ShareThis Page
World

Rift in Britain's ruling Conservative Party deepens

| Sunday, March 20, 2016, 7:45 p.m.

LONDON — The rift within Britain's government deepened Sunday, as a prominent minister who resigned over plans to cut benefits for the disabled said the ruling party risks dividing the country if it doesn't spread the pain of economic austerity across all segments of society.

Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC that Prime Minister David Cameron's government has become too focused on cutting welfare for working age people as it seeks to balance the budget without looking for savings in other areas, such as state pensions. Duncan Smith, who resigned late Friday, said he decided to leave after the latest benefit cuts were “juxtaposed” with tax breaks for the better off.

“The truth is, yes, we need to get the deficit down, but we need to make sure we widen the scope of where we look to get that deficit down,” he said. “Because otherwise it just looks like we see (welfare) as a pot of money — that it doesn't matter because they don't vote for us.”

Duncan Smith's resignation as work and pensions secretary laid bare escalating tensions among the Conservatives before a June 23 referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union. Duncan Smith, a former party leader nicknamed the “quiet man” of British politics, is a leading advocate of leaving the EU, while Cameron supports continued membership.

Britain's famously vigorous press swung into action Sunday, trying to explain Duncan Smith's departure and asking whether Treasury chief George Osborne had gone too far with his cost-cutting program. “Tory Party at War as IDS Allies Slam Immoral Cuts,” wrote The Observer, using Duncan Smith's initials. “Knives Out For Osborne in Tory Backlash,” said the Sunday Telegraph.

Pensions Minister Ros Altmann said she believes Duncan Smith resigned because of the EU referendum, not because of the government's welfare policies. By the time he resigned, it was clear the government was going to reconsider the cuts, she said.

“He seems to want to do maximum damage to the party leadership in order to further his campaign to try to get Britain to leave the EU,” Altmann said. “As far as I could tell, he appeared to spend much of the last few months plotting over Europe and against the leadership of the party, and it seemed to me he had been planning to find a reason to resign for a long time.”

Duncan Smith vigorously denied such suggestions, saying he wants the “government to think again” about policies that will cut $48 billion a year from welfare spending by 2020.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me