Iain Duncan Smith has just delivered the most political speech of what has been a highly partisan conference. He tore into Labour’s record on welfare, accusing them of having fostered welfare dependency and increased inequality. He said that they had created two nations: one who worked and one who was trapped on welfare.
Having done that, he then denounced Labour for having opposed all of his changes to the welfare system, attacking them in moral terms for this. Labour ‘don’t know anything about work do they’ he told the audience to cheers.
The flip side of this attack on Labour was an attempt to claim the mantle of ‘social reform’ for the Tory party. His message to delegates was ‘if we care for our country, we must care for all our people’. He had some choice words for the European Commission, too, saying he would resist their plan to force the DWP to give welfare to any EU national irrespective if they have been working in Britain. He used the old continental war phrase – deployed from the First World War onwards:
Nation States run their own welfare and we are not prepared to change that. So Conference, let me simplify the message for the Commission, in case they don’t understand. Ils ne Passeront Pas: They shall not pass.
What was interesting about Duncan Smith’s attack on Labour is that he hasn’t been a partisan warrior these past few years. This speech combined with his agreement to a further £10 billion of cuts suggests that he is fully on board with the leadership at the moment.