MR. GREEDY

When newspapers were king, it was only natural the country’s capital had two competing titles. The Evening News was London’s long-standing rival to the Evening Standard for decades; many might still recall its memorable masthead, a red sun setting over a silhouetted skyline of prominent London landmarks (including the dome of St Paul’s); but the rivalry ended in 1980 when the Evening News was forced to merge with the paper it had comprehensively outsold during the 60s. Since then, short-lived rivals, such as Robert Maxwell’s ill-fated London Daily News, have failed to challenge the supremacy of the Standard.

A sign of changing times in the capital came in 2009 when ex-KGB oligarch Alexander Lebedev and his son Evgeny (who already owned The Independent) purchased the paper and within a matter of months relaunched it as a freebie. Previously, free newspapers had been cheap rags along the lines of Metro; that a paper with as long a history as the Standard could join the ranks of the giveaway titles seemed to suggest a demise was imminent, though the combined wealth of Lebedev and son could afford to keep the Standard as a non-profit making venture without any initial noticeable decline in journalistic content.

The Standard’s blatant cheerleading for the Conservative Party has certainly increased during the reign of Lebedev Junior (or ‘Two Beards’ as Private Eye is fond of calling him), culminating in far-from balanced coverage of last year’s London Mayoral Election; granted, it’s fairly customary for a paper to nail its political colours to the mast, but with the capital only boasting the one local paper, Londoners were presented with a rather lopsided view of the contest between Khan and Goldsmith. Lebedev also has a distinct appetite for advertising his famous friends, and his capacity for self-promotion has extended to endless plugs in the Standard for his vanity project, the London Live TV channel.

However, Lebedev’s latest move where the Evening Standard is concerned has surprised even his staunchest critics – the appointment of a serving Tory MP as editor of the paper, a man who up until last summer was Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Gideon’s appointment has raised several issues. Whilst it’s not unusual for MPs to pen columns for Fleet Street titles or to have been editors of papers or magazines prior to ascending to the Cabinet, it is fairly unprecedented to have such a prominent politician at the helm of a paper, especially one whose demotion to the backbenches hasn’t exactly dented his income.

Osborne has earned £771,000 from public speaking since leaving the Cabinet – including £85,396 for just one speech last November; it lasted three hours, but I suppose anyone forced to sit and listen to it would probably have gladly trebled the fee to shorten the speech to three minutes. He has an annual salary of £650,000 as an adviser to Black Rock Investments – working one day a week (nice work if you can get it). He also receives £120,000 from being a ‘Kissinger Fellow’ at the McCain Institute, a think-tank based in Washington; that’s on top of his MP’s salary of £74,000 and whatever it is he’ll be paid for ‘editing’ the Evening Standard, a job Gideon seems to believe he can tackle first thing on a morning before breezing off to the Commons in the afternoon.

Losing one’s seat in Parliament, whether voluntarily or being voted out by the electorate, isn’t exactly the end of the world for most MPs. Labour’s Tristram Hunt recently stepped down from his Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency and walked straight into a lucrative job as Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and many MPs already have extremely well-paid directorships of numerous companies long before they exit Westminster for good. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a great shock to discover George Osborne has managed to supplement his Parliamentary income with various sideline projects for a long time.

When it comes to a conflict of interests with his new appointment, the imagined impartiality of a newspaper editor is perhaps more wishful thinking on the part of the public when one considers how biased in favour of one particular political party most papers are, though Gideon’s Remainer stance when it comes to Brexit doesn’t suggest he’ll give the woman who sacked him last year an easy ride.

I would presume many journalists feel Osborne has been parachuted in by Lebedev as a celebrity editor – another of his well-publicised famous friends – over the heads of more qualified candidates, and their grievances are understandable. Fellow MPs are worried that Gideon’s greed in accepting payment for so many different jobs intensifies the public’s perception that most Parliamentarians aren’t necessarily committed to their roles as public servants and are more concerned with making as much as possible from their outside interests. Osborne’s constituents in Tatton, Cheshire probably wonder how much time he can devote to them and their town when his heart (or whatever stone-based object circulates the cold blood around his body) is so clearly in the capital. And with Osborne’s contemptuous attitude towards the sick and the poor in society from his time as Chancellor still fresh in the memory, this latest promotion paints him even more as a self-centred archangel of avarice.

A free newspaper with a serving MP as its editor – one with zero experience of what he’s been hired to do – might seem like a storm in a teacup, and in some respects it is; rich people handing posts to other rich people for the benefit of nobody but rich people. Why should we even care? But I suppose it’s hard not to get wound-up when confronted by another nauseating example of how the other half live and how we’re all in it together, with the exception of Evgeny Lebedev and his famous friends.

© The Editor

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THE DEPARTMENT OF ILL-HEALTH

davrosPerhaps the most extreme example of the Nasty Party tag as well as proof that the Cameron coalition’s contempt for anyone who didn’t vote Tory was no hissy fit slur on the part of IDS came via the punitive persecution of the sick and disabled on the bottom rung of society’s ladder throughout the six-year reign of the Old Etonians. In their attempt to balance the books and knock a few quid off the deficit in the wake of the 2008 crash, Dave and his team didn’t have the balls (nor, one suspects, the inclination) to stand up to either the banking industry or the tax-dodging corporations, so they played a classic Conservative game by honing in on those they knew couldn’t fight back. The Flashman bully in Cameron and Osborne showed its true colours during this, one of the most shameful sustained assaults of any modern British government.

Out-sourcing the task of reorganising the benefits system – particularly that corner of it occupied by the ill – was something already in place before the 2010 General Election. Gordon Brown had introduced the Work Capability Assessment in 2008, and hiring the controversial French firm Atos to tackle this was yet one more toxic legacy of the Blair era, another private-public initiative pursuing profit at the expense of the individual (or patient) that was destined to end in tears. Not that Gordon Brown gave a toss anymore than his successors. The propaganda machine had succeeded in painting every disability claimant as a scrounging shirker through its media mouthpieces, particularly in the press; stories exposing those claiming they were incapable of walking unaided as they then turned up for their local Sunday League football team had become such a regular element of tabloid reportage that the public were already convinced.

The sponsorship of the 2012 Paralympics by Atos was akin to Nick Griffin opening the Notting Hill Carnival; the boos that rang around the Olympic Stadium when none other than Gideon himself stepped up to present athletes with their medals was a landmark showcase for the protests against the Work Capability Assessment programme, though it continued regardless. Eventually, news began to circulate from former Atos employees of the pressures that the DWP had put them under, commanded to reduce the employment figures at any cost – including disregarding the conclusions of medically-trained fitness-for-work testers should their conclusions contradict the belief that everyone claiming disability benefits was more than capable of earning a living.

The unsentimental and common sense-free approach of Atos as directed by the DWP was blamed on the 2,380 deaths of disability benefits claimants within two months of their claims being rejected that occurred from 2011-14, many of them suicides. There was a great deal of buck-passing taking place when Atos was forced to carry the can for these cruel practices, with only the premature severance of the company’s contract with the British Government in 2015 releasing Atos from the pretence of being wholly responsible for the tragedies associated with their regime. The Atos website made it clear that they were following in time-honoured SS traditions by ‘only obeying orders’.

The resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in March sent Cameron’s administration into unprecedented back-tracking when they were already staring oblivion in the face courtesy of the upcoming EU Referendum. George Osborne had announced a fresh assault on the disabled in his spring budget, measures that even IDS – a man who had given every impression of being the apostle of such measures – found too much.

Quitting the Cabinet within days of Gideon’s announcement forced the swift cancellation (or denial) of these plans, with the likes of the now-unemployed Nicky Morgan declaring the Chancellor’s proposals were ‘just a suggestion’. Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation could be cynically translated as the actions of a man bound to bear the brunt of opposition to such measures absolving himself of the responsibility; but the dropping of the proposals as soon as IDS quit seemed indicative of a sea-change in the approach that had characterised Tory policy towards the sick and disabled from day one of the coalition.

Now, of course, we have a new leader at the helm; and is it mere coincidence that a conscious rejection of the previous policy has been announced on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham? This weekend, Theresa May’s Secretary for Work and Pensions Damian Green declared that those afflicted with life-threatening illnesses will no longer be subjected to six-monthly assessments re their capability for work. Even IDS has given the announcement the thumbs-up. This is undoubtedly welcome news and another sign that David Cameron’s successor is cut from a different cloth; but there has been no mention yet of that invisible affliction, mental health.

Nevertheless, there is small cause for celebration at the news that one of the most reprehensible policies enacted by a British Government in recent years has at least been belatedly recognised as the appallingly cruel injustice it always was by those who instigated it in the first place; we can only hope this is the start of a long-overdue phase of realisation that will eventually extend to all those deserving cases who fall under the shadow of a system that has punished them for circumstances beyond their control for far too long.

© The Editor

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THIS WRECKAGE

CameronWell, the fallout is proving to be somewhat chaotic, if predictable. The overindulged generation to whom nobody (least of all their helicopter parents) has ever said ‘no’ have already started up another of their tedious petitions to demand a second Referendum because they find it impossible to accept the majority disagreed with them; Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed she’s preparing the ground for a second Independence campaign; Jeremy Corbyn has declared he will fight any challenge from within his own party, seemingly oblivious to the impending catastrophe awaiting Labour should the autumn see a General Election with him in charge; the metropolitan politicians who have received a resounding kick in the goolies still can’t understand why their groins are smarting as they continue to sneer at the voters who abandoned them; the Brexit frontrunners are keen to keep the celebratory festivities going because it serves as a convenient distraction from the fact that they have no idea what they’re supposed to do next; promises of billions raining down on the NHS have quietly been removed from the winning speeches; and furious Remain Conservatives are planning to spike the Tory leadership race by casting Boris Johnson in the Michael Heseltine role, wielding the dagger without a cast-iron guarantee of the crown.

David Cameron’s swift announcement of his resignation ironically mirrored that of Gordon Brown’s in 2010, staged exactly the same way – from the same podium in the same location to the simpering countenance of the missus by his side. It was deliberately timed to catch Boris off-guard, and Dave’s intention to see out the summer at No.10 in the manner of an impotent US President at the end of his second term gives him the opportunity to plot against his expected successor before the 1922 Committee kick-starts proceedings. With the SNP intending to exploit the chaos just as we all knew they would, Cameron could well go down in history as the PM who lost both Europe and Scotland, ranked alongside Lord North (the predecessor who presided over the loss of America in 1783) in an unenviable pantheon of failure. If he can salvage anything from the wreckage, it is to sabotage the succession of the man who has dogged his political career.

One notable absentee from the spotlight since Thursday is the man who could also take some blame for Dave’s downfall, his campaign co-ordinator and ill-advised adviser on tactics, George Osborne. If Cameron is toast, then Gideon is charcoal. The Chancellor’s rightly-derided threat of an austerity budget as punishment for a Leave vote was the last desperate bullet of a man whose barrel is now well and truly empty. If he had any semblance of a conscience, he would go immediately; but, of course, he doesn’t and he won’t. He knows now that the slim hopes of him moving in next-door are completely trashed, so he seems determined to hang on as a caretaker Chancellor in an act of petulant revenge on the party – and country – that rejected his vision.

In normal circumstances, a Prime Minister resigning barely a year into winning a General Election would be the lead story on everybody’s lips; but so dramatic have the last 48 hours been that even this ordinarily top-of-the-bill development seems to have been relegated to B-picture status in the overall scheme of things. I guessed this would happen if the vote went against Cameron, but it still seems surreal that it actually is happening, perhaps because I didn’t really believe we would take the Brexit route. Even on social media, news of Cameron’s imminent departure has been received with a surprising lack of euphoria, particularly by those who have spent the past six years demanding it. Indeed, it must be difficult for the left-leaning anti-Cameron networkers to know how to react, finally getting what they wanted but getting it as a side-effect of everything they didn’t want.

Giles Coren, a man who got where he is not through his own endeavours but through the name and standing of his late father Alan, takes an astonishingly vicious swipe at ‘old people’ in his Times column today, one that smacks of a sullen adolescent blaming his parents for his own failings. ‘The wrinkly bastards stitched us young ‘uns up good and proper on Thursday,’ he writes. ‘From their stairlifts and their zimmer frames, their electric recliner beds and their walk-in baths, they reached out with their wizened old writing hands to make their wobbly crosses and screwed their children’s and their children’s children for a thousand generations.’ The sour grapes whining of a wealthy London-centric celebrity whose presence in Fleet Street is due entirely to nepotism via one of those ‘wrinkly bastards’ is indicative of the Remain cheerleaders’ narcissistic inability to fathom why their fame didn’t swing it.

There are a lot of angry people in Britain right now, not just in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but England too. The yoof are especially incensed because their experience of the democratic process is limited. The fact that voting in any form won’t necessarily ensure the outcome one voted for is something that doesn’t appear to have registered with them and they’re looking for someone to blame. If that means blaming all ‘old people’ or labelling everyone who opted for the contrary position to them as racists, we shouldn’t really be surprised. What makes this remarkable moment in the country’s history equally compelling and frightening is the absence of precedence and the lack of a roadmap laying down the destination of the nation; but the Millennials like everything neatly pre-prepared and packaged, like an app that will tell them what to do. All is up in the air and all is uncertain; and nobody knows what comes next.

© The Editor

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NUL POINTS

EUWhen recalling his first meeting with Yoko Ono, John Lennon often remarked that the avant-garde artist’s exhibition he received a sneak preview of contained a tiny message at the top of a stepladder that could only be viewed with a magnifying glass. The message read simply ‘Yes’, something that sold Yoko to Lennon because he claimed it was the first positive statement he’d seen at an art show in years. Had that message read ‘No’, pop cultural history could possibly have been quite different. In a very roundabout way, this seems to me one of the problems the Leave campaigners have had in the Referendum wars that have resumed following a moment’s pause for Jo Cox.

No, Out or Leave as Brexit buzzwords can’t help but come across as negatives, the linguistic equivalents of the pub bore bemoaning everything new or innovative, forever giving the thumbs down and dragging the drinkers down with him. True, one could also attach positive attributes to No, Out or Leave; they could represent the teenager preparing to fly the family nest, stand on his own two feet and take control of his own destiny despite a smothering mother wanting him to stay; but the overall feeling I’m getting from the message of Brexit is not one that inspires positivity.

A great deal of the pro-Leave propaganda, certainly online, appears to emanate from very angry people, some of whom are old enough to have voted No in 1975, and who have had a bee in their bonnet about Europe ever since the vote went against them 41 years ago. By comparison, the most passionate advocates of Remain within social media outlets would appear to be mostly those who weren’t even a twinkle in the milkman’s son’s eye at the time of the EEC Referendum, and they don’t exhibit quite the same frothing-at-the-mouth fanaticism emanating from the most vociferous of the Brexit brigade.

I once heard it said that Britain was more or less offered governance of the embryonic Common Market in the 1950s, but spurned the opportunity to sit at the head of the European table because it was still too attached to the remnants of the Empire and was more concerned with gracefully bowing out of its colonial commitments than focusing its attention closer to home. That may or may not be true – and I would imagine French historians would probably dispute it; but it does perhaps reflect the half-hearted nature of our relationship with our Continental cousins. Not belonging to the Eurozone and not adopting the Euro is something that underlines a consistency running throughout our 44-year European adventure. We have always had one foot in and one foot out. But it’s possible this has been to our overall advantage since 1972.

Nigel Farage’s determination in constantly reducing the debate to the solitary subject of immigration, and proudly standing beside that dubious poster, has only reinforced his one-trick pony reputation and seems to have put the brakes on the progress of the Brexit horse that was racing ahead of Remain this time last week. With big business and big names on the Remain side lining-up to sing the praises of EU membership, Leave has been painted as the true voice of ‘the little people’, the choice of the brave and the bold outsider; but if Leave is presented as the ‘radical’ option, this could well prove to be its undoing, as the British are by nature a conservative people who are more likely to stick with the status quo than venture into the unknown.

Yes, we have a proud record of radicals and rebels throughout our history, but these tend to be isolated individuals rather than representative of the masses. A maverick such as Farage is in many respects a liability to the Leave campaign; but so skilled is he at generating headlines that it’s been hard for the less incendiary members of the Brexit persuasion to overshadow his rapacious capacity for publicity. Farage is the first pupil in the class that the new teacher gets to know the name of because he’s incapable of shutting up.

Initially, it was the Remain camp that appeared to be alienating public opinion with their pathetic insistence on horror stories, something that had relented a little until Gideon’s own-goal last week; but whether or not the tasteless threat of an emergency austerity budget will do for them what Farage’s billboard could do for the opposition remains to be seen – for the next couple of days, anyway. Farage’s accusation that Remain have exploited the death of Jo Cox for political gain may have a grain of truth to it, but evoking her name so soon after re-boarding a campaign express momentarily derailed by her shocking murder might prove to be another mistimed comment in a campaign that has had its fair share of them on both sides.

Tonight we have the grand finale of what has been a largely ineffective series of TV debates, and one that promises to be the most ludicrously showbizzy of the lot, staged at Wembley Arena. I envisage a cross between a rock concert and a Billy Graham rally and I doubt a single viewer still undecided will probably be persuaded either way. As things stand, just 48 hours from polling day, I’ve a distinct feeling the public are slowly edging away from Brexit. But don’t quote me on that. I’m not a betting man.

© The Editor

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BRING OUT YOUR DEAD

ScumSomebody somewhere is probably running a sweepstake as we speak, taking bets on which household name will be next to kick the bucket in 2016. Were I a betting man, I’d wager Bruce Forsyth is a good candidate. He’s 88, after all; and recent reports suggest his health isn’t exactly blooming. Should, God forbid, Brucie bite the bullet before the year is out, one doesn’t exactly require a degree in rocket science to predict the media response when he goes.

News bulletins will make the announcement of his passing the lead story. We’ll be served up a montage of his best bits stitched together by a television obituary editor four or five years ago, encompassing ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium’, ‘The Generation Game’, ‘Play Your Cards Right’, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, and – if we’re lucky – a rare glimpse of the legendary car-crash that was ‘Bruce’s Big Night’, the show that persuaded viewers going out was preferable to an evening in front of the TV set. After this, we’ll be treated to a couple of special tribute programmes on both BBC1 and ITV, featuring talking heads rhapsodising about how great Brucie was, even though he was still alive and kicking when they were asked to discuss him in the past tense.

To be honest, this has been the pattern when famous faces snuff it for decades, and the whole coverage will be rounded off by footage of a service in honour of Brucie’s memory on the news, one where spotting decrepit old entertainers arriving at the church will at some point be accompanied by a ‘I thought they were dead’ comment. However, there’s a new element to the passing of national treasures now. Barely will the soil have settled beneath the headstone before a previously silent voice from the past will emerge onto the same front pages that praised Brucie a couple of months before, declaring Brucie groped/raped/molested/murdered them in the 70s.

Rather uniquely, Brucie was captured on camera having a shifty squeeze of a middle-aged lady’s ample bosom on a 1972-ish edition of ‘The Generation Game’. The original uncut version may well still be on YouTube somewhere, but it’s here in this spoof; if your stomach can’t take the foul-mouthed festival that precedes it, fast forward to 13:42…

Now, of course, I am in no way suggesting the still-living Bruce Forsyth was a child-raping Satanic sexual deviant or that he in any way had a hand in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann when he was at the peak of his popularity; I’ll leave that kind of speculation to the Survivors™, the Victims™, the Mail and the Express, ITV’s documentary department, and the ambulance-chasing law-firms that will all have a vested interest in such flights of fancy once he’s been banished to that great game show studio in the sky. Besides, they’re too busy at the moment unburdening their bladders on other graves down here whilst TV archivists spend yet more exhausting hours hacking their way through old programmes to remove the presence of any newly-classified perverts.

It was interesting that the widow of the late Clement Freud should issue an ‘apology’ to those who were apparently exposed to his alleged sexual perversions, as though to do so was a pre-emptive response to evade Sonia Sutcliffe-style accusations heading in her direction. Of course, what happens next is out of her hands and will never be in them. Her late husband’s long life, career and reputation have been trashed overnight and – until the distant day when the sun can be sighted hovering over our dark horizon – permanently. The fresh-from-therapy accusers are, naturally, telling the truth; the police are, naturally, taking these accusations seriously (probably regarding them as ‘credible and true’); and everyone on social media bar those prepared to be showered in a barrage of bile must accept the consensus that one more dead man whose wit, intelligence and bewildering array of talents are utterly at odds with the comfy mediocrity of the present day was a despicable pervert who got away with murder for decades because his POWER condemned those who suffered at his hands to a silence that was only broken by the secure knowledge that the dead can’t sue and the living will pay handsomely for a good sob story.

Show me the next deceased celeb, and I’ll show you the next retrospective Paedo. Place your bets now.


GEORGE THE TURD

TwatWith polls giving the Brexit camp a lead over the Remain brigade, a day when Nigel Farage and Bob Geldof exchanged certain highly apt hand gestures at each other from competing battle barges on the Thames has seen Gideon pull out his most laughable threat yet in the ongoing saga of Project Fear. The Chancellor promises an ‘austerity budget’ is being prepared should the electorate go against his wishes, punishing the people if they dare to vote leave. So, the school bully who has joined his fellow scaremongers in promising billions will suddenly shower down on all the public services he’s spent the past six years dismantling and destroying with such ruthless relish and callous disregard is now taking control of the impending apocalypse by planning to bring about a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This is perhaps the clearest indication yet that with barely one week to go to Euro D Day, the Remain team are getting increasingly desperate. Any further despicable gimmicks on this scale and more and more don’t-knows are not going to view staying in the EU as a viable alternative to leaving it. If George Osborne’s gamble backfires, part of me hopes it spells the end for him more than it spells the end for Britain’s membership of a club that couldn’t be more unattractive if it was run by Peter Stringfellow. The way things are going Osborne could well prove to be Brexit’s greatest asset, the nauseating little slimeball.

© The Editor

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ALWAYS THE QUIET ONES…

UntitledWho’d have thought it? Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, arch-advocate of cutting benefits to the bone for the best part of a decade, has resigned on the pretext that the cuts to disability benefits proposed by the Chancellor in the Budget went too far. Yes, you heard right. I know it sounds about as plausible as Nick Griffin regarding Oswald Mosley as someone who was a bit extreme, but that’s what ‘the quiet man’ said in his resignation letter as he walked out of the Cabinet.

George Osborne had again exhibited his charmless talent for embodying the Nasty Party mantle that continues to plague the Conservatives when unveiling this week’s Budget. This time – surprise, surprise – the recipients of his purse-string-pruning belonged to one of the few sections of society that he and his spivvy cronies can’t make a profit from: the sick and the disabled. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one whose memories of a ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’ sketch spoofing Chancellor Geoffrey Howe were evoked, the one where he announces taxes on wheelchairs, white sticks and guide-dogs, adding ‘I am deliberately targeting those who can’t fight back’. So far, so predictable – but wait! There are actually some Tories sitting in the House who didn’t endorse his proposed disability benefit cuts, some who don’t fit the born-to-rule profile, some who are decent constituency MPs concerned that the wrong people are being punished again, some who are even threatening to stage a backbench rebellion if Gideon attempts to force the measure through Parliament.

The backtracking has already begun, barely 48 hours after Osborne proclaimed the policy with his customary brand of misanthropic smugness; Education Minister Nicky Morgan – wearer of a curious expression that implies she’s being permanently goosed – has hastily stepped in to declare that Osborne’s Personal Independence Payment cuts were ‘just a suggestion’. Of course, Gideon has been here before – just last year, as a matter of fact. Remember his attempts to slash £4 billion from Working Tax Credits? That’s the one that was famously thrown out by the Lords and resulted in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement being dominated by the humiliating abandonment of the idea. And if that concept was regarded as an attack on David Cameron’s favourite standby of ‘hard-working families’, how will this latest example of Osborne’s arrogance and conceit blinding him to his own miscalculations be welcomed?

One would expect the Opposition to oppose Osborne’s idea; it’s their job to do so, after all. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the Chancellor and his party of waging war on the disabled, but I doubt anybody would have anticipated less. However, the fury of disability campaigners – 25 charities have wasted little time in composing a joint letter asking the Government to think again – seems to be complemented by an unexpectedly sympathetic response to their concerns from within the Conservative Party itself.

Iain Duncan Smith, in his role as the man with whom the buck stops when it comes to benefit cuts, has responded to Osborne’s plans by suddenly agreeing with anyone in possession of a heart. ‘I have for some time,’ he writes, ‘and rather reluctantly come to believe that the latest changes to benefits to the disabled, and the context in which they’ve been made, are a compromise too far.’ For a man who has already overseen more than £30 billion cuts to the welfare budget to exit government on such a pretext sounds a bit rich, yet Duncan Smith goes on to cite the unfairness of a Budget that benefits higher-earners and penalises those at the bottom. He knows he would have been in the firing line had these cuts been implemented and he also knows his position as a long-term Euro-Sceptic, in direct opposition to Osborne, would have rendered his post even more intolerable at such a politically perilous moment for Britain’s EU membership. Iain Duncan Smith has ironically quit on a day when Cameron and Osborne have quickly distanced themselves from these controversial proposals, but the fact that the quiet man hasn’t gone quietly is further evidence of Tory tensions as the EU Referendum edges closer.

For all IDS’s apparent U-turn on benefit cuts, one cannot but see this resignation in the context of the Brexit issue. It colours everything in Tory circles right now. One could even be cynical – perish the thought! – and suggest the backbenchers who oppose Osborne’s plans might just be doing so because Gideon represents the anti-Brexit faction and they’re making the most of every opportunity to give him a bloody nose.

George Osborne has gleefully promoted himself as the main man in the Remain camp along with scaremongering Dave, yet he increasingly seems to be going further out on a limb in a party that can call on some of its most prominent heavyweights to sell the opposing message. Another Budget cock-up is the last thing Gideon needed; that it has resulted in the voluntary exit of a man he hoped would deflect the vitriol of disability campaigners away from him is an additional blow that doesn’t bode well for his Prime Ministerial ambitions. If that’s the case, I suspect there won’t be a moist eye in the House.

© The Editor

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