CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond’s day went from bad to worse yesterday after he was challenged by shadow chancellor John McDonnell to a televised debate to discuss numbers.
The Chancellor made a gaffe on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme during which he fell short by a huge £20 billion in estimating the cost of the HS2 rail project featured in the Tory manifesto published today.
This came after Mr Hammond claimed Labour’s fully costed manifesto “did not add up.”
Asked about the true bill for the high-speed rail project, Mr Hammond said it would cost “about £32bn.”
Presenter John Humphrys interjected: “£32bn? Not £52bn?”
Mr Hammond replied: “Over, it’s over, I mean, there’s a huge amount of contingency built into these projects.”
Later, while he and PM Theresa May held a press conference solely to denounce the Labour manifesto, she refused to confirm or deny that he would be sacked in the near future — after reports suggested frictions between the Downing Street neighbours over tax and defence policies.
At a campaign event in Lincoln, Mr McDonnell said the pair were “hiding” from the public after “talking rubbish” about the Labour manifesto.
He said: “Philip Hammond, I know, has fallen out with Theresa May and she wouldn’t confirm whether he’d stay on as chancellor if they got re-elected, so he might not be there for long.
“But let me say this — over this next couple of weeks, if he’s still there, I am challenging him to a televised debate.
“He’s talking rubbish about our manifesto and our costings this morning, so I want to challenge him to a televised debate, draw him out.
“If he’s confident about his figures, come and debate them with me.”