Iain Duncan Smith's dramatic resignation adds insult to injury for chancellor George Osborne

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Iain Duncan Smith Appears On The Andrew Marr Show
The former work and pensions secretary resigned on Friday (Source: Getty)

A senior politician toured the broadcast studios on Sunday morning, accusing the government of presiding over “deeply unfair” policies and “drifting in a direction that divides society rather than unites it". This blistering attack wasn't launched by a fired-up Jeremy Corbyn but by a man who, just 48 hours previously, had been a senior member of the Cabinet.

In this context, it's hard to see Iain Duncan Smith's resignation as anything other than remarkable. He has devoted the past 12 years to the pursuit of social justice. His reforming zeal attracted plenty of criticism but while his methods can be questioned, his motives should not be.

His policies have often proved controversial but nobody could preside over (let alone reform) a system that accounts for around a third of all government expenditure without making enemies.

The mission he set himself was often a lonely one. Duncan Smith has never seen himself as part of Project Cameron, and certainly not as part of Project Osborne. He would routinely make this point by standing under the public gallery in the Commons, rather than taking his place on the front bench during Prime Minister's Questions.

Read more: Tories forced to abandon controversial welfare cuts as IDS lashes out

Relations with the chancellor started badly and got worse. Osborne viewed the welfare budget with cool calculation and deficit reduction in mind, whereas Duncan Smith saw reform as a moral crusade with savings as a beneficial byproduct. This fundamentally different perspective is the context for the former Tory leader's dramatic resignation, but the move was also laced with political calculation.

Friends of Duncan Smith say that his departing broadside against the chancellor effectively scuppered Osborne's leadership ambitions. In truth, it would be hasty to dump your shares in Osborne just yet.

What is clear, though, is that Duncan Smith's resignation served as a powerful aftershock to a chancellor already destabilised by the fallout from a less than successful Budget.

Osborne remains a powerful figure, and will likely remain chancellor for as long as he wants the job, but not for the first time his credibility (and by extension, his authority) is now at stake. Duncan Smith may add insult to injury, but the injuries are largely self-inflicted.

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