Toxic Reforms, Tory Toffs and Europe... But We’ll Never Know The Whole Story of IDS’ Resignation.
"The whole story will never be known and it's just as well that it won' t be."
The speaker was a rueful President John F. Kennedy, the listener his press secretary Pierre Salinger. And "the whole story”? Well that was how, exactly, Lyndon Johnson ended up on the ticket as Kennedy's running mate back in 1961.
The full story was never told. Doesn't sound like Marquess of Queensberry rules though, does it?
Now we cross the Atlantic and move forward two decades in time. On arrival, in 1984, we find Alan Clark, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Employment, writing to Ian Gow, Minister for Housing.
"It is an awkward thing to say, other than to those one can trust, but policies are neither determined or evolved on a simple assessement of National or even Party interest. Personal motives, ambition mischief making, a view to possible obligations and opportunities in the future - sometimes raw vindictiveness - all come into it."
Here we have two dispatches from the front line which tell us, even if we don't want to hear, how much of top-level politics really works.
Now let's get right up to date and consider Ian Duncan Smith.
He did the hard yards, that boy, cat-herding the fractious, enfeebled and frankly often somewhat ridiculous post-Thatcher, post-Major Tory party as leader in the wilderness. The poor man's tenure was sandwiched between William "Tory Boy" Hague's and Michael "Something of the Night about him" Howard's, for heaven's sake.
Would you want to be the meat in that sandwich?
And in light of the two political tales above, how is IDS really supposed to feel about two fast-tracked Tory toffs, Cameron and Osborne, whom he probably used to send out for sandwiches when he was leader and they were "researchers", getting the glittering prizes?
Whatever, he felt he was a principled and honest soldier, even when asked to dance along the third-rail of politics. That's what welfare is called, for the conventional wisdom is that if you touch it you die.
To his credit IDS spent years not dying, and doing his best - with plenty of public support - to get a grip on the scourge of multi-generation unemployment and its horrific scrapheap of pointless, wasted lives. And he tried to do it as fairly, and gently as he could, too, often with scant help from Number 11 Downing Street. But no one could stand that beat forever, even with the support of his bosses, which by repute IDS was losing.
Stuck with his name on the government's most toxic reforms, penned in by an Oxbridge cabal from a younger generation and at clear odds with the leadership, but not the party, over Europe.
It's a miracle that the Quiet Man stayed quiet for as long as he did.
About the author
Born and raised in Swansea West, one of the safest Labour seats in the country, David is perhaps unsurprisingly a High-Tory, Euroskeptic Royalist Libertarian with an unhealthy adoration for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. As a result he is seldom pleased by anything that ever happens, and always on the verge of quitting the whole jamboree. A former Special Writer at the Wall Street Journal, he knew the crash was coming when he saw a piece about Louis XVI reproduction furniture "for your Winnebago."
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