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Iain Duncan Smith: Detoxifying the Brexit Image?

22/03/2016 09:50 GMT | Updated 22/03/2017 09:12 GMT

A general and logical consensus has emerged; one of cynicism. The consensus that sugests Iain Duncan Smith did not resign as DWP Secretary on Friday due to genuine concern about the impacts of welfare cuts, but instead resigned in order to be able to push forward his own anti-EU message, arm-in-arm with the rest of the Brexit team.

The evidence is stacking up in favour of this view, and there's more to it than first meets the eye. First, the simple concept; IDS' resignation is perhaps one of the most significant political stories of the year so far, and, furthermore, the most high profile Cabinet resignation Cameron has had to cope with as Prime Minister. Of course, this entails extensive air time and spotlight interviews (such as with Andrew Marr on Sunday) devoted to IDS. It is far more air time than he would ever have received in the run up to June's referendum than if he had conformed to the status quo. The more media platform handed to IDS, the more he will use it to his advantage in order to pursue the rhetoric of the Brexit cause. This is a theory few can argue with.

However, friend and foe of IDS alike can unite in one fact; he is an experienced and clever politician, no matter how questionable his voting record is. Becuase of this, it would be naïve to think his scheming ends with merely gaining media attention.

Take a look at the notorious politicians currently fronting the Brexit team from Cameron's Cabinet. Michael Gove, despised for his controversial education reforms; Chris Grayling, resented for his iron fist over the justice system, and then IDS himself, perhaps the most controversial of all with reams of destructive and divisive welfare policy to his name, Some of the worst Conservative austerity and social policy has come from this group of politicians, and this, no doubt, is discouraging a number of June's potential voters from supporting Brexit. Whilst the Brexit cause is still worryingly popular, the Brexit team is in desperate need of detoxifying.

IDS distancing himself from the policy that in recent years has made him so despised is a clever tactic for this. As he appears to become ever more repentent, sympathy towards him grows. The press won't stop this either. IDS' almost agreeable interviews, echoing the concerns over welfare everyone else with half a conscience have had for the past five years, are plastered over the front pages. By the hour, IDS is deflecting attention from everything his 'conscience' has conveniently overlooked since becoming DWP Secretary.

Combine a seemingly more tolerable and moderate IDS with increased coverage of him and his underlying Brexit rhetoric, and the result may very well be sypathy for the 'out' campaign from voters previously dubious about the campaign's main players.

But it's not just IDS attempting to detoxify. Cameron has a similar, but less subtle tactic in play with the DWP which, under IDS, was seen as the death knell for the poor and vulnerable while being led by a massively unpopular and brutal Secretary of State. The DWP has been a thorn in Cameron's side and a dent in the 'compassionate conservatism' argument until now. It's Stephen Crabb who has taken over. As a working class boy who rose through the ranks to government, the right-leaning press will be spinning his story for as long as he holds power. In addition, his media appearance, attitude and performance makes him a much more approachable character (at least on the surface) for voters. Furthermore, Cameron has finally found an opportunity to promote a loyalist, moderate, pro-EU minister to higher ranks; something that will undoubtedly work in Cameron's favour as he attempts to put on a brave face of a united government, when in fact, it is slowly imploding around him. The fact is, whether IDS' reasons for resigning were genuine or a sly political maneouvre, his actions will prove to be a kick in the proverbials for Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' argument.

So, whilst it may be argued Cameron has approached the issue with the skill and forward thinking of an astute politician, it is still IDS who has won this contest. Whether his apparent plan worked, however, we must wait and see.