7 Days Remaining

Saturday 18th
posted by Morning Star in Features

The Paddy McGuffin column

WELL, that didn’t take long did it? Philip Hammond is barely in the job and he’s already halfway out the door. It’s just a matter of whether his exit is by means of assassination or seppuku.

The only real policy in his nonpolicy Budget saw him hoist by... well, I was going to say his own petard but it was more like his testicles.

It is deliciously ironic that Hammond was applauded for the quality of his gags during his first Budget speech, chief of which was a reference to one of his predecessors being sacked within weeks of making just such an announcement. Hubris, anyone?

Theresa May jettisoned Hammond’s manifesto-breaking pledge on national insurance reform in less than seven days, as if it was a plague-ridden rodent expectorating its last in a lifeboat. Which in many ways it was.

When no less a paragon of probity than ex-PM David Cameron — through no motive other than that of concern for the public, you understand — feels compelled to slag off the breach of public trust, you know you’re screwed.

George Osborne would no doubt have joined in but he’s too busy counting his money, which is not a pleasure Hammond, or the rest of us for that matter have, are free to enjoy… thanks to him.

For May to so blatantly knife her chancellor in the back so early in her premiership is almost unprecedented.

It also makes it rather unfortunate that she was seen howling with laughter and nodding enthusiastically throughout the whole speech.

It is not, of course, that she was pissed off with the proposal. May is very right-wing after all. Just that they got caught out.

But Hammond’s apparently genuine surprise (the only genuine emotion he has ever displayed) at the forced U-turn is understandable.

After all it had to have been discussed with May beforehand and anyway everyone breaks their manifesto promises.

Cameron and Osborne certainly did, never mind the Lib Dems who back-flipped like a clockwork monkey the second they got a whiff of power.

And of course the Blair regime before them who didn’t even have the decency to pretend to remember what they’d pledged in the first place.

Or which party they were in for that matter.

It’s traditional for the government to flagrantly tear up its promises to a credulous electorate and tradition is what the Tories are all about. That, screwing the poor and lining their own pockets at public expense.

A manifesto is really more of a wish list when all’s said and done and we all know wishes don’t come true.

I’ve been wishing this lot would crawl off and die for years and look where that’s got me.

It’s almost been funny enough to make us forget what an absolutely godawful disgrace the Labour right is — not that it hasn’t been for at least 40 years, mind you.

Even Richard Littlejohn and Katie Hopkins being dropped onto a sinking vessel in the Mediterranean isn’t that funny however.

Of course it doesn’t help that the national insurance changes were originally proposed by Ed Miliband.

It’s all starting to look depressingly like Michael Foot in the ’80s all over again.

A man with great integrity but a poor public profile (much of which antipathy has been stirred up by the media and right-wingers within their own party) leading a party with little or none of it.

But on to cheerier matters and speaking of a lack of integrity this week saw the Electoral Commission impose the largest fine ever handed to a political party on the Tories for breaches of the rules during the 2015 campaign.

The Commission found that payments of over £220,000 were either not reported or were incorrectly reported by the party.

It further found that the party did not include the required invoices or receipts for payments of £52,924 and failed to maintain records explaining the amounts it invoiced to candidates in three 2014 by-elections, for work on their campaigns.

The commission fined the Tories £70,000 and have also referred the matter to the Met Police.

Significantly the Commission chair bemoaned the fact that it could not levy a more sizeable and appropriate fine and called for additional powers to allow it to do so in future, expressing an all too real fear that parties might see such a relatively paltry sum as a worthwhile “expense” to secure a parliamentary seat.

Now 70 grand is nothing to the Tories but the findings of the commission could potentially force reruns in a number of key marginal seats won by the party in such dubious fashion.

4Personally I think we should demand that the entire general election result should be declared void and the contest rerun immediately with any member of the national party or its regional associations tainted by the shenanigans banged up on charges of subverting the democratic process and that this be classed “a serious crime.”

This would, of course, mean that due to the rules that the Tories fought so hard to retain, they wouldn’t be allowed to vote… After all, it is a Tory policy and they wouldn’t want to break another promise would they?