Daily catch-up: George's mistake on disability benefits clears the way for Boris

The Chancellor was right to abandon his Budget, but the damage to his reputation is done. And another picture of old London

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The Independent Online

Workers arrive at Thames Ironworks by boat in 1908. Thanks to The East End. The company's football team would become West Ham United FC, as featured in my Top 10 Original Names of Famous Football Clubs

• I know we're not really supposed to speculate about who will be the next prime minister this far out from the Conservative leadership election, but it is getting hard to see how Boris Johnson can be stopped. I wrote about Iain Duncan Smith's resignation for The Independent on Sunday, and about George Osborne's frank admission that the Budget cut in disability benefits was a "mistake" for Independent Voices yesterday. 

Actually, Osborne did not propose in the Budget to cut spending on disability benefits. He wants to cut the amount by which it had been expected to rise. This seems a reasonable ambition while the working-age population is getting healthier and there are plenty of jobs. In practice, though, it has proved surprisingly hard. 

I remember similar discussions when James Purnell was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and before him John Hutton, and before him Alistair Darling – over that long period total spending did go down a bit, but never by as much as was hoped. Now it is going up again, which is counter-intuitive. 

Which might suggest that there have been deep changes in attitudes to disability, and that it is not desirable to try to return to the days before Thatcher. Her government may have pushed older men, especially, on to sickness benefits as a way of cutting the unemployment figures, but that doesn’t mean we can simply reverse that change and halve the numbers recorded as disabled. 

It makes sense, therefore, to abandon the cuts (or reduced increases) and to appoint as Work and Pensions Secretary someone competent who might get a grip. So the Budget achieved the right result, but the hard way, needlessly scaring a lot of people on disability benefits in the process. And I think it is now too late to save Osborne's reputation. 

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times yesterday was as good as ever, about the ungovernability of dissident Tory MPs:

Although they obsess over Mr Cameron with the kind of negative intensity that Glenn Close made famous in Fatal Attraction, the rebels are sunny about the future. They hope a new leader can erase old enmities. But it does not take pattern-recognition software to spot what happened before, and will happen again. After smashing the Cameron-Osborne imperium, disillusion will set in. The new leader will adopt un-Tory ideas, or withhold ministerial jobs, or resist their marvellous political advice. Resentments will build like sediment.

• The interview with Nicholas Soames on Conservative Home yesterday was priceless, including this bit about Boris Johnson:

I know for a fact he’s not an Outer, because he told me, and I think that he went through agony to come to this decision, and that’s his look-out, but I spoke to him, actually from the carpark at Ascot Race Course, where I was about to go and enjoy a nice day’s steeplechasing, and it was on the day before he announced, he announced on the Sunday, and he was under great personal pressure, and he said ‘You don’t know how awful this is’, and I’m not Diogenes, I’m afraid, I take people as they say it, and I think he was under great pressure. And I think he came down on the wrong side.

• Sunday's Independent on Sunday was the last, and the last print edition of The Independent is on Saturday. The Independent will go from strength to strength online, and I'm proud to carry on as its Chief Political Commentator. 

• And finally, thanks to Moose Allain ‏for the traffic update:

"You can tell when you get to Spaghetti Junction because there's a great big fork in the road."

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