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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Did the Chancellor of the Exchequer actually read the Tory manifesto?

As predictable as yesterday's u-turn on National Insurance Contributions was, the manner in which it came about was quite remarkable.

As the Telegraph reports, the back-down represents a huge blow to Mr Hammond and is one of the most significant Budget u-turns in modern times. The announcement will leave a £2billion black hole in Mr Hammond's Budget plans which he plans to fund with new measures in his Autumn Budget.

The paper says that up to 100 Tory MPs were said to be prepared to rebel over the issue and even a Tory minister said that the Government had to apologise to Conservative voters:

Mr Hammond's credibility was further undermined when he appeared to admit in the Commons that he had only realised the NI policy breached a manifesto pledge when it was pointed out by the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

Asked when he first knew the manifesto was an issue, he told a fellow MP: "Since he asks me the question who first raised the issue of the manifesto I think credit where credit is due. I think it was actually Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC, shortly after I said it in the Budget speech."

They go to quote aides as saying that Hammond was aware of the manifesto pledge but if that was the case then why did he not anticipate the furore that followed him breaking it? Did the BBC's political editor know the Tory manifesto better than the Tory cabinet.

Ministers may need to re-read the document fairly quickly before they drop any more clangers.
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