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19 March 2016

Stephen Crabb replaces Iain Duncan Smith at the Department of Work and Pensions

The former Secretary of State for Wales has long been widely tipped for bigger things at Westminster. 

By Stephen Bush

Stephen Crabb has been appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, leaving his post as Secretary of State for Wales. Crabb, who is from a single-parent family and was educated at state school in Wales, is regarded as a Cameroon moderniser, though he voted against equal marriage in 2013. He was the head of Project Umubano, the Conservative party’s development project in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, and is well-liked in the development sector.

Crabb has long been tipped for bigger things, with Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland, suggesting him as a replacement for David Cameron earlier in the year, and the welfare brief represents a significant challenge. Within the DWP, morale is at rock-bottom and across Whitehall the department’s stock is low. Maintaining welfare reform – a totemic issue on much of the Tory right – while mothballing Iain Duncan Smith’s failed projects (including the universal credit, which, privately, civil servants have long believed will never be fully rolled out) will be a tricky balancing act.

Paradoxically, despite the blows to the prestige of the Chancellor, George Osborne, the move completes a good week for the Treasury. Throughout the last parliament, Osborne faced a strong opponent of Treasury interests at BIS in the shape of Vince Cable and another in the shape of Duncan Smith. Now, Sajid Javid, an Osborne creation, is Secretary of State for BIS, while Crabb, a moderniser, is at the DWP.

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