May must learn the lessons of history and bring Hammond into her inner circle. If not this government will be a smoking wreck within months

19 Oct 2016 at 08:18

If you want a playful analogy of the government’s position on Brexit you could do no better than revisit that wonderful movie, ‘who framed Roger Rabbit’. Half the characters are real people the rest are loony tune cartoon characters. Somehow they become interchangeable. A crazed Judge Doom has an obsession to destroy the Toons and we only understand why when it is revealed that he is a Toon himself under heavy disguise. Roger Rabbit is the star performer. A wacky show off Toon who has a passion for the the voluptuous, but darkly manipulative Jessica Rabbit. One of the the problems that Roger has is that he has no self control and cannot resist becoming wildly wacky. Judge Doom flushes him out of hiding by repeating the music hall knock. ‘Knock, knock, a knock, knock……’. until a half crazed Roger has to reply..‘knock, knock’. And the game is up.

Watching Bozo at the despatch box is like watching the inner turmoil of Roger Rabbit. Bozo wants to be statesmanlike, but it’s impossible for him not to show off. He tries to resist it and fails miserably. Yesterday it was speaking Marks Brothers Italian. The time before it was encouraging people to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy, which pretty stupid because you are not allowed to. If only he had an opposite number of wit and dexterity rather than the clunkily dim Thornberry, whom could tease out Bozo’s inner rabbit. But what has astounded me is the way that his Brexit supporters parroted the ludicrous line that his ‘semi parodic’ piece in favour of the EU was perfectly normal. I’m sure Abraham Lincoln wrote two pieces for his local paper, one in favour of freeing the slaves and another warning of the economic consequences. Oh, how he must have agonised. I give Bozo less than a year to explode in a mushroom cloud of off message tomfoolery. It will probably be at the time he realises that Brexit is an unworkable disaster and wants to jump ship pinning the blame on Fox, Davis and May and setting himself up to have another crack at the leadership.

But Bozo is a minor distraction compared to a potential disaster that is brewing gently in the corner. Philip Hammond. There is a golden rule in politics and it is this. If a Prime Minister falls out with their Chancellor over a major policy issue both are doomed. It was the beginning of the end of Macmillan when Peter Thornycroft resigned and for Thatcher when Nigel Lawson flounced off. And it was a former Chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, who finished her off. As for Blair and Brown? I am not a psychiatrist nor do I have the time to indulge in that psychodrama. Cameron was much more canny. When Osborne was being briefed against and the teenage scribblers were calling from his head, Cameron drew him even closer. They even shared an office. Cameron understands history? Does May?

When the Treasury and ‘friends of the Chancellor’ (which is code for him) say there is no question of him resigning, it is a very clear warning shot that something is very, very wrong. She has to involve him at every level of decision making. She is deeply unwise to rely on a tiny coterie of unelected advisors. And quite wrong to assume micromanagement of all government policy. It just won’t work. Hammond is neither personable nor charismatic and has the personality of a Nissan hut. But he is a powerful voice of reason. If she loses him she is finished.

Hammond needs to reassured, nurtured and brought into the inner circle. If she doesn’t this is a sore that will fester and burst. It is what the Brexiteers want. If it happens this government will be a smoking wreck in months.

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