Clegg’s role in IDS’s welfare reform plans

by Stephen Tall on October 3, 2010

Mark Pack blogged here on LDV this morning of Promising news on welfare spending as major reforms set for go-ahead, and noted that “Steve Webb’s backing for the policies is a promising sign”.

Also crucial, it seems, was Nick Clegg’s role, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Iain Martin:

I revealed in the summer that IDS and George Osborne had a stand-up row over the welfare budget, with a deal eventually being brokered in which IDS delivers cuts but gets to keep several billions for his reforms. The shape of those reforms will be announced at Tory conference next week.

Oliver Letwin has been the key number cruncher, but I hear that Duncan Smith’s most important cabinet ally against Treasury opposition was Nick Clegg. The Deputy PM argued forcefully that if the cuts were being made then they might as well involve once in a generation large-scale reform and leave a legacy.

Another factor is that Clegg’s chief of staff is Richard Reeves, formerly an aide to Frank Field. The former welfare minister under Tony Blair learnt what happens when radical reform at the start of a government is torpedoed by the Treasury.

Some cartoonists are sticking with their meme that Nick Clegg is little more than a ‘fag’ to David Cameron’s ‘fop’. Yet its clear that his behind-the-scene influence, especially through the influential home affairs cabinet committee which Nick chairs, runs far and wide.

Nick knows the urgency of the task in hand. Will there be a Coalition Government after 2015? Will he still be Deputy Prime Minister? No-one knows, including Nick. What’s clear is he’s determined to make the most of his time, and to exert his personal stamp on the government.