THE vulture licks his wounds as he sits on a rock. Perhaps he is sulking but it is hard to tell with vultures. He hops closer to his friend, another vulture naturally enough, and says: “It was never meant to be like this. I only wanted to help the poor stricken creatures – not strip them to the bone.
“I told him this plan wasn’t right but he wouldn’t listen. That vulture never listens to anyone, even his own kind. He’s a rule unto himself and all he thinks of is his scheme to become King of the Vultures. Look – I’m a vulture, I understand vultures, but really this was just too much.”
“Yes,” says the other vulture. He’s heard all this before and wonders how many more times it will bear saying.
But the first vulture has no intention of stopping. As he likes to tell people, you underestimate a quiet vulture at your peril. “I couldn’t just sit there and passively watch while all this went on – I had to act, I had to do something. All I ever wanted to do was to help people.”
The other vulture hops from one foot to the other, usually a sign of embarrassment in a vulture. “But I thought all these plans were basically your idea.”
“Oh, don’t you start,” the first vulture says, flapping off in the air to go and sulk elsewhere…
So Iain Duncan Smith has gone, resigned as work and pensions secretary in the row over cuts to disability benefits. In his resignation letter, he said that he disagreed with the cuts to personal independence payments which were a “compromise too far”.
There are, I guess, a number of complexions to his departure – the biggest resignation David Cameron has suffered in his time as prime minister. Personal and political differences with chancellor George Osborne are said to have been part of the problem for IDS – an acronym that always sounds too close to a medical complaint for comfort. In his sod-off letter, he pointedly attacked the notion that “we’re all in this together”, that shabbiest of Osborne mantras. He said that the “fiscal self-imposed restraints” – that’ll be the cuts – are “more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national interest”. This is true, but surely should have been apparent to Duncan Smith a long time ago.
His resignation poses a problem to those of us who have gone out of our way to dislike the man. If he has departed on a moral point; if he is stepping down to protest at cuts affecting disabled people – does that make him a better person than we thought?
Tricky, but I’ll say no to that one. Duncan Smith has been a long-time member of the Tory Vulture Club, so it seems a bit rich to loudly proclaim his disagreements now. His differences with the Treasury were a mostly private matter before, and now they are written in the headlines – and making the stuff of Tory nightmares.
But he did go along with many cuts and changes, and indeed was their chief architect, so his protests ring a little hollow – and sound self-serving. Personality comes into this too, and Duncan Smith has always seemed to be thin-skinned with the air of being one shake away from an explosion.
The consensus seems to be that the EU vote has something to do with this, too – as Duncan Smith is anti-Europe and firmly on the opposite side to Cameron and Osborne. This illustrates that Europe remains a toxic issue for the Conservatives, especially now that Duncan Smith has lit a long fuse to a new bomb.
As for George Osborne and his budgetary boastfulness, his plans seem to be unravelling fast, with the government indicating a climb-down on the cuts to disability benefits even before IDS flew off to sit on that rock and witness the chaos he had caused.