THERESA MAY’S Cabinet is spectacularly at war with the Treasury over public sector pay – thanks to cloth-eared, leaden-footed Philip Hammond.
Terrified by Labour’s leap in popularity, ministers are suddenly demanding a huge and unaffordable bung for public sector workers — spurred on by, of all people, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Philip Hammond knows the nation cannot afford to lift the seven-year pay cap on 5.4million teachers, nurses, firefighters and other state workers.
It was Mr Hammond, seething over his treatment by Theresa May, who invited himself on TV after the June 8 meltdown and gave the clearest signal that the pay freeze was over.
Spitting chips, he toured the TV broadcasters making it plain — perhaps rightly — that he could have put forward a vote-winning case for the Tories on jobs and prosperity.
It was an incendiary remark from the custodian of our public finances in the days after Labour had turned the issue into a bonfire of Tory votes.
Single-handedly, the Chancellor had driven a bulldozer through his own policy of pay restraint.
He skewered the vital task of curbing State borrowing and opened the door to inevitable hikes in tax and spending.
Tories foolishly pounced on the futile hope that they could use taxpayers’ money to buy back the votes harvested on June 8 by spendthrift Labour.
If Jeremy Corbyn could rise from the political ashes by promising cash for his public sector supporters and his trade union pals, so could the Tories.
If Labour could win millions of new votes from students by promising to abolish university tuition fees, so could the Tories.
And if Jeremy could afford to keep dishing out unaffordable pension hikes to already well-off pensioners, so could a shell-shocked Conservative Government.
The spending frenzy flew in the face of everything the Tories stood for as a party.
Forget about cautious stewardship of a still-fragile economy. Never mind long-standing promises to cut tax and to spend money more wisely.
And who cares about the Mount Everest of national debt which threatens to impoverish not just today’s taxpayers, but their children and grandchildren for generations to come?
Mr Hammond, a supremely ambitious politician who still vainly believes he is in with a chance of the premiership, used to be famous as a “safe pair of hands”.
His nickname, Spreadsheet Phil, reflects his image as a dry accountant and shrewd businessman.
He was widely admired as the richest man in the Cabinet after starting to build a property empire almost before he left school.
But Mr Hammond is not quite the steady, sober and mature politician he seems at first sight.
A committed Remainer, he has done everything in his power to stall the will of the people over Brexit.
He is prone to arrogance and a tendency to lash out when emboldened.
He broke all the rules last month by using a trip to Berlin to savage Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
He resented being passed over as Chancellor George Osborne’s Treasury deputy in 2010 — as he told the Tory conference last year.
“I just might have hoped to have been a Treasury minister a little bit earlier in my political career,” he said sourly.
And in his first disastrous Spring Budget, he dismayed many Tories by taking a pop at predecessor Norman Lamont, victim of Premier John Major’s Black Wednesday devaluation crisis.
“Twenty years ago Norman Lamont also presented what was billed then as the last Spring Budget,” he said with a smirk. “Ten weeks later he was sacked.”
But while Lamont can claim several successful budgets, Mr Hammond’s first could yet turn out to be his last.
It was this Chancellor who inflicted the first major U-turn of Theresa May’s Government — the manifesto-breaking tax on National Insurance contributions for the self-employed.
It was greeted with dismay by Tory MPs, who were accused of betrayal and with fury by the low-paid workers — many of them Sun readers.
Our columnist believes in Theresa May hopes to restore her shattered authority, she must sack Mr Hammond[/caption]
The plan unravelled, leaving a gaping hole in the Chancellor’s finances and his career hanging by a thread.
Mrs May, then unassailable as Prime Minister, decided to sack him at the first opportunity.
As it turned out, with her own career hanging by a thread, she felt powerless to act.
The result is a Cabinet out of control — a headless chicken.
If this PM hopes to restore her shattered authority, stifle talk of a coup and give herself a chance of survival beyond the next few weeks, she should sack Philip Hammond as Chancellor today.