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Watch: Iain Duncan Smith admits the Tories haven't "done the work" on their £12bn welfare cuts plan

What happened to hardworking people?

The Tories think they are the party of hardworking people, hardworking families, workers versus shirkers, strivers versus skivers.

How embarrassing then that their Work and Pensions Secretary, evil suited egg Iain Duncan Smith, admits his party hasn't "done the work" on their next round of spending cuts.

For a while the Conservatives have been dodging the question about where their projected £12bn of cuts to the welfare bill are going to fall. And apparently that's because they actually have no idea.

Watch his admission on the BBC's Daily Politics welfare debate here:

Video: BBC Two Daily Politics

If ever there was proof that the Tories' attack on welfare is purely ideological, with no actual policy-based thinking behind it, this is it.

Here's the transcript:

AN: Let me come – speaking of a benefits and welfare, let me come back to you  IDS. Now in March you said that you are – I quote you: ‘May or may not decide that it’s relevant to reveal to the British electorate where the £12bn of welfare cuts are going to come from in the next government’  if you win. Why don’t think it’s relevant that we should know?

IDS: Because we’d have to have done the work on it, that’s why and we’d have had to reached agreement as to exactly where those are. We’ve let know – the public know exactly one area which was that we’re going to freeze those benefits. That’s going to save between 2 and 3 three billion pounds and also – 

AN: About £2bn now with low inflation.

IDS:  - and we’re going to lower the cap to £23,000 which is average earnings. But as I said on the Marr programme more recently I said, you know, as soon as we have done the work and had it properly modelled then we will let everybody know what that is.

AN: Shouldn’t you have done the work before you come to the British people to ask for re-election?

IDS: Yes, but the key area here of course –

RR: Yes.

IDS: no, well okay, but the key area here is that everyone is very clear that after the next election, if you get a Conservative government we have already said that we will save £12bn from essentially working age benefits and we’ve said that. That’s very clear. But I have locked out – 

SW:  What I don’t understand is ... what you won’t cut.  If you’re clear  you won’t cut pensions, child benefit, disablement benefit. 

IDS: Yes. 

RR: Well he hasn’t completely about child benefit.

SW: Then why can’t you be clear about what you will cut?

IDS: Well because, as I said, the work that we do on this will be done in the spending room, we will announce that out at the time.

I'm a mole, innit.

Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage