Generally speaking, Philip Hammond is one of the Cabinet’s
quieter members; a sort of human calculator designed to run a department efficiently and with the minimum of fuss. Which is why his interview with the Sunday Times this morning (£) is so eye-catching. There’s very little that’s understated about it at all.
ConservativeHome’s Matthew Barrett has already put together a useful summary of the main
points, so suffice to say that Hammond is dismissive about both Lords reform…
‘He believes the upper chamber “works rather well” as it is and that voters are “probably largely indifferent” on the subject.’
…and gay marriage:
‘He believes gay marriage is too controversial for the government to tackle right now, suggesting it would be “difficult to push through”, “use up a lot of political
capital” and “a lot of legislative time as well”.’
And, if that’s not enough, he also has a pop at the Lib Dems for impeding Tory efforts to create ‘a sensible and UK-based approach to human rights’.
All of the above will surely aggravate Nick Clegg & Co, but it might also do similar for David Cameron. While most ministers are now downplaying Lords reform and gay marriage — stressing
that they rank some way behind the economy on the government’s list of priorities — it seems to me that Hammond is taking that further, perhaps even questioning the policies in
themselves. And if one of the Cabinet’s quiet men is willing to speak out, adding his voice to the growing throng, then what trouble lies ahead for the coalition?