Beware the IDS of March


Shortly before his assassination, the Roman senate declared Julius Caesar “dictator in perpetuity” and went to inform him about good news. Caesar did not stand to greet them which apparently caused such offence that many believe it was this faux pas that precipitated the civil war which culminated in the fall of the republic.

However, some historians maintain that Caesar could not stand that day because he was suffering from a humiliating bout of diarrhea, a symptom of his secret, stigmatised, and chronic lifelong epilepsy.

When the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), recently resigned from the Cabinet, many believed that it would lead Tory MPs to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. However, the so-called ‘IDS of March’ hasn’t really lived up to its billing.

Comparing the resignation of IDS, with the turmoil which followed the death of Caesar is, of course, in equal parts jest and journalistic wishful thinking. However, it also shows just how adept the Government leadership duo, Cameron and Osborne, have become at hurdling the obstacles which so frequently tripped up New Labour.

Since the Government has agreed to reconsider the most fractious elements of the Budget, including cuts to £1.3 billion worth of disability benefits, the ‘tampon tax’, and VAT increases on renewables, MPs have subsequently voted in favour of the Chancellor’s budget which only days ago was considered as toxic as the ‘omnishambles’ budget of 2012.

Additionally, many believe the new DWP Secretary, Stephen Crabb, because he grew up on a council estate and didn’t go to Eton, will thereby, hopefully quelling the argument that government cuts are being imposed by a privileged elite.


CBI Conference

IDS’s replacement Stephen Crabb | Image courtesy of HM Government

While the storm over the IDS resignation appears to have blown over, his appearance on The Andrew Marr Show only redoubled the accusations that he actually left the cabinet to strengthen his EU referendum campaign, or as part of a leadership putsch. Though on Marr, IDS denied this, many still believe that the damage his resignation did to George Osborne’s fiscal credibility have all but eliminated the Chancellor from leadership contention when David Cameron steps down.  Bookmakers William Hill, for example have doubled the odds of Osborne becoming the next leader, from 2/1 to 4/1.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who is the favourite to become leader, said on ITV’s The Agenda that Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation was actually  just “a storm in a teacup.”

Johnson denied suggestions that the resignation was motivated by either the coming EU referendum, or that it was part of Johnson’s own ambitions to become PM.

He concluded by advising that “it would have been much better, quite frankly, if he had stayed in and fought his point of view from within the cabinet,” he said. Before concluding: “That’s always the best thing.”

Expectations that the Opposition Labour party would capitalise on a memorably bad week for both the Conservative party, and the Chancellor in particular, likewise never materialised, as a leaked document charting the loyalty of Labour’s own MPs to leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was used to deflect criticism back onto the opposition.

Labour MP, John Woodcock, tweeted to complain about the failure to exploit one of the worst weeks for the conservatives, calling the list a “f****** disaster” which made the party a “laughing stock.”

Woodcock subsequently deleted the tweet, explaining that he ‘ineptly’ meant to send the message to a colleague as a private message.