Tory Commissioned Polling Showed Keeping Promises Key Desire of Voters

Theresa May’s spokesman has spent the morning awkwardly dodging questions about whether she believes politicians should keep their promises. The PM and Chancellor have forgotten the key lesson delivered to them by David Cameron after the 2015 election. In the days after the Tory victory, Cameron convened two meetings, one with the Cabinet and one with Tory MPs in Portcullis House. On both occasions Cameron had one overriding message – they must keep their election promises: “This document is the programme we have a mandate to deliver. All of it… we will be properly accountable. When you vote for something you get it… That is one of the most important things we can do to restore trust and faith in politics”. This was not just rhetoric, it had research behind it.

The reason Cameron was so resolute on this point was because the Tories had commissioned post-election polling from Crosby-Textor-Fullbrook asking the public what they expected of the government. CTF found that the key voter desire was for the government to deliver on promises. Whatever sophistry they now spin voters understood the Tory tax lock promise was no VAT, National Insurance or income tax rises. Theresa May was sat opposite David Cameron when he delivered his pollster’s key message whilst waving the manifesto in front of her – she is now defying Dave’s warning and allowing Hammond to trash the Tory brand…

Raab and IDS Join Budget Revolt

Dominic Raab says he is “not keen” on the NICs rise: “I don’t like this”. IDS has meanwhile compared it to the George H.W. Bush “read my lips” moment. By Guido’s lunchtime count there are now 12 Tory MPs who have publicly come out against the hike, full list here.

DCLG Offered Surrey Council Unique Deal

It has consistently been the Number 10 / DCLG line that no sweetheart deal or gentleman’s agreement was offered to Surrey council. The above email published by the BBC shows that DCLG’s Director of Local Government Finance Matthew Style clearly did offer a unique “draft of a draft” deal “in confidence”, which proposed more cash for Surrey and a plan to make them the first two tier council to pilot 100% business rates retention. Three days later Style withdrew the offer:

It’s getting lost in the Budget noise, but this would appear to show a deal was at least initially proposed, contrary to the government’s spin…

May Opposed National Insurance Rise in 2010

Awkward…

Osborne Earning £650,000 For Four Days’ Work a Month

Yesterday George Osborne was tweeting about how when he was Chancellor “we were all in this together”. Today this entry in the Register of MPs’ Interests dropped:

That’s £650,000 a year for four days’ work a month. Nice day for that news to come out…

Labour Tax Attacks Deleted From Hammond’s Website

Blog posts from the 2015 election accusing Labour of plotting tax rises have been deleted from Philip Hammond’s campaign website. A series of articles from April and May 2015 have disappeared from runnymedeweybridgeconservatives.com, which features a large photo of Hammond at the top and acted as his campaign website during the election. The vanished articles include attack posters warning of “more taxes” if Labour won, and campaign material claiming “you’d pay with more taxes”. Articles from before and after the election campaign remain on the site, it is only articles from the election campaign that have disappeared. Hammond covering up his broken promise?

Unfortunately, PDFs uploaded to the site during the election campaign have not been deleted. They include campaign literature pledging not to increase NI. In 2015 Hammond’s constituency website pledged not to raise NI, now as Chancellor he has done just that…

FSB’s Brutal Budget Assessment

A coruscating takedown of the Budget from the Federation of Small Businesses:

“The National Insurance rise to 10% next year and 11% in 2019 should be seen for what it is – a £1 billion tax hike on those who set themselves up in business. This undermines the Government’s own mission for the UK to be the best place to start and grow a business, and it drives up the cost of doing business. Future growth of the UK’s 4.8 million-strong self-employed population is now at risk. Increasing this tax burden, effectively funded by a reduction in corporation tax over the same period, is the wrong way to go…

The genuinely self-employed are fundamentally different to employees – they are the risk takers that spearhead growth and productivity in our economy. They need help and support from Government given the spiralling costs of doing business, not additional tax burdens. This measure is a tax grab on middle income self-employed people, who are just about managing. Class 4 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) will apply from about £8,000 to £45,000 in profits. Millions of self-employed will now face this tax hike, including plumbers, hairdressers, designers, musicians and many others in all our local communities…

FSB is concerned about the drop in tax-free dividend allowance from £5000 to £2000 starting in April 2018. In the wake of changes to dividend taxation last year, this is a further disincentive for businesses to invest and grow. Many of our members, including those on modest incomes, will now see a significant rise in their tax liabilities.”

The Tories hitting entrepreneurs, their own voters…

Treasury Spin Falls Apart

The Treasury is shamelessly spinning that the Tory manifesto commitment on National Insurance only referred to Class 1 NICs, not Class 4. This is untrue. There is no mention of Class 1 or Class 4 NICs in the Tory manifesto, it says very clearly in black and white that there will be no increases to National Insurance whatsoever. As Tom Watson says, they must have put the words “Class 1” in invisible ink. The Treasury won’t be getting away with spinning these alternative facts…

Hammond Breaks Tory Manifesto Commitment Not to Raise NI

Philip Hammond has broken the 2015 Tory manifesto commitment not to raise National Insurance contributions. It was there in black and white not once but four times:

“A Conservative Government will not increase the rates of VAT, Income Tax or National Insurance in the next Parliament”

“we will not raise VAT, National Insurance contributions or Income Tax”

“commit to no increases in VAT, National Insurance contributions or Income Tax”

“we can commit to no increases in VAT, Income Tax or National Insurance. Tax rises on working people would harm our economy, reduce living standards and cost jobs”

Today Hammond hiked NIC payments for self-employed people from 9 percent to 10% in 2018 and up again to 11 % by 2019. Two 1% tax rises in two years for the self-employed. Tory manifesto promise broken…

May’s Weird Shoulder Laugh


Jeremy Corbyn somehow manages to blaze the Surrey council open goal over the bar at PMQs. And Theresa May is loving it…

Tory Whip Withdrawal Rumours Played Down

The BBC’s Norman Smith set off the rumour mill with this intriguing tweet this morning:

Chances it’ll happen? It would mean withdrawing the whip from the likes of Ken Clarke, a Tory MP for 47 years. It would mean war with Tory Remainers. It would mean reducing May’s majority. It could well mean going to the country to secure a giant Commons Brexit mandate. Which is tempting for Brexiters though out of kilter with the PM’s cautious approach. There is already some push back at the speculation, Guido is told that conversations along the lines of withdrawing the whip have not been had. Sort of thing someone might put out to frighten rebels, but not actually do…

Heseltine Sacked

Heseltine says he has been sacked as a government adviser at DCLG after rebelling in the Lords on Brexit tonight. He had unsurprisingly faced calls for his head from Tory MPs and peers in recent weeks. Inevitable. 

Surrey Council Leader Admits “Gentleman’s Agreement” in Leaked Tape

Pre-Budget bombshell for the government: BBC Surrey has got hold of a leaked recording where Surrey council leader David Hodge admits he secured a “gentleman’s agreement” with the government over the council tax referendum. In the leaked tape Hodge says he has written assurances and recordings from ministers including Sajid Javid. He says he secured a “gentleman’s agreement” with the government – something he and Number 10 have publicly denied. And he claims Javid met with Philip Hammond and then relayed to Surrey council “things we could say and things we couldn’t say”.

When Corbyn made the allegations of a sweetheart deal at PMQs Theresa May accused him of “alternative facts”. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said that “the suggestion there was extra money promised” was “without any basis”. Uh oh…

UPDATE: Tim Farron calls for Theresa May to come to the House to apologise.

UPDATE II: Team Corbyn say the PM’s spokesman has “clearly lied”.

UPDATE III: A government spokesman dumps on David Hodge:

“As we have repeatedly made clear, there was no special deal for Surrey County Council and they will not receive any extra funding that would not otherwise be provided or offered to other councils. To imply the opposite is simply untrue.

Made in Westminster: Toff on the Terrace

A very special guest for Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands on the Commons terrace: his constituent Georgia Toffolo, AKA Toff from reality TV show Made in Chelsea. More commonly found in the MailOnline sidebar, Theresa May fan Toff is a politics enthusiast who when asked a few years ago how she would vote replied: “Tory. Definitely”. Pictured above left wearing traditional German dress, which will no doubt appeal to Herr Hands…

Heidi Allen Opposes Three Tory Policies in Three Minutes

Tory MP Heidi Allen has just been on the Daily Politics where she opposed three of her party’s policies – on Brexit, the Dubs amendment and grammar schools – in three minutes. Heidi already has a frosty relationship with her local association and it is a running joke that she provides more opposition to Theresa May than Corbyn. Red Tory, why doesn’t she just go and join Labour, etc, etc…

Hammond Transferred Shares and Property to His Wife

Philip Hammond very sensibly says he will not be publishing his tax return, saving himself the grief that Corbyn had yesterday. It also saves the Chancellor from having to talk about Castlemead Ltd. In 2010 Hammond was the subject of a Dispatches investigation which accused him of “doing a Philip Green”, transferring 40% of his shares in Castlemead – which had already paid him millions in dividend payments – to his wife. The programme claimed that any payouts Mrs Hammond then received from the company could be taxed at a lower rate, potentially giving the Hammonds a nifty tax saving. The other 60% of the shares were put in a trust, of which he remains a beneficiary to this day. At the time Hammond strongly denied he had avoided any tax, though he confirmed tax on the dividends would be lower if his wife was in a lower tax band than him. He declined to discuss whether this was the case.

There’s more. In 2014 the Mirror reported that Hammond had gifted his share of a £600,000 property to his wife, meaning Mrs Hammond was now responsible for paying all tax on the rent from the property. The paper accused the Hammonds of using the move to avoid tax. Hammond insisted it was a “private matter” but said any suggestion the transfer was “designed” to avoid tax was “incorrect”. 

There is of course no suggestion that Hammond evaded any tax or did anything other than pay the amount of tax he owed. Guido is of the view that compelling politicians to reveal their tax returns is a slippery slope – how long before a politician argues we should be like Norway where members of the public have no privacy. Though you can see why the Chancellor would want to save himself the trouble of explaining all this…

Hague Calls For Early Election

William Hague concedes “it is not on the cards”, but he writes in the Telegraph that the Tories should repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act and Theresa May should call an early election to bury Labour and strengthen her hand on Brexit. These are the key quotes:

“Were the Fixed-term Parliaments Act not in force, the case for a general election this spring would be very strong indeed. We have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet facing the most complex challenges of modern times: Brexit negotiations, the Trump administration, the threat from Scottish nationalists and many other issues. There is no doubt that they would be in a stronger position to take the country through these challenges successfully if they had a large and decisive majority in the Commons and a new full term ahead of them.

Furthermore, they would have a very good chance of securing such an outcome. An election now would follow the rare experience of a by-election gain for the Government and would catch the Labour Party in its worst condition since the early Thirties, and with its least credible leader ever. But it is difficult to call an election, assuming that Labour turkeys are unlikely to vote for a very early and particularly juicy Christmas…

Could the Fixed-term Parliament Act be repealed? Yes it could, if Conservative MPs were determined and disciplined about doing it. A change introduced to help the Lib Dems in the last parliament does not have to be sacrosanct in this one. There would be much synthetic rage, but the right to go to the country has been enjoyed by Labour and Liberal prime ministers down the ages, from Gladstone to Blair.

A bill to repeal the Act could be introduced this year and be law by late 2018, even if it became necessary to override opposition in the Lords. Then the Prime Minister, who faces formidable obstacles, would have her hand strengthened, particularly if the voters remain on her side.

Such change can only be made with almost unanimous Conservative support. The chances of that would have to be calculated. If asked, I am sure ministers will say that they have no plan to introduce a change. However, quietly and carefully, it is worth thinking about. In 2019, trouble is coming.”

That will set the hare running among Tory MPs…

Tory Mayoral Candidate and the Ex-Brothel Keeper

A former brothel-keeper is lending a hand to Tory candidate Andy Street’s campaign to become Mayor of the West Midlands. David Bourne – once a Conservative councillor – ran a knocking shop from his end-of-terrace home with wife Carol, according to reports at the time. Punters could enjoy on-camera three-ways for £150 an hour. Bourne’s details are on Street’s campaign site as a contact for those who want to join the Tory campaign. Tonight Bourne told Guido: “I have been delivering some leaflets. It’s a long while ago. There was no investigation. No police action”. These days he’s Street-walking, though only to knock on doors…

Death Tax Wasn’t Just Awkward For Hammond

The Sunday papers reported that Philip Hammond has shelved plans for a new death tax after deciding his previous statements on the policy meant a u-turn would be too toxic. The Sunday Mirror said Hammond “feared he’d look a plonker”, while the Sunday Times quoted an aide:

“Virtually everyone who was in the cabinet when the death tax was first suggested is on the record saying it is a terrible idea. That’s quite hard to get around.”

Guido knows another reason why a death tax would be a very brave move by the Tories. Which top CCHQ aide was at the forefront of those vicious attacks on Labour’s death tax back in 2010? The Conservative Research Department’s then deputy director, now Downing Street chief of staff Nick Timothy…

Carswell: Not Rejoining Tories, I’ll Stand For UKIP in 2020

Carswell rules out defecting back to the Tories and says he will stand for UKIP again, something he hasn’t committed to before.[…] Read the rest

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