A former confidant of Iain Duncan Smith has dramatically turned on him over Universal Credit, making claims in a radio interview that completely undermine not only press briefings on the botched project — but statements by the cabinet minister to parliament.
Stephen Brien is credited as being the ‘architect’ of Universal Credit. Having developed the policy while working at a think tank founded by IDS, the former Tory leader then brought him into DWP to help him deliver the programme.
Despite having a ‘point man’ on the project, Duncan Smith had claimed that officials had kept him totally in the dark about the project’s failures — publicly blaming his top DWP civil servant in a near-unprecedented breach of protocol.
But in an interview with economist Jonathan Portes (@jdportes) for Radio 4’s Analysis broadcast last night, however, Brien throws IDS under the bus, claiming that “things started to go off track … from relatively early on” and that the minister knew precisely what was happening — because he was briefing him personally!
“I would see him on a nearly daily basis. My office was across the corridor from him. I would join him for all the senior meetings about the programme. I would keep him updated as a result of the other meetings and issues I was addressing within the programme team.”
IDS told parliament in March 2013 that Universal Credit was “proceeding exactly in accordance with plans”. So, errr, why does Brien say that it was clearly going tits up in Summer 2012?
“When it became materially obvious we had to change plans it was over that summer.”
The interview comes eleven months after Scrapbook was the first to cite Brien’s role in the Universal Credit team and his closeness to IDS as a key plank of the case against IDS’ timeline of events.
It’s clear as day that IDS has talked utter bilge to parliament. If parliament is doing its job properly then we’ll see him explaining himself at the despatch box before the end of the week.