On yer bike, Duncan Smith

Work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is a weak link in the Tory cabinet (for that is what it is). He is neither as clever as he thinks he is, nor as clever as he needs to be. Both of which he is too stupid to realise. He is a series of accidents which are starting to happen.

John Healey and Ed Balls are not perfect either. But they are not stupid. Forensic scrutiny of and relentless pressure on IDS, married with the hubristic arrogance of the man, will be repaid with an early scalp.

This government will go the distance. This secretary of state will not.

John Healey has written this piece over at LabourHome.

And below is the transcript of Ed Balls’ interview with Colin Brazier on Sky News yesterday morning:

COLIN BRAZIER:? This morning’s newspapers suggest that Lib Dem support has been battered by the budget, in particular the party’s support for a VAT rise to 20%. So does that falling off represent an opportunity for Labour politicians who hope to lead their movement back from the electoral wilderness. Well one of the hopefuls of course is Ed Balls who joins us from Morley in West Yorkshire. Ed Balls, a very good morning to you, delighted to have you on the show. Let’s talk about the Sunday Telegraph interview with Iain Duncan Smith, he is suggesting that in terms of getting the long term unemployed, particularly those who live on council estates on generations of welfare, they need to be more flexible in how they view work and where they are prepared to go to get it. Do you endorse or criticise that idea?

ED BALLS:? Well I think it’s important to understand what he is really saying. As far as I can see he is saying he is not going to be trying to get more jobs into those high unemployment areas. In fact the budget last week cut job support, cut support for investment through the Regional Development Agencies. What he is saying, a bit like what Norman Tebbit said in the 1980s is ‘get on your bike, move and find a job elsewhere’ but he is going slightly further than Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit went because he is saying first of all, to people in high employment areas which are more affluent, if you are living in social housing he is saying we are going to get you out of your homes to make space and he is saying to people in the high unemployment areas, we’re going to encourage you – but I have to say it looks like ‘make you move’ because we know last week the budget said they would cut housing benefit for people that are out of work for more than a year and the remarks in the interview today suggest he is thinking of taking away the housing tenure, the right to a social house for people in unemployment areas and saying you have got to move. So actually he goes further than on your bike, it is actually ‘on your bike and lose your home’ and that seems to be profoundly unfair and the wrong way to deal with the unemployment problem.

COLIN BRAZIER:? I have just seen Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, walk behind our camera so we will get to talk to him in the studio in just a second and I’ll put that point on the coercion question to him directly very shortly but on the point of, one of the points here surely is within the private sector now, we all remember the 1980s, certainly I grew up in the north in the 1980s, there just wasn’t the work there so the idea of getting on your bike to find the work had limited value because the jobs weren’t there. Arguably now that situation has changed and certainly in the private sector there is this expectation, rightly or wrongly, that if you want to get on you have to show the most extraordinary mobility and flexibility, move with certain jobs every six months, up the family and on it goes. There will be those who say look, if you are stuck in a cycle of dependency, you have to embrace some of those attitudes. What’s wrong with that?

ED BALLS: ?Look, of course that’s right and that’s why we say to people that if you are offered a job, then you have to take that job and you can’t just say no to that, I’ll stay on benefit. But what we are seeing here from Iain Duncan Smith is he is not saying lets get jobs into the high unemployment areas like Labour did in the last ten years which saw the rise in employment in Yorkshire and my constituency. In fact they are cutting the support for work, they are cutting the youth jobs fund, they are cutting the Regional Development Agencies …

COLIN BRAZIER:? And they are cutting Corporation Tax making it easier for businesses to survive and prosper there.

ED BALLS:? Come on, they are raising VAT and cutting spending massively this year which all the serious economists say is going to put jobs at risk and threatens to plunge us back into a second dip recession. It is not just unfair, it is bad for jobs and what’s Iain Duncan Smith’s response to that? To cut housing benefit for the unemployed, say get on your bike and if you are not willing to get on your bike I’ll take away your right to a house as well and to try and throw people out of their homes in high employment areas where to be honest the issue is that there aren’t enough houses and we need to be building more houses, the very things that the Conservatives and Liberals are going to be cutting. So I am afraid this is back to the 1980s, there is this idea that somehow the only solution to unemployment is to cut benefits and say to people, ‘go and do it for yourself’. We know that that just doesn’t work, what it will be is profoundly unfair to people in higher unemployment areas. We want to be investing and supporting the recovery, not hijacking the recovery through massive spending cuts and a big rise in VAT while cutting child benefit, support for pensioners and support for the unemployed. It is back to the 1980s to be honest.

COLIN BRAZIER:? Well you want to take us back to the 1970s don’t you? You want to impose a 50p tax rate for anybody earning more than £100,000.

ED BALLS:? Listen, what I don’t want to do this year is see taxes going up or spending cut, I think that will be the wrong thing to do, I think it puts jobs at risk but what I said yesterday is if there is an issue of raising taxes and the choice is a VAT rise which is the only tax paid by the unemployed and pensioners, which the Liberal Democrats ruled out in the election and now they are raising, or to have the top rate of tax at 50% starting at £100,000 rather than £150,000 I think that would be a much, much fairer thing to do. I think that would have widespread support compared to this VAT hike which is very unfair, very regressive and even though George Osborne and Nick Clegg tried to claim last week the budget was fair, when the Institute for Fiscal Studies looked at it they said the budget measures hit the poorest hardest. I think the top rate of tax which Labour introduced at £150,000 was a much fairer way to go with the National Insurance rise and if we have to raise taxes I would rather the top rate was starting at £100,000 rather than hitting people hard on the lowest incomes.

COLIN BRAZIER:? Well those budget measures seem to have hit the Liberal Democrats quite hard as well, some polling I think conducted by Ed Miliband isn’t it or at least in conjunction with Ed Miliband at his behest, has suggested that Nick Clegg’s ratings have plummeted and there seems to be a direct cause and effect link between the VAT rise which the coalition has put through and that has to represent a fantastic opportunity for Labour challengers like you.

ED BALLS:? Sure, well the poll that Ed Miliband paid for, for the Observer, certainly shows what I have been saying for the last couple of weeks is that Liberal Democrats are profoundly worried about this VAT rise, that in the election campaign Nick Clegg in Sheffield said ‘vote Liberal to stop the Tories’ and he said ‘stop the VAT bombshell’ and Nick Clegg has come in to power with the Tories and he has delivered the VAT bombshell. I was on television with Vince Cable a few days ago, I thought he was deeply uncomfortable about the situation that he and other Liberal Democrats have found themselves in. They are doing all the things now they said were dangerous, were risky, were unfair and I think it puts the Liberal Democrats as a party in a very difficult position. Do they go with Nick Clegg who is basically now saying he is a centre right politician, a Liberal of the cut the state variety, or do they stand where we all thought they stood, or at least most of them as a party, which is on the side of fairness and of supporting jobs? I think this is a crisis for the Liberal Democrats and these polls just show the extent of the problem that they now face as a political party.

COLIN BRAZIER:? Just a final question on a completely unrelated subject, a story in the Observer today, also in the Observer today, it’s a fairly lighthearted story but I guess it would have been very serious for you at the time if things had happened rather differently. You admit to leaving a copy of some of the briefing notes, very sensitive documents surrounding I think it was the 2009 pre budget report in a school classroom. Easy to look back and say it all turned out all right but, my goodness, that could have been very serious. What happened???ED BALLS:?Of course in the 1940s when Hugh Dalton briefed the budget deliberately to the Evening Standard he ended up resigning and I was asked what was my most worrying moment. I was at a parents evening a couple of days before the pre-budget report, put some papers down, had the discussion about my son’s education, got home and suddenly realised I’d done it, rushed back to the school. Luckily they were still there, sitting there …

COLIN BRAZIER:? What if somebody had faxed it all to the Yorkshire Post, what would you have done then?

ED BALLS:? This is the reality of politics. You look back and think, there but for the grace of God go I. We all in politics have had those moments and the important thing is to look back and think, well that was a mistake and make sure you don’t do it again. Luckily no harm came that time because they were exactly where I’d left them in a file and they hadn’t been opened but the Observer was asking about our difficult moments and that was what I said. They also asked us about our best moments and I said to be there with Prince Charles launching an appeal for stammering children, to have a centre up here in the north of England in Leeds and Bradford was my best and most important moment so there are great moments in politics and sometimes moments when your heart sinks and my heart sunk that day.

COLIN BRAZIER:? Okay, Ed Balls, nice to talk to you, thanks a lot.

ED BALLS: ?Cheers, Colin.

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One Response to “On yer bike, Duncan Smith”

  1. Peter L.Griffiths says:

    Duncan Smith’s proposals ignore the fact that peace time unemployment is largely caused by improved productive devices replacing labour. In recognition of this, all adult members of society should be given an untaxed housing benefit which could be partly financed by abolishing the personal tax allowance.

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