It’s not hard to understand why the Tories daren’t debate. Apply the slightest pressure and they go into full-blown meltdown.
This morning, on Radio 4’s Today programme, John Humphrys challenged Philip Hammond’s transparently false attack on Labour’s fully-costed manifesto – and Hammond went into a funk so profound that, while it’s tempting to call it his ‘Abbott moment’, it would be more fair to consider renaming Abbott’s interview to her ‘Hammond moment’.
Hammond attempted to portray Labour’s spending commitments as having a ‘£58 billion hole’ in them, but Humphrys pointed out that to reach that conclusion he had to conflate Labour’s ‘running costs’ and investment plans – which is something Hammond and his party don’t do about their own spending.
Hammond started to stammer – clearly with no clue how to proceed when things weren’t going to script except to fall back on his pre-scripted attack line and throw in a ridiculous ‘strong and stable’ and even a ‘magic money tree’
But the most disastrous point came when Humphrys asked Hammond how much the HS2 rail line is projected to cost – and Hammond got it wrong.
By a colossal 63%:
Even right-wing commentators noticed:
But let’s be clear – this is worse by a distance than Diane Abbott’s stumble a couple of weeks ago on LBC. Abbott was asked a question involving a series of figures and calculations. She got it badly wrong – but Chancellor Philip Hammond was asked about one simple number. One that he’s responsible for.
And he screwed it up. By 63%.
To his credit, Humphrys wasn’t finished with Hammond yet.
He mocked Hammond’s ‘mantra’ that Labour’s manifesto doesn’t add up – which Hammond kept repeating even though Humphrys had already shown him it wasn’t true – and even hammered home his ‘fully-costed’ point while telling Hammond how popular it was going to be:
He forced Hammond into an admission that ‘of course we’re going to borrow‘ in exactly the same way Labour would, for investment in infrastructure etc:
And he flustered Hammond so much that you can hear the Chancellor’s audible gulp at the beginning of this clip, before he stammers his way through a response that Humprhys again dismantles mercilessly:
Humphrys often frustrates left-leaning listeners with his apparent right-wing leanings, but he deserves credit for the way he exposed Hammond’s nonsense this morning. But whereas Abbott’s mishap was all over the broadcast and print media ad nauseam, Hammond’s car-crash has had almost no coverage. Even Politics Home’s mention above only touches on the wrong figure and not the rest of the stammering, Torybot disaster.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has issued a challenge to Hammond to debate:
The SKWAWKBOX suggests that John doesn’t hold his breath. But it’s yet one more example of the Tories’ ‘head in the sand’ tactic in the hope that voters won’t notice that they’re afraid of Labour’s ideas, competence and conviction.
Yet again it’s up to us – the ‘new left media’ and our readers – to get the word out and make sure the wider public is very well aware that the Tories’ reputation for competence is nothing more than a tissue-paper construct that falls apart under the least pressure.
No wonder May daren’t debate and her keepers are almost never letting the hapless Hammond, Hunt and the others out into the sunlight where their huge failings become unmissable.
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