One of Britain’s senior-most cabinet ministers has resigned, jolting the David Cameron government and fuelling speculation it had more to do with the June 23 EU referendum than stated differences on new cuts announced in the budget.
Iain Duncan-Smith, one of six ministers in the Brexit camp, is a former Conservative leader and one of the big beasts in the cabinet. Known as the “quiet man”, he was responsible for the politically sensitive social security system as the works and pensions secretary.
In his biting resignation letter on Friday night, Duncan-Smith mentioned cuts announced by chancellor George Osborne in the budget, and ended by asking the Prime Minister to wonder if enough had been done to ensure “we are all in this together” – a line made famous by Cameron.
“I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest,” he wrote.
Cameron responded by saying he was “puzzled and disappointed” by the resignation, when Duncan-Smith had agreed to the budget proposals before they were announced in the House of Commons by Osborne.
Cameron said the government had agreed on Friday not to go ahead with the cuts to disability benefits that Duncan-Smith had specifically objected to, and added: “In the light of this, I am puzzled and disappointed that you have chosen to resign.”
Duncan-Smith’s is the first major resignation from the Cameron government that has dented its image since it assumed office in 2010 (as a coalition with the Liberal Democrats) and in 2015 (as a Conservative majority government).