Birkenhead MP Frank Field yesterday became the first Labour right winger to defect to the Tory-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Field, who is an enthusiastic promoter of workfare cheap labour, has agreed to take on the role of the nation’s ‘Poverty Tsar’, prime minister Cameron revealed yesterday.
Field is to lead a major review into poverty as part of tackling what Cameron calls ‘Broken Britain’ – alleged social breakdown, rising crime and ‘benefits dependency culture’.
Field, who wants to remain in the Labour Party, but must be expelled from it as a renegade, will report to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
Cameron said: ‘For a long time Frank has been willing to say the unsayable.
‘He has argued that the welfare state should be more than a money-redistribution system but rather “openly reward good behaviour and . . . be used to enhance those roles which the country values”.
‘He has drawn the link between family breakdown and more instability, more crime, greater pressure on housing and social benefits, arguing that a fundamental principle of the welfare state should be to support families and children.
‘When he first started talking about these things, no one quite realised how important they are. Now we do.’
Cameron also announced that so-called ‘left’ pundit Will Hutton is to be ‘Fair Pay Tsar’, tasked with slashing the pay of so-called ‘public-sector fat cats’.
Cameron pledged earlier this year that no public sector boss should earn more than 20 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker.
Meanwhile, he affirmed yesterday that Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister Clegg will be in the ‘inner core’ of government.
Cameron told the Andrew Marr Show that the coalition government was based on shared values, describing himself as a ‘liberal Conservative’.
He said a document would be published shortly setting out in greater detail how the coalition will work together, but he insisted Clegg would be in the ‘inner core’ of the government, which meant he would chair cabinet committees, which guide policy formation, and be consulted on ministerial appointments and sackings.
Cameron said: ‘The deputy prime minister is clearly part of the inner core.
‘When it comes to government appointments and, if I can put it this way, disappointments, of course that is the prime minister’s job.
‘But this is going to be something that we try and do together.’
The prime minister made clear he expects the two parties to work closely together in government and hopes to avoid holding separate ‘political cabinets’ made up only of Tory or Lib Dem ministers.
Like Clegg, Cameron acknowledged the coalition deal would upset some in his party, but he insisted it was more than a marriage of convenience.
He claimed: ‘I have always described myself as a Liberal Conservative.’
He also announced the new Office of Budget Responsibility would be launching a full audit of government spending today, accusing Labour of having made ‘crazy’ spending decisions over the past year that ‘no rational government would have done’.
Cameron refused to rule out an increase in VAT in Chancellor Osborne’s forthcoming emergency budget.
But the prime minister stressed: ‘We believe that spending should bear the brunt of the burden in terms of cutting the deficit.’