Budget blunder ensures delay

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An early general election?

I suspect the prospects of that course of action – which has been strongly urged on the Prime Minister by many of her supporters – have possibly been irretrievably scuppered by Chancellor Philip Hammond’s crass Budget decision to dishonour a manifesto pledge by increasing National Insurance on the self-employed.

He says this move is only fair because it puts the self-employed on a par with those not self-employed.

But breaking an election promise is the last thing any politician should do unless he is looking for a savage political assault on his integrity from all quarters.

If Hammond thought he would get away with this, he is even more naive than he appeared at the despatch box on Budget Day.

And it is inexplicable to me that his outrageous proposal was not picked up by his Cabinet colleagues, when he unfolded the Budget’s contents on the day before he delivered it. It has now emerged that the Cabinet may not have been comprehensively briefed on the Budget’s contents – which is another scandal.

A little levity in a Budget is not a bad thing, but Hammond should have concentrated more on the needs of the economy and the importance of his integrity, than on his jokes.

It is not an exaggeration to say this blunder may have damaged the Tories’ general election prospects. It has almost certainly affected the timing of the election.

Hammond has been known as ‘spreadsheet Phil’. Now that famous spreadsheet is disfigured by dollops of political blood which will require hours of hard scrubbing if it is to be pristine again.

- So here we have a situation where the Government is in a state of utter disarray – and how does HM Opposition react?

It launches an unnecessary internal storm about Scottish independence!

To mix the metaphor, is Labour simply incapable of recognising a gaping open goal when they see one?

It is said Governments need a strong Opposition, but Theresa May must be thankful that this one cannot apparently see beyond its nose.