‘Spare a thought for Philip Hammond,’ says the Times. The Chancellor once looked certain to lose his job – and yet while he might now be safe in his position, his role is only getting tougher. His Cabinet colleagues are queuing up to tell him that now is the time to lift the cap on public sector pay. In response, ‘the Chancellor is expected to fight a rearguard action’, says the Times, which says Hammond is ‘right’ to take this approach. This response also won’t be in ‘in vain’ if he is able to make the point that a pay rise must come with ‘a commensurate increase in productivity’. It’s true, for instance, that the NHS ‘spends less per patient’ than most similar health services around the world. Yet ‘it still tolerates enormous waste’, says the Times, which make the point that ‘the state cannot afford to pay its workers more without reforms that make it more efficient’.
The Guardian says that in the wake of the snap general election, Theresa May’s ‘hold on power appears to be slipping away with gathering speed’. With Cabinet ministers now queuing up to speak their minds freely – and the ‘public sector unions’ looking likely to ‘rediscover their political power’, the PM will only come under further pressure. For all May’s weakness though, ‘Philip Hammond won’t be an easy touch’, points out the Guardian. But with the Chancellor unlikely to want to borrow more to fund a pay rise – and with any one per cent increase in pay costing the government £1.5bn a year – Hammond may yet find that ‘raising taxes may be his least bad option,’ says the Guardian.
‘Mrs May’s failure’ on June 8th has ‘emboldened her ministers to say pretty much what they want on almost any subject under discussion,’ points out the Daily Telegraph. This means that ‘instead of a Government speaking with one voice’, ‘a cacophony of policies’ are ‘emanating from all corners of Whitehall’. This ‘has to stop’, says the Telegraph, which hopes that this morning’s Cabinet meeting could restore some much-needed discipline in the ranks. A set of ’common positions’ – not least on public sector pay and Brexit – is crucial, says the paper, and it’s time to ‘stick to them in public’. After all, ‘this is not an opposition with the luxury of working out where they stand as they go along. This is a Government and it should act like one.’
These Tory ministers lining up to call for a pay hike for public sector workers ‘have lost the plot’, says the Sun. ‘Where do they suggest we find the billions needed?’, the paper asks, suggesting that the answer is either ‘more borrowing or an across-the-board tax rise’. Either option would ‘torpedo Tory claims to be prudent with the finances,’ the paper argues. It’s true that Britain’s six million public sector workers have ‘had it tough’. But the Sun says that ‘so have 26million staff at private firms’ – who don’t all have the luxury of job security or decent pensions. Instead of caving into pressure to splash out, the Tories must remember that they ’will only win votes by showing they are the sole party capable of digging us out’ of the ‘huge financial hole’ we are in.