POLITICAL careers often have a second act, but seldom a third or fourth, the reason for which became all too apparent yesterday when former Tory leader and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith sought to enter the fray once more.
Duncan Smith, who quit as work and pensions secretary earlier this year in what many saw as an unsuccessful attempt to position himself as a key figure in the toxic Brexit debate, resurfaced yesterday to criticise, of all things, welfare cuts.
The former cabinet member — whose tenure was widely seen as an utter fiasco, marked by repeated cock-ups and delays hitting the implementation of his universal credit programme and his department’s spectacular failure to balance the books — attacked government plans to slash billions of pounds from the scheme.
The Tory backbencher, who vanished overnight from the public consciousness with his resignation from the cabinet, seized on the pledge made by Prime Minister Theresa May on the steps of No 10 Downing Street to help people who are “just about managing” and called on the government to channel investment into the in-work benefit.
His comments were timed to coincide with the publication of a report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a think tank chaired by Duncan Smith, which suggests that three million claimants of universal credit will be £1,000 a year poorer by the time the scheme has fully replaced working tax credit in 2022.
Duncan Smith introduced the controversial universal credit scheme as part of reforms to combine the income-based employment support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credits and housing benefit, despite critics warning that it would have a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable in society.
Responding to Duncan Smith’s comments, shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “Even the man who introduced the Tories’ cruel and ineffective social security reforms is backing Labour’s call for the government to reverse these nasty cuts to work incentives in the social security system.
“The Tories claimed they wanted to make work pay but then slashed the budget of universal credit, leaving 2.5 million working families on average £2,100 worse off. Labour is calling for the full reversal of these damaging cuts, to restore the principle that work always pays.”