The hypocrisy of Philip Hammond – and the Remainer commentariat
BY TOM HARWOOD
Former-Chancellor Philip Hammond took to Twitter today to lambast his old Cabinet colleagues and allege that their party is somehow being taken over by “entryists” and an “extreme right-wing faction”. He goes on to claim that “this is not the party I joined.”
This is a particularly odd statement considering today’s Conservative Party looks positively socially democratic compared to the Thatcherite party Hammond first became an active member of in the 1980s.
Today’s Conservative Party would never allow him to publish pro-hanging literature as he did in the 1994 Newham By-Election. By the time he became an MP in 1997, Hammond repeatedly took the chance to oppose liberal policy. He voted against equalizing the age of consent for LGBT couples, he refused to vote to repeal Section 28 or for civil partnerships, let alone back equal marriage, which as recently as 2013 he compared to incest. His early voting record would be seen as positively troglodyte in today’s Conservative Party.
Boris Johnson on the other hand was one of tiny handful of Tory MPs who voted against the overwhelming majority of his party to repeal Section 28. He voted for Civil Partnerships and helped launch the ‘Freedom to Marry’ campaign before marriage equality was fashionable. All this while Hammond stood in the most reactionary corner of the party.
But social policy aside, perhaps Hammond was only referring to government spending as his metric for assessing this supposed “extreme right-wing” takeover. He may be surprised to learn in that case that Sajid Javid’s spending review earlier this week set out that this coming year will be the first since 2002 where not a single government department will face a cut.
It is hard to think of a chancellor in modern times who held a tighter grip on the country’s purse strings than Philip Hammond.
Far from being a lefty, Hammond’s treasury was famously restrained creating spending headroom and sticking assiduously to his fiscal rules. His domestic fiscal restraint was indeed admirable, but his clear loathing of Brexit was inexcusable. Hammond’s responsible management of public services would put him well to the right of the current chancellor. Where the right of the party rightly criticise him it is almost exclusively over EU withdrawal. The roadblocks he put in place to No Deal planning, despite his commitments to it in public, were nothing short of saboteurial.
By any metric; social policy, environmentalism, public spending, it is clear that this is a Government that is a far and distant cry from the “extreme right-wing faction” Hammond tries to paint. Picking up left wing buzzwords is an unadmirable quality, as is merrily associating with and receiving gushing praise from the very people who were called his own fiscal restraint murderous not so long ago.
Unlike within the Labour Party, there is no evidence at all of the ‘entryism’ Hammond alleges in the Conservative Party. These are the same members who elected David Cameron and Boris Johnson. The members Cameron had to appease with Eurosceptic credential flexing, such as promises like a referendum on any future EU treaty and pulling the Conservatives out of the euro-federalist EPP group in the European Parliament.
Why does Hammond get away with naked untruths, using language ordinarily reserved for proto-fascist groups to describe the government of this country? How can he, despite his reactionary voting record and past policy positions that would make even the steeliest right winger flinch, be lauded by the so called ‘liberal’ chattering classes?
Because nothing seems to matter to the commentariat other than someone’s position on Brexit.
Michael Fabricant, who was once approached by Tony Blair to see if he would defect to New Labour, is now somehow seen as being to the right of Philip Hammond, a man who voted against LGBT rights and stood on a promise to bring back hanging. All because one believes in the right of the British people to hire and fire those who make their laws.
Brexit continues to drive Remainers bonkers. The sooner we get it enacted and done with the better.
Tom Harwood is an award-winning journalist and commentator. Follow him on twitter: @tomhfh