Why we shouldn’t be surprised by Philip Hammond’s reported comments

I must go back and look at newspapers from the Major administration of the 1990s at some point. It was clear then that his Cabinet was divided (over Europe) and that they all seemed to hate each others’ guts. However,  I can’t remember anything quite as nasty as the various newspaper reports doing the rounds now describing the open warfare between and around senior Cabinet ministers in the current Government.

It seems like a total free for all with Philip Hammond getting the brunt of it. So far, it’s been leaked that he said that public sector workers were overpaid and that driving a train was so easy that even women could do it. There is some dubiety over both comments. He certainly didn’t deny the first and on the second, Politics Home reported that Hammond had been stitched up.

We’re almost getting to the point where John Major’s “bastards” comment looks affectionate.

It would be quite funny to watch if these people weren’t driving our country to a much less certain and prosperous future.

One thing strikes me, though. The comments attributed, perhaps falsely, to Hammond are just the sorts of things Tories say. 

Sometimes they say appalling things in public. I remember feeling sick back in 2011 when David Cameron questioned the rights of people with serious health conditions  to claim benefits.

We know from Nick Clegg that the Tories didn’t much bother with social housing because it “created Labour voters.”

I wonder how the private Cabinet conversations went on things like the Benefit Cap, capping benefits at two children and the rape clause. I suspect that they were full of judgement and misogyny and light on the reality of life for those who struggle to have the basics of life.

We know from their cruel and inhumane actions in government that their attitude to the poorest is illiberal and judgemental. We know that they will do what they can to help the richest. It’s what Tories do.

When I hear what dreadful things Tories have said in private or public, I am not surprised. It’s what they do. It does, however, make me more determined to fight them and win. To do that, the Liberal Democrats need to paint a big and easily understood picture of what a Liberal Democrat society looks like and we need to show people how we get there.

If we can do that, Vince Cable’s “third to first” vision might well become a reality.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Simon-croft 16th Jul '17 - 1:52pm

    All part of manoeuvres to stop him being PM in the bloody battle to come in Tory party of course

  • Graham Martin-Royle 16th Jul '17 - 2:48pm

    I just want to know why he apparently said that train drivers are overpaid. Has he forgotten that a previous tory government privatised the railways and that train drivers are no longer public sector workers?

    Of course, he could always give the train drivers what they’ve been after ever since privatisation and re-nationalise the railways, then he could impose his 1% pay cap on them. Win-win all round, the rail unions get the railways back under government control and Mr Hammond gets control of their pay :-).

  • Christopher Haigh 16th Jul '17 - 3:42pm

    Hammond also said in his interview with the BBC this morning that the UK does not have the resources to support another shock to its economy. So how do the Tories propose to finance Brexit ?

  • They intend to finance it by getting us to work harder for less and cuts. Sad thing is the people who vote for them will be among the most affected. Not much work in an OAP but lots you can cut; still they can always sell their house.

  • nvelope2003 16th Jul '17 - 4:21pm

    Graham Martyn-Royle : Southern Railway is already under Government control as a management contract not a franchise and look what a brilliant job they have done there. Of course the unions do not want rail renationalisation. They have done so well out of the so called privatisation. In private they admit it.

  • Source for your statement nvelope2003, because their public stance is nationalisation is the preferred option


    Are you making up your statement or are they being economical with the truth?

  • Bernard Aris 16th Jul '17 - 4:42pm

    That’s funny, I have the same association with the years 1990-’97. Bagehot in The Economist this weekend sounds ominously like his predecessor in the same weekly 25 years ago about the sitting / wobbling Tory prime minister.

    I’m really curious when another feature of the Major years will re-appear:
    #) the tabloids destroying Tory ministers they don’t like (see the threat against Brexit “backsliders” mentioned in the Guardian interview with Cable) by portaying them, on the front page, in just a football shirt and their underpants.
    Because that is the only level on which the tabloids and fervent Brexiteers can conduct any Brexit-or-not debate…

    The only difference with the Major years I can see is that the pro-Brexit “Referendum Party” (RP) was in the ascendant in Majors second government (see English Wikipedia), with a Tory MP defecting to them just before the 1997 election.
    Well, we have had UKIP and its Tory defectors (one of which re-defected back to the Tories); and UKIP is a spent force, whereas the RP in 1997 cost the Tories 7 to 14 extra seats.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 16th Jul '17 - 5:14pm

    @nvelope2003: My comment was pretty much tongue in cheek as the unions have, as you say, done very well out of privatisation but, their official position has always been that they support re-nationalisation. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for 🙂

  • Dave Orbison 16th Jul '17 - 5:22pm

    nvelope2003 – Is your loathing of unions LibDem policy?

    As a public sector worker at the time, I despised Danny Alexander preaching to the public sector that they needed to pay for for bankers excesses through a pay freeze. Also the nonsense that the vast majority of low paid public sector employees should be regarded as being better off as they had pensions. A typical divide and rule Tory tactic shamefully and repeatedly spouted by Alexander, Clegg, Cable and Laws.

    A defined benefit pension scheme based on a low wage offers only a fraction of a low wage as a pension. Hardly something to celebrate.

    Unless of course you are an MP who changed MP pension accrual rates to 1/40ths and approved a 11% pay rise for themselves . All in it together, I remember.

    Ah the Coalition policies so staunchly fronted by the LibDems, never likely to be forgotten.

    Hammond is surely just repeating the Coalition line that so many here were willing to support when Danny was doing it.

  • Richard Easter 16th Jul '17 - 7:39pm

    Hammond would burst into tears if he was dumped into the driving seat of the 19:03 London to Penzance and told to get on with it. Hammond appears to have done many consultancy jobs prior to becoming an MP, so I would like to know what his experience of rail operations is?

    It shows the contempt these idiots have for ordinary people, whether it is him and his government deciding that driving trains is easy (and train guards should all be fired and drivers jailed if they screw up when taking on the extra duties), or telling hard working nurses patrionisingly there is “no magic money tree”, and now insinuating that public sector workers are overpaid. It is enough to make one a Corbynist!

  • @David Orbison

    At today’s New Statesman fringe at the Lib Dem conference (on what the EU referendum means for workers), TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady observed: “This is the last Lib Dem fringe I’ll be able to address before people who exercise their democratic right to strike in this country are forced to wear armbands, have their Facebook and Twitter accounts trawled and hand over their names and telephone numbers to the police. I’m going to enjoy this while I can but, again, I would like just to put on record my thanks to the Lib Dem MPs and others who have helped us in challenging what is a deeply, deeply illiberal piece of legislation.”

    In response, fellow panellist Nick Clegg said he shared O’Grady’s “dismay” at the trade union bill, which he denounced as “gratuitous, unjustified, disproportionate and, from my point of view, recycling lots and lots of measures that I consistently blocked within government.” He added, however: “I do sometimes wish, this is going to sound terribly churlish, I do sometimes wish that your members, who worked so hard to dislodge Lib Dem ministers, realise quite how much we were doing to fend off these attacks on their rights.”


    It would appear that is answer to your question

    nvelope2003 – Is your loathing of unions LibDem policy?

    is a resounding No. i suspect nvelope2003 view comes from the libertarian wing who seem to be rapidly departing the Lib Dems. Next port of call the new right wing Tory party perhaps.

  • Dave Orbison 16th Jul '17 - 11:45pm

    Frankie – re envelope2003 agreed. More 1893 than 2003

  • David Evershed 17th Jul '17 - 8:52am

    “……….. if these people weren’t driving our country to a much less certain and prosperous future.”

    If it is a much less certain future how can we know it will be less prosperous or more prosperous?

  • Dave Orbison, frankie: I do not hate unions. I was an unpaid and active official of a public sector union when I was working in it. My comment was entirely about the position of the unions on railway renationalisation. I have heard them saying the opposite to their public stance in private discussions and as stated by Graham Martyn-Royle ASLEF members in particular have done very well out of privatisation.

    Alexander, Clegg and Laws have gone now and of course we have a much better Government now – well maybe not. Mistakes were made but I am not aware of anyone advocating those policies should be repeated. It is time to move on and stop raking over the past.

  • Bernard Aris 17th Jul '17 - 5:23pm

    @ Ian Sanderson

    I fully agree with your pointing to the even sillier/scarier UKIP goings on at the European Parliament (with racism and misogynie sometimes openly on display).
    I was just pointing to the portrayal in the media coverage of UKIP in the last three or four general elections , that was my comparison with the Major years.
    Of course because the Referendum Party never made it to the EP, they couldn’t use that as their backbone as Farage’s UKIP did. That Farage did so, shows the size of his political cynicism and opportunism; chutzpah als the Jews call it (in Holland it is usually used disaprovingly).

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