British Conservative politician, party leader 2001–03 and secretary of state for work and pensions 2010–16. The candidate of the party's Eurosceptic and socially conservative right wing, he was selected in September 2001 by the party's members to replace leader William Hague, who stood down after the party suffered a second successive general election defeat. Duncan Smith sought to unite the party around a programme of opposition to the UK joining the European single currency, and of reforms in domestic policies, including greater citizen choice in education and health. He was replaced as party leader by Michael Howard. He played a leading role in the successful Vote Leave campaign in the UK's June 2016 Brexit referendum.
During Duncan Smith's leadership the party made some advances in local elections, but his own public approval ratings remained low and he failed to make an impact in parliamentary debates, despite Prime Minister Tony Blair's difficulties during 2003 over opposition to the US-led war against Iraq. In October 2003 he was ousted as party leader after losing, by 90 votes to 75, a vote of confidence among fellow Conservative members of Parliament (MPs) in his leadership. After losing office, in 2003 he set up the Centre for Social Justice, a centre-right think tank on inner-city issues.
As work and pensions secretary from 2010, during a period of economic austerity, he pushed through cuts in working age benefits, introduced a controversial under-occupancy penalty (the so-called ‘bedroom tax’) and sought to increase financial incentives to work through amalgamating benefits into a single Universal Credit. In March 2016 he resigned in protest against Treasury pressure for cuts to the Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) received by the disabled.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Duncan Smith trained at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and Perugia University, Italy. He was commissioned to the Scots Guards in 1975 and commanded the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Zimbabwe 1979–81. He left the army in 1981 to start a career in business, initially with GEC Marconi. In 1987 he unsuccessfully contested the Bradford West constituency for the Conservative Party, and in 1992 was elected to Parliament for Chingford (the seat was renamed Chingford and Woodford Green in 1997). He joined the shadow cabinet in 1997, serving as shadow secretary of state for social security 1997–99 and shadow secretary of state for defence 1999–2001.
A former army officer, he became an MP in 1992 and held front-bench posts from 1997. He succeeded William Hague as leader...
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