The Work and Pensions secretary’s reaction to Balls’ “IDS – In Deep Shambles” line today.
The Work and Pensions secretary’s reaction to Balls’ “IDS – In Deep Shambles” line today.
The warning signs were there when IDS said on 14 October: “Universal credit will roll out very well and it will be on time and within budget”. Or four days later, when he said : “Universal credit will roll out and deliver exactly as we said it would”. Well today the inevitable has happened, IDS says the roll out “may take a little longer” and the project might still be 700,000 shy of the target by 2017. If only there were some other major political event on today to deflect attention away. Still, at least Osborne will be chipper…
More than one debutante appeared in the Commons at question time for the glamour department that Work and Pensions has become.
Tory TV star Esther McVey moved into a new spotlight. Confident, fluent, blonde. Did I say blonde? I meant attra- I meant professional.
Mike Penning, the person more responsible than anyone for IDS’ disastrous election as Tory leader is now his disability minister. That needs no comment, at least.
For Labour, Chris Bryant, something of a cult, has been reprogrammed and is promoting the opposite of devoutly-held pieties he previously professed. He is steadily on course to be one of the Commons’ Nearly Men.
And then Rachel Reeves, cruelly characterised by the BBC-left as “boring-snoring”, set out to put new life into her career.
She is often “tipped to be the next leader of the Labour party”. But the tipsters are Tory optimists looking for someone less inspirational, engaging, in-touch, life-enhancing than the toothsome incumbent. She is a rare candidate.
Hair and makeup – a success. The voice – yet to succeed. Personality – platform announcement.
“We apologise for the delayed arrival of the policy on platform 1. This was due to delays. The policy is in reverse formation. Tory coaches are at the back of the train. We apologise for any inconvenience to your voting intentions.”
IDS suggests that Labour’s new approach to welfare is a horlicks of false intentions and bad faith. Reeves and Bryant say they will out-tough the Tories but have voted against every measure to save a cent.
Frank Field asked how many permanent secretaries IDS would get through before his insane computer program finally crashes/burns/turns into a black hole and sucks the universe in. “It will be on time and within budget,” IDS claimed, heroically. And then demanded an apology for £26bn of failed Labour IT projects.
There is a lesson in there, truth to tell.
It is absolutely inconceivable that he or anyone else can deliver a real-time computer system to track Britain’s beneficiaries. Luckily it’s due in 2017, beyond the political event horizon.
Dangerous statistic: “600,000 unemployed eastern Europeans”. IDS refused to endorse the figure saying it included non-working-age migrants.
The Tories have released the first details of what Work for the Dole will entail. Claimants will have their benefits stripped if they fail to turn up to intensive “support and supervision” sessions for 35 hours a week over 6 months. Special centres will be set up where two pilots will be held, one for the long-term unemployed and one for people yet to go through the Work Programme. IDS sums up the policy as “No attendance. No benefit. That is only fair.”
In the small print, the pilot will be funded by £30 million from the EU. To be fair, if we are going to steal this money from the European taxpayers, we might as well spend it righteously.
Such a policy should have been in place for years, though at least this seems to be the beginning of welfare reform for the long-term unemployed. Worth noting the glowing praise Osborne had for IDS in his speech yesterday following Matthew d’Ancona’s revelations about their relationship. IDS’ face was a picture.
Guido understands that post-d’Ancona revelations, efforts have been made to stress it is all water under the bridge for IDS and the Chancellor. Yet when they came face to face late last night by accident in a restaurant, according to the chatter at the Telegraph party, the roof still needs some attention and the sun is still behind the clouds…
On Wednesday night Guido revealed that IDS himself had to launch his own investigation into Universal Credit after he suspected the civil service were not giving him the whole picture. Yesterday, little was left to the imagination over who DWP blames for the NAO’s description of a ‘fortress mentality’ and ‘good news culture’ – the civil service. Fingers are being pointed all over the place at DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux, particularly in the Telegraph with Isabel Hardman quoting a Cabinet source putting the boot in:
“You have a permanent secretary who seemed not to know what he was doing and was not willing to admit it, appallingly badly negotiated contracts with suppliers, which you would not expect, and if ministers want to crawl all over that, then there would be a lot of criticism that they should leave it to the civil servants.”
Another ‘observer’ points out “If he had an ounce of shame he should have departed some time ago.” With both Mark Thompson and Devereux up next week, the Public Accounts Committee could be a bloodbath…
Two bald men fighting over Liam Byrne’s reshuffle hopes.
The National Audit Office has given IDS’s flagship Universal Credit policy two barrels this morning. It concludes that £34 million has been wasted so far due to ‘weak management and poor governance’. Liam Byrne managed to get his embargoed two cents out before the rumours spread of an imminent Labour reshuffle:
“The truth is finally out. Universal Credit is a titanic-sized IT disaster which Iain Duncan Smith has tried to hide with cover up after cover up. Mr Duncan Smith swore blind this benefit shake-up was fine. Now we learn he has completely lost control of his department at a potential cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. It is now mission critical that David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith swallow their pride and agree to the cross party talks we proposed in the summer. We cannot risk another day.”
A DWP source hits back, telling Guido:
“Byrne’s offer of cross party talks is laughable. After Labour’s tax credits fiasco £2.8bn of taxpayers money was written off and £13bn for their NHS IT system. I really don’t think we need Labour’s help or advice. The point is Iain has actually learnt from Labour’s mistakes and he is prepared to be flexible and change timetables along the way - even though that means Labour will go to the papers to carp about ‘delays’. Surely doggedly sticking to the exact same path you set out on 3 years ago in a bid to avoid tough decisions and negative headlines is the wrong thing to do and he should be applauded for doing the right thing?”
Sources claim that though there have been problems with Universal Credit, especially given its scale, the report is historic and does not suggest that these are problems happening any more. ‘Nowhere in the report does it say we’ll not meet our 2017 end point. That is what we’re working to and we’re still very much within budget.’ As Byrne and IDS square up the blame game shifts elsewhere. Guido understands that IDS himself had to launch his own investigation into Universal Credit after he suspected the civil service were not giving him the whole picture. It’s going to be a very rocky ride for DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux when he faces the Public Accounts Committee next week…
The High Court judgment on housing benefit is pretty sound stuff. Leaving aside that the bit where the judge claims the case “looks very like a list objections to the policy under the guise of a litany of matters”, Lord Justice Laws’ most important paragraph will be used again and again:
“…it is not generally for the courts to resolve the controversies which this insistence involves. That is for elected government. The cause of constitutional rights is not best served by an ambitious expansion of judicial territory, for the courts are not the proper arbiters of political controversy.”
He’s right. The only thing more dangerous than the rabble in SW1 are unelected and unaccountable judges siding with an angry mob. Taxpayers money is wasted on such spurious legal challenges.
Meanwhile, guess which phrase does not appear once in the entire ruling? Nowhere will you find the ridiculous term “Bedroom Tax”. Quite the opposite in fact.
Lord Justice Laws has ruled that these are changes to “a means-tested benefit”.
Amusingly he points out that this “is well known”.
Try telling that to the BBC…
The quiet man had to turn up the volume on the Today programme this morning, so how generous of Digital Dave to take to Twitter to lend IDS his support.
Of course @IDS_MP is a foul-mouthed, less than flattering parody account offering such recent insights as “a thrifty way to keep cool in this heat wave is to dab the ice from your Champagne bucket onto your forehead”. Hardly difficult to spot you would have thought…
Dave doesn’t always do his own tweets, in fact Guido once almost succeeded in wrestling a tipsy Tory flunkey’s mobile phone from him in order to hijack the PM’s timeline. So Dave might be quoting himself to someone over this:
It’s no surprise that the MOD was missing from George Osborne’s ‘nice list’ of departments behaving themselves over further cuts. Nor was it surprising to hear the Chancellor pouring water on this morning’s Telegraph story about IDS offering to serve up more cuts in order to protect Hammond’s department. Further cuts aren’t going to happen; not least in part due to the LibDems, especially in an election year. Guido is told any discussion has not happened recently. IDS may have enjoyed the Telegraph’s “not for the first time, Mr Duncan Smith has shown the way” leader, but it seems that is a far as it’s going to go. Fingers are being pointed at Hammond this morning for stirring things up. With this Telegraph leak, suddenly last week’s manoeuvres speculation does not look quite so ridiculous…
See also: Daft Draft Hammond Plan
Maggie and Mandela | Charles Moore
Mandela was Christ-Like | Peter Oborne
Maggie Personally Donated £20,000 to Mandela Foundation | Bono
Why Environmentalists Should Favour Fracking | CPS
Balls Gag Falls Flat | Asa Bennett
Mandela the Thatcherite | John Pilger
Balls’ Heckling Hypocrisy | Isabel Hardman
Gordon Dinner Raises Just $350 | Trending Central
Labour Need Darling to Replace Balls | Peter Oborne
Osborne Will Have to Push Harder Than This | Fraser Nelson
No, Cameron Did Not Make Hang Mandela Posters | Buzzfeed
Nelson Mandela on Margaret Thatcher, July 1990…
“She is an enemy of apartheid… We have much to thank her for.”