Iain Duncan Smith, in classier times. Photo: Rob Stothard/Getty Images
Show Hide image

What's this? Is Iain Duncan Smith visibly excited by prospect of hurting the poor?

The work and pensions secretary cheered on the new "living" wage, which turns out to be nothing of the sort.

What was the most galling part of the budget?

Cutting housing benefit for 18-21 year olds? Turning the university maintenance grant into a loan? Tax credit cuts that make sure children are suitably punished if their parents have large, low-income families? The complete absence of any climate change or green issues? 

All good contenders, but this mole reckons this is the clear winner:

That's right - it's Iain Duncan Smith, cheering as George Osborne introduces what was disingenuously termed a "living" wage despite being quite clearly nothing of the sort. Oh, and by the way, you won't get it if you're under 25. If you're under 25, your parents should be able to sort you out.

Some might suggest it's a bit gauche to act like you're in a football terrace as your party introduces a series of measures which bring suffering to vulnerable young people, but let us all take comfort. While working class teenagers - and disabled people, and low-income workers - across the country sit wondering how they're going to deal with this, at least one Conservative politician is very, very happy.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Why Ukip might not be dead just yet

Nigel Farage's party might have a second act in it. 

Remember Ukip? Their former leader Nigel Farage is carving out a living as a radio shock jock and part-time film critic. The party is currently midway through a leadership election to replace Paul Nuttall, who quit his post following their disastrous showing at the general election.

They are already facing increasing financial pressure thanks to the loss of short money and, now they no longer have any MPs, their parliamentary office in Westminster, too. There may be bigger blows to come. In March 2019, their 24 MEPs will all lose their posts when Britain leaves the European Union, denying another source of funding. In May 2021, if Ukip’s disastrous showing in the general election is echoed in the Welsh Assembly, the last significant group of full-time Ukip politicians will lose their seats.

To make matters worse, the party could be badly split if Anne-Marie Waters, the founder of Sharia Watch, is elected leader, as many of the party’s MEPs have vowed to quit if she wins or is appointed deputy leader by the expected winner, Peter Whittle.

Yet when you talk to Ukip officials or politicians, they aren’t despairing, yet. 

Because paradoxically, they agree with Remainers: Theresa May’s Brexit deal will disappoint. Any deal including a "divorce bill" – which any deal will include – will fall short of May's rhetoric at the start of negotiations. "People are willing to have a little turbulence," says one senior figure about any economic fallout, "but not if you tell them you haven't. We saw that with Brown and the end of boom and bust. That'll be where the government is in March 2019."

They believe if Ukip can survive as a going concern until March 2019, then they will be well-placed for a revival. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.