The fallout from Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation at the weekend has been felt far and wide in Westminster and Whitehall. Newspaper headlines have speculated at great length whether the cuts to disability payments were the actual reason for his resignation and whether he was strongly encouraged to leave by the Chancellor.
Despite Labour’s best efforts, by tabling an Urgent Question and constant and regular media comments, they do not really seem to be causing the Government and in particularly the Treasury an enormous headache. Osborne didn’t feel the need to come to the House yesterday (although he has taken the unusual step to close the Budget debate today) and if you scan the opinion pieces in today’s press there are as many column inches devoted to the Opposition’s poor performance as to the confusion, u-turns and general mismanagement of the Government. George Osborne is used to poor media coverage and has ridden out these kinds of storms on many an occasion previously.
Opposition parties generally find it hard to attack incumbent administrations without the press support. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997, the Tories failed to make any dents despite sticky situations surrounding F1 advertising, the Hinduja passport scandal and Peter Mandelson’s multiple resignations from Government. The Tories really only started to make headway when the Labour party’s fortunes took a turn for the worse with the dodgy dossier on Iraq and Brown’s uninspiring premiership.
Could we say the media are in fact a more effective opposition to Government, that the SNP are making the most of the Government’s misfortunes, or if the Labour Party had a different Leader or Shadow Chancellor could they be making greater waves? That is of course, the $64million question and one which we cannot answer. But there is a strong possibility that the poor performance of Labour’s key figures will precipitate a leadership challenge. Frankly if the Labour party cannot make hay during such a torrid time for the Tories, when will they?