The House of Lords rebel vote on tax credits is proving even more bruising to Chancellor George Osborne than even he had anticipated.
In fact, he now faces a reported threat from Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to resign if Osborne even dares to raid welfare cash to sort out this crisis in his forthcoming autumn review.
IDS is one of the great successes of Cameron’s governments, both in the coalition and the present administration, and his departure, especially in these circumstances, would be a huge blow to the Prime Minister.
At the time of writing, there is no firm confirmation that any such threat was made, but I am convinced this move was deliberately put into the public domain to demonstrate to Osborne that Duncan Smith means business. His threat of resignation has in fact been denied, but only in a very unconvincing way. For IDS is not a man to make idle threats, as was evidenced during his years as a rebellious back-bencher in the Major years.
When it was first mooted that Osborne may be prepared to raid Duncan Smith’s coffers to get him out of this predicament, there was an immediate and furious response from IDS’s department.
So it looks as though poor George Osborne will have to look elsewhere for his money.
And since he is likely to face angry opposition from every minister he might approach with his begging bowl, that will not be easy.
Whatever happened to Boris Johnson? It would be wrong to say that the soon-to-be-outgoing Mayor of London has disappeared from the face of the earth. But it is certainly true that he seems to have lowered his head below the parapet since he re-arrived at Westminster as a Member of Parliament last May. Is it possibly the case that he belatedly realises, having had the opportunity to study the Conservative Party hierarchy at close quarters again, that his prospects of succeeding David Cameron towards the end of this Parliament are now so remote as to be laughable? Indeed, the prospect of a White House summit between Johnson and Donald Trump, for instance, is about as comical as one between Trump and Jeremy Corbyn.