During the last election campaign, David Cameron repeatedly promised to
protect pensioner benefits. In one of the most heated moments in the Prime Ministerial debates, Cameron accused Labour of telling ‘lies’ when they said the Tories would cut
things like the winter fuel allowance, the free TV license for the elderly and the like. For this reason, these benefits have, basically, been protected in government despite all the other cuts.
But both the Liberal Democrats and Iain Duncan Smith have been arguing behind the scenes that these benefits shouldn’t be protected, that they are not an efficient use of money.
It is in this context, that Iain Duncan Smith’s intervention should be seen. His
message is that the £10 billion of welfare cuts that George Osborne is contemplating for the next spending round is definitely not possible if these benefits are left untouched.
Now, I suspect that the Chancellor, who is also the Tories’ chief election strategist, will not want to break a personal guarantee from the Tory leader and so these pensioner benefits will
not be touched. But if they are not, then finding the £10 billion of savings from the welfare budget will be extremely hard and IDS seems to be indicating today that he couldn’t accept
such a move.