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IDS Suggests The Government Made Welfare Cuts Because Recipients Don't Vote Tory

"I think it is in danger of drifting in a direction that divides society rather than unites it, and that, I think, is unfair," former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said.

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Iain Duncan Smith, who was until Friday the work and pensions secretary, has delivered a stunning attack on the chancellor, suggesting that recipients of welfare were targeted for cuts because they're unlikely to ever vote for the Conservatives.

"The truth is that yes, we need to get the deficit down, but we need to make sure we widen the scope of where we look to get that deficit down, and not narrow it down on working-age benefits – and there's a reason for that," Duncan Smith told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

BBC

"Otherwise it just looks like we see this as a pot of money, that it doesn't matter because they don't vote for us, and that's my concern. They are people who I want to get into work – and we've done a lot to get them into work to change their lives."

In his first interview since his resignation, the former cabinet minister also criticised George Osborne for pressuring his department to find a way of cutting the bill for working age benefits. "I think it [the government] is in danger of drifting in a direction that divides society rather than unites it and that, I think, is unfair," he said.

A number of government departments have been forced to find cuts due to the Treasury's desire to cut the deficit but Duncan Smith said his department was forced to make big compromises.

There has been political fallout in the Conservative party since Duncan Smith's resignation on Friday. He claimed that the proposed cuts in Osborne's latest Budget – which would see 250,000 disabled people lose £3,500 a year – were a "compromise too far".

Following his resignation, it was suggested by colleagues that Duncan Smith stepped down because he is backing the Leave camp in the upcoming referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

David Cameron had said he was "puzzled and disappointed" by the former work and pensions secretary's resignation, especially as Duncan Smith had initially agreed to the cuts, before changing his mind.

Pensions minister Ros Altmann went further in a statement on Saturday night and launched a highly personal attack on Duncan Smith.

In addition to saying he was "exceptionally difficult to work with", she said: “As far as I could tell, he appeared to spend much of the last few months plotting over Europe and against the leadership of the party and it seemed to me he had been planning to find a reason to resign for a long time."

Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, told Sky News on Sunday that the decision to resign was motivated over the EU and said Duncan Smith had "created a bit more time on his hands" for the campaign. She also said she was struggling to understand his reasoning.

"I don’t really understand it, I am perplexed, but I have sat at cabinet with him every week, and then to launch this bombshell at the rest of us, it is difficult to understand," Rudd said.

Employment minister Priti Patel – a close ally of Duncan Smith – has come out in support of her fellow Eurosceptic. "Iain has spoken very passionately today with great conviction and dignity in terms of making his case," she told the BBC.

Owen Smith, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said the Conservative party was "tearing itself apart over an unfair Budget".

David Cameron and George Osborne’s claim that 'we're all in this together' now lies in tatters," Smith said.

“No one will believe Iain Duncan Smith’s sudden change of heart. After all this is the man who introduced the bedroom tax. But what his comments do reveal is growing anger within the Conservative party about George Osborne’s management of the economy."

Conservative MP Heidi Allen, who was credited with spearheading a rebellion against cuts to tax credits, has openly questioned Osborne's position as chancellor. When asked if Osborne should retain his position, she told the BBC's Sunday Politics: "It depends how he responds to the challenge".

Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Siraj Datoo at siraj.datoo@buzzfeed.com.

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