It says something about the unutterable ghastliness of Theresa May that her dreary Cabinet colleagues largely escape the criticism which their lacklustre performance and drab personalities should otherwise attract.
On Sunday the Chancellor infested the TV studios with his mournful and lugubrious presence and said nothing that was interesting and a few things that were unintelligible, so it’s a wonder that Andrew Marr and Sophy Ridge didn’t pinch themselves black and blue trying to stay awake and look interested during his groanful threnody.
‘One of the things that I have done is maintain fiscal buffers, a reserve of borrowing powers against my fiscal rules’ sounds as though it might mean something but doesn’t bear closer inspection. This kind of thing works for Hammond because people (and interviewers) don’t expect to understand anything that comes from the Treasury or out of the mouths of Chancellors of the Exchequer, particularly where, as in this case, ‘there’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility’.
Hammond had allowed certain details to leak, but a careful reading of the runes suggested that he and May were gestating alternative Budget proposals depending on whether or not they can abstract a gorgeous healthy Brexit from its cradle and substitute their hideous Chequers changeling in its place.
May declined to give any further clue as to her thinking on negotiations with the EU until after the Budget so it’s fair to assume that Hammond’s statement will be part of the opening of a double act which will be as monochrome and accident-prone, but not nearly so much fun, as a Laurel & Hardy adventure.
Hammond’s notices have at best been mixed, with the Taxpayers’ Alliance having a fairly favourable opinion though noting that the tax burden overall will still be increasing. The Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute are more critical and many commentators also note the apparent abandonment of targets to bring the deficit to heel.
All the signs now are that people of all walks of life and all political persuasions are heartily fed up with the uselessness of the political class, particularly May, the deceitful and anti-democratic Remainers and the intransigence of the EU, but there is a growing and palpable irritation as well with the Brexiteers on the Tory benches.
Writing excellent articles in The Daily Telegraph or giving interviews on TV are all well and good, but they are not a substitute for concerted action which is what is needed when challenging someone as obdurate and dull-witted as May.
Can it be weeks, or is it months, since political pundits started chuntering about the famous 48 letters that Tory MPs are forever on the brink of sending in to Graham Brady, chairman of the backbenchers’ 1922 Committee, which would force a vote of confidence in the Prime Minister?
Apparently the parliamentary arithmetic is too uncertain to ensure such a vote would not simply reaffirm May in place for at least a further twelve months, but Tory MPs as a whole need to understand that supporting May in a no-confidence vote in the short term will result in their annihilation at the next general election. It would be foolish of them (and eminently likely) to take comfort in the notion that voters, unable to bring themselves to vote for Corbyn and McDonnell’s continuity Marxist party, will inexorably turn to the Tories.
In that event, five years of chaos and economic calamity will be a price that simply has to be paid to consign the present Tory party and its progressive liberal class to oblivion as well as despatching the Left to perdition. New, better and more democratic structures will emerge to replace the lot of them unless the Tories in parliament manage to pull themselves together at the eleventh hour and a half and remember that they used to stand for something better than being jacks-in-office.
Alternatively, May’s Cabinet could finally show as a group that they are a little more mettlesome than their Spitting Image forebears and explain that Monday’s poll in The Sun now makes it imperative for her to retire gracefully and pass the baton to somebody fresh who is prepared to take the battle to the EU on Britain’s, rather than Barnier’s, terms.