James Forsyth

IDS’ resignation would be a catastrophe

IDS' resignation would be a catastrophe
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If Iain Duncan-Smith resigned from the government, the coalition would be in trouble. If Vince Cable is the coalition’s left tent peg, IDS is the right one: his departure would leave the coalition’s right side dangerously open to the elements. Which prompts me to oppose Ben Brogan’s blog saying that the coalition would not suffer much if IDS walked.

If IDS left, the Cabinet would be dangerously unbalanced. There would, in these circumstances, be only two people in it who the Tory parliamentary party considers to be on the right, Liam Fox and Owen Patterson. The right, as the Liberal Democrats seem to appreciate, would in these circumstances demand far more policy concessions from Cameron in return for its support.

The next problem would be that it would play into Labour’s narrative that the coalition is cutting recklessly, that there is no long term plan. I can just imagine Yvette Cooper on television claiming that IDS’ resignation proves that this is a government so right wing that even Iain Duncan Smith can’t serve in it. It would also rob the government of one of its central purposes. Education and welfare reform are the great principled crusades of this government; they are what give it a reformist authority.  

Finally, it would pitch the coalition against the right-wing press. Both the Mail and the Telegraph are fully behind IDS. If he quit, these papers would become far more critical of the coalition.

George Osborne needs to get the Treasury to come to an accommodation with IDS. Everyone knew what IDS wanted to do before he was appointed and that he would quit if he couldn’t get it through. It might have been a risk to give him the job in the first place, but it would be an act of monumental folly to push him into resigning.