Fraser Nelson

The return of IDS

The return of IDS
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What to do with Iain Duncan Smith? The Sunday Telegraph tomorrow says  he will be given a Department for Children and Social Justice - an idea that has been in the pipeline for a while now. At first, I was against IDS returning to the front bench given what amazing influence he has had as a backbencher. I fancied him as a Frank Field/Wilberforce type - someone used his public platform to advance radical ideas. But that changed when Theresa May was promoted to welfare reform, something which did more to damage my confidence in the Cameron project than anything else since 2007. It seemed to suggest to me that Cameron was not serious about welfare reform (given May's track  record of achieving squat, in any field).

A few months ago, I went up to see IDS in his room in Westminster. He had so many books on his bookshelves that he had started stacking them vertically on the floor. He was enthused by some early years intervention programme in Virginia - I was less convinced, so he was not content until he'd found the study to prove to me that the intervention had been a success. He had a kind of messianic zeal, hopping around the room looking for the paper as if he wanted to convert me. When I eventually escaped (he has a habit of saying things like "before you go - three more things") I thought that he was needed on the frontbench. Here is a politician who genuinely believes he can make a difference, couldn't care less about his public persona or spin, and actually knew his brief. Who would you rather have running welfare reform, the most complex subject in Whitehall? IDS, or Theresa May?

From that point, it was a no brainer - I wanted IDS to go back to the front bench. "Cameron won't want that slap-head ruining the school photo of his first cabinet" said one Shadow Minister to me, when we  discussed IDS's return, as if it were all about the cosmetics. I think that Cameron - having erred in moving Chris Grayling from a job that  he loved - realises that welfare reform will be the single toughest reform he'll have to do in government and needs a man with IDS' energy and attention to detail. So I hope the Sunday Telegraph story turns out to be true.  

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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