The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) former chief, sometimes known as the ‘grim reaper‘, could be in for a bit of a shock. The man in question is Iain Duncan Smith (IDS). And the Labour Party has selected a potentially winning candidate to stand against him in the next general election.
The DWP: up against class
act as a centre for left debate and discussion. Originating in the labour movement, CLASS works with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies…
CLASS seeks to shape ideas that can inspire the left, cement a broad alliance of social forces and influence policy development to ensure the political agenda is on the side of working people.
So as a director of CLASS, Shaheen would seem like the perfect candidate to go up against IDS.
IDS: his notoriety precedes him
The former DWP chief is notorious, and not for good reasons. In the past two years, there have been five international reports accusing the DWP and successive governments of breaching various legal agreements. These breaches impacted on the human rights of sick and disabled people and those on welfare. Much of the international organisations’ criticisms, including those of the UN, centred on the Welfare Reform Act 2012 which IDS pushed through.
Specifically, in November 2016, the UN accused the DWP and successive governments of committing “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. It said the Welfare Reform Act breached set international conventions on disabled people’s rights. The UN also noted that the reform “had a more negative impact on households with persons with disabilities”.
Unseating IDS could be viewed as only removing a former cog in the wheel of the DWP and Conservative welfare reform machine. But the loss of his influence within the system may prove to be crucial.
A major upset
As the founder of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), IDS and this thinktank were central to welfare policy formation [pdf, p4] within the Conservative Party. A lot of its work was done prior to the Conservative election in 2010. As a report by the Institute for Government noted [pdf, p5], IDS and the CSJ:
were the instigators behind Universal Credit. However, their direct involvement in Conservative policy making goes back to 2005 when Duncan Smith, and through him CSJ, was engaged by the Conservatives to run a policy review looking at social justice policy more widely. It was partly as a result of that work… that the CSJ started to look in depth at the feasibility and options for simplifying the benefits system.
If you want someone/something to blame for the Universal Credit chaos, IDS and the CSJ are your people. Shaheen standing against the former DWP chief could cause a significant upset for the Conservatives. And it could also be a victory for everyone who has been cruelly impacted by his and his former department’s policies.