The Tories face divisions so deep that they could lead to the end of this brutal government.
Former welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation on Friday of last week threw a hand grenade into the centre of the cabinet room.
Tory MPs from different factions then spent days openly denouncing their opponents inside the party.
After chancellor George Osborne’s “omnishambles” budget of 2012, the Tories resolved never to make such dangerous mistakes again. They have now done much worse, with some Tory MPs dubbing this an “Ozzyshambles” budget (see box, right).
The Daily Mail newspaper’s headline on Monday of this week was “Civil war engulfs Tories”.
The Sun newspaper’s Trevor Kavanagh wrote, “David Cameron is fighting for his life. George Osborne is already dead meat.”
Osborne was previously hot favourite to be the next Conservative leader, and the central economic figure in the bosses’ campaign to stay in the EU.
Now he is a shrunken and damaged figure, vulnerable to his internal enemies.
Duncan Smith said he was resigning because the budget cut benefits to disabled people as the rich were pampered with tax cuts.
Yet his resignation letter began, “I’m incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the government has delivered over the past five years.”
He did not object to the latest cuts in the pre-budget cabinet. And his department issued news of the cuts a week before the budget.
Less than a year after their election “triumph” the Tories are tearing themselves apart.
All the strikers and campaigners who defied the Tories for the last six years played a part in the government’s present distress.
The resistance has not been so widespread or so sustained that it could block and break Cameron.
Yet it made the Tories’ task more difficult.
Large sections of people have always seen their austerity as class-driven inhumanity.
But the central reason for Duncan Smith’s resignation was splits over the European Union (EU).
These splits are rooted in the stagnant British economy and ruling class uncertainty about how best to make profit.
Europe makes every grudge into a screaming match for the Tories.
Duncan Smith is for leaving the EU. He is in a small but outspoken minority in the cabinet, and knew he would probably be purged after the referendum.
The side that loses the EU referendum on 23 June will be bitter and resentful towards the victorious side.
The Tories have been rowing over Europe for more than
25 years, and they are not going to stop now.
Nor is the economy going to blossom so that everyone just forgets about the austerity assaults.
The Tory splits will not heal easily.
Stephen Crabb—a new bigot enters the cabinet
Iain Duncan Smith’s replacement as welfare cutter is Stephen Crabb.
Crabb is connected to a fundamentalist Christian group that opposes LGBT+ equality and promotes the idea that lesbians and gays can be “cured”.
The Christian Action Research and Education charity (Care) once co-sponsored a conference that looked at “therapeutic approaches to same-sex attraction”.
Care was condemned in 2012 and a number of other MPS cut their links with it.
But Crabb—who started his career as a Care intern—did not.
Crabb has also voted against equal marriage.
And he has aligned himself with the charity’s intended aim of tightening the laws on abortion.
Osborne crashes and burns
George Osborne’s budget crashed even before it was presented to the House of Commons.
New welfare secretary Stephen Crabb was humiliatingly forced to say that proposed cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) would be withdrawn.
Yet the £4 billion cuts appeared in the budget documents as hard facts.
The Tories now say they don’t intend to plug the gap in the budget until the Autumn Statement—in seven months time.
The government also accepted two Labour budget amendments—on the tampon tax and a tax on solar panels—for fear of defeat.
Crabb even suggested the six-year assault on welfare spending was at an end and there would be no more proposals for such cuts.
Although of course the present cuts will remain.
The budget, a central part of the government’s formal economic policy, has evaporated in just 48 hours.
Now Osborne has to go—and all the austerity measures with him.