TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

WILL CHANCELLOR HOLD HIS NERVE ON PAY?

 

LISTEN TO THE GREY BEARDS.

The minority Labour governments of the late 1970s were plagued with disputes with the unions over public sector pay. This Tory minority administration is facing the same problem. It seems that those who want to spend money the nation hasn’t got can sense the weakness and put pressure on the politicians.

I don’t envy Philip Hammond. It is an open secret Mrs May wanted to sack him. Now he is being publicly undermined by flaky Cabinet Ministers hinting that they favour easing up on austerity for nurses and council staff. One would expect the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to be in favour of higher pay for NHS staff, but other ministers who’ve sought to pull the rug out from under the Chancellor include right wingers like Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Those coming to the aid of Spreadsheet Phil are largely from the elder statesmen category. They include former Chancellors Norman “je regrette rien” Lamont and Ken Clarke. They know what they are talking about but don’t need the assistance of Call Me Dave. The ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s demand for pay restraint whilst picking up a tidy sum for a speech in Seoul was unconvincing to say the least.

So, let’s consider what the former Tory Chancellors say. They point to the continuing deficit and to the fact that increasing public sector pay even by an extra 1% is very costly. They also have their eye on the politics. Cabinet Ministers calling for an easing of the purse strings are panicking in the presence of Jeremy Money Tree Corbyn. The Labour leader has skilfully captured the public mood for a splurge after years of austerity. But he’s at least 60 seats short of ever being able to do anything about it. Jez we can. Now we can’t. Lest we forget the Tories remain in power.

What will happen if Phil gives in to the pay review bodies who will now all recommend hefty increases? The Tories will avoid some criticism for being stony hearted but could lose their reputation for economic stability.

Public sector workers are suffering from rising inflation and economic uncertainty, both caused by Brexit which brings me to my second topic….

LABOUR EURO REBELS MAY BE DOOMED.

Seven North West Labour MPs defied the whip last week to support our continued membership of the Single Market. They were Luciana Berger (Wavertree), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Maria Eagle (Garston), Louise Ellman (Riverside), Kate Green (Stretford), Alison McGovern (Wirral South) and Barrow’s John Woodcock.

They moved too soon. They made themselves vulnerable to the charge that they had reopened the split between Corbyn and the Parliamentary Party in the hour of Labour’s election success. But more importantly they needed to wait till public opinion swings more clearly in favour of having second thoughts about the whole Brexit project.

What they have done is expose the euro sceptic credentials of Jeremy Corbyn. Sacking members of his shadow ministerial team for their pro-European views is far more honest than last year when he masqueraded as a Remainer heading Labour’s half-hearted campaign to stay in the EU.

The problem for the North West Seven and the forty other colleagues who rebelled is that they are in a party whose formal position on leaving the Single Market is the same as the Tories. All the stuff about a jobs led strategy and staying as close to Europe as possible is for the birds.

We need an opposition party that wants to stop the Brexit madness. I’m having lunch with Vince The Cable next Tuesday and I’ll tell you what he thinks in my next blog here.

Follow me @JimHancockUK

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During 40 years of broadcasting on the colourful political battlefield that is the North West, I've covered some great stories. From the Militants in Liverpool and Roy Jenkins' bid to become a Warrington MP, to Martin Bell's toppling of Neil Hamilton in Tatton and the election court that expelled Phil Woolas in Oldham.

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