The Work and Pensions Secretary should implement two distinctly conservative welfare reformsby Ryan Shorthouse / May 10, 2016 / Leave a comment
In March, Iain Duncan Smith resigned, arguing that disability cuts in George Osborne’s 2016 Budget were “indefensible.” He was a passionate social reformer who claimed he had “no personal ambitions”; “I came into this government because I cared about welfare reform” he said when he resigned. What does his departure mean for compassionate conservatism?
His successor, Stephen Crabb, has an opportunity: to implement, rather than just talk about, a distinctly conservative agenda on welfare reform.
Yes, Duncan Smith can point to some successes since 2010: employment is at record levels; and long-term unemployment has fallen. But the tools he deployed to achieve these were largely those of previous governments: tougher conditionality and sanctioning, for example. Even his flagship Universal Credit, still gradually being rolled out, is a glorified tax credit. Duncan Smith was right to use these measures, but they are not some ground-breaking new approach to poverty reduction, despite his rhetoric.
After the EU referendum on 23rd June, the PM will want to focus on what animates him most: boosting the life chances of the least fortunate in society. Crabb therefore has a window to introduce reforms that could have considerable impact on public support for—and the effectiveness of—the UK’s welfare system.