the way in which people with disabilities were bearing the lion’s share of the cuts in order to give further tax breaks to big business and wealthier taxpayers, but to be honest, I thought at the time that the Tories would just spin that as bleeding heart Labour, the perennial ‘welfare party’.
Sometimes I’m too cynical for my own good. Just as the Tories’ endless repetition of ‘Labour broke the economy’ hypnotised enough people into thinking it was true, perhaps Corbyn’s repeated warnings about the Tories’ singling out of the most vulnerable in society for a repeated kicking finally started to get through.
Some of those Tory backbenchers who threatened to rebel over the cuts to PIPs had personal experience of the issue of disability, and must have listened to tales of real hardship from their own constituents. Did they also sit on the green benches each Wednesday at PMQs and watch Corbyn’s earnest anger being swatted away scornfully by a Bullingdon bully and squirm just a little? It’s not impossible.
Then came the IDS resignation.
Why did he do it? Pique? Principle? Europe? Who knows, who cares? The man’s record speaks for itself, and what it says is pretty shameful. What’s more interesting is the story behind it.
Iain Duncan Smith was once the leader of the Tory party. He plainly thought he was owed a certain degree of deference for that. But the young upstarts, Cameron and Osborne, showed him little but contempt. Osborne thought IDS an intellectual inferior, and Cameron thought him a social inferior. I know the former assertion because it was in Matthew d’Ancona’s book. I infer the latter, because that is Cameron’s default position towards pretty much anyone. To sit around a table with such people, and to have to take their instructions must be galling. “Sell this policy, Iain old chap,” they’d say, until a focus group said it was unpopular, and the numbers didn’t add up, at which point they’d coolly order him to take the blame and announce a U turn. Such capricious treatment takes its toll. Just ask the public sector…..
But what does it all mean? Is the tide turning on the Tories?
I wish. But I doubt it.
These people are politicians dealing with real people’s lives, not celebrities in the media spotlight. Quite simply, little of all this will impact much on the average person in the car.
Meanwhile, the knives are out in the Tory civil war, and there will be blood. Most of it ours, probably. Plus ca change….