Philip Hammond has a bit of a political tin ear. He can be very unaware of how he sounds to other people. This is what lay behind the extraordinary sexism row at Cabinet on Tuesday which I write about in The Sun today.
Hammond’s tin ear has already caused trouble for the government. In the Budget, he announced a national insurance hike for the self-employed despite the fact that the 2015 Tory manifesto had ruled out an increase in this tax.
This all makes some Cabinet Ministers rather worried about this autumn Budget, which will be inherently tricky. Hammond doesn’t have much room for manoeuvre. But he has to deal with the Cabinet’s desire for a relaxation of the 1 percent public sector pay cap and find money for the national insurance u-turn and the DUP deal. Added to this, he himself has said that the public are weary of the long slog of austerity. But it is hard to see how any substantial tax increase gets through the Commons. The Tories don’t have a majority and lots of Tory MPs are worried about losing their reputation as the low tax party.
What’s is certain is that, in their current predicament, the Tories can’t afford for the Chancellor to drop any clangers in the Budget.