Cabinet reshuffle: It’s time David Cameron thought like a CEO

Iain Duncan Smith at the DWP has presided over some of this Government’s most ill-thought-through and divisive policies

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The Independent Online

If company chief executives sacked a large proportion of their senior management teams every year or so, they themselves would probably not be long in their own jobs.

So it is perverse that in politics regularly throwing your government up in the air by promoting the inexperienced and dispensing with the services of those who know what they’re doing is seen as a sign of prime-ministerial virility.

And so it has happened again. In an attempt to look young, female-friendly and relevant before next year’s election, David Cameron has reshuffled his team and the criterion for promotion and demotion has not been ministerial competency but political calculation.

Many good sensible ministers - like Nick Hurd and, reportedly, David Willetts - have been undeservedly dispensed with mainly for being white and middle aged, while young upstarts will today be undeservedly promoted. But there is one white middle aged Secretary of State who really should be asked to “go and spend more time with his family”.

Iain Duncan Smith has now had almost four years at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), during which time he has presided over some of this Government’s most ill-thought-through and divisive policies.

The bedroom tax was an unfair idea which saved the taxpayer very little money at a disproportionate cost to those affected. Work Capability Assessments were a sensible idea on paper but spectacularly mismanaged. More than 600,000 appeals have been lodged and four out of 10 decisions overturned, costing £60m and putting thousands of vulnerable people through unnecessary worry and hardship.

Replacing the Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment was equally mismanaged. The department failed to pilot the plan, underestimated how long the new assessments would take, and as a result left the terminally ill without financial support in the last days of their lives.

And then, of course, there is Universal Credit. Thankfully this scheme has been so badly mismanaged by the DWP that almost nobody has yet to feel its consequences – apart from the taxpayer. But the omens are not good.

Mr Cameron asked Mr Duncan Smith to move to a new job in his last reshuffle – but when he refused, the Prime Minister relented.

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He looks unlikely to try again. Because unlike other middle-aged ministers in the firing line, Mr Duncan Smith would be an obvious a standard-bearer for the dissatisfied right on the back benches in the run up to an election.

But while that may be sensible politics it is poor government and if there was one part of his reshuffle where Mr Cameron should think as as a chief executive and not as a politician is over the future of Mr Duncan Smith.