Tory infighting worsens after Iain Duncan Smith's resignation


Tory infighting is threatening to spiral out of control in the wake of Iain Duncan Smith's dramatic resignation from the Cabinet.

As the former work and pensions secretary prepares to give his first interview since quitting in protest at George Osborne's "indefensible" Budget benefit cuts, ministers at the department are openly squabbling about his handling of key policies.

The clashes came after pensions minister Baroness Altmann accused her old boss of "shocking" behaviour and trying to inflict "maximum damage" on the party leadership to get Britain out of the EU.

"Having worked alongside him as a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), I have seen that he championed the very package of reforms to disability benefits he now says is the reason he has resigned," she said.

"I simply cannot understand why he suddenly chose to quit like this when it was clear that Number 10 and the Treasury had told him they were going to pause and rethink these measures. I'm particularly saddened that this really seems to be about the European referendum campaign rather than about DWP policy."

Lady Altmann said she had been "silenced" by Mr Duncan Smith for months and was "horrified" to see him "abuse the freedom to take sides the Prime Minister has generously offered to ministers".

"He seems to want to do maximum damage to the party leadership in order to further his campaign to try to get Britain to leave the EU," she added.

But fellow DWP minister Shailesh Vara hit back at Lady Altmann, saying he remembered events differently.

"I have to say I'm surprised by Ros's comments. The fact is that I recall Ros attending all the meetings at which we openly discussed government policy and then we both went out to defend the policy in the Commons and Lords, which as you know wasn't always easy to do.

"Ros's recollection does not accord with mine and I'm sorry that this has all happened."

Minister for the disabled Justin Tomlinson and employment minister Priti Patel have also issued statements praising Mr Duncan Smith.

Ms Patel said: "Iain has always provided support and encouragement in all aspects of my work in DWP. All meetings with our ministerial team have been constructive and every minister has had the freedom to take forward policy ideas in their brief, to lead media campaigns and engage freely with parliamentary colleagues."

Mr Tomlinson said: "Iain has always conducted himself in a professional, dedicated and determined manner. He actively encouraged ministers and teams to engage, challenge and develop ideas.

"We were to be ourselves, our judgement backed as we worked as a team both for DWP and the government."

A source close to Mr Duncan Smith said Lady Altmann was following the "Downing Street script" by suggesting he was motivated by his desire for Brexit.

Government records would also show she had not been "silenced" on issues such as women's pensions, they added.