Monday, 25 September, 2017

Theresa May to warn Cabinet to put an end to leaks

Chancellor claims driving trains is so easy 'even a woman could do it' The chancellor has been criticised for the sexist remark
Saul Franklin | 17 July, 2017, 20:43

On Sunday Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested colleagues opposed to his approach to Brexit had been briefing against him.

It follows earlier accounts of the meeting which had already embroiled the Chancellor in a sexism row for reportedly saying that trains are now so easy to drive that "even a woman" can do it - another claim which Hammond denied.

Hammond told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that the government is becoming more convinced on the need for a transitional arrangement to be made, saying it would be "right and sensible both for the United Kingdom and EU". "I think my colleagues should be very quiet, stick to their own departmental duties and I think the public expects us to be disciplined and effective".

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said several factors were at play, including some ministers' belief Mr Hammond was trying to slow down the Brexit process, and Mrs May's weakened position after the general election.

The comments come against a backdrop of internal Conservative arguments over whether to axe the 1% public sector pay cap.

You praise our public sector workers in times of crisis, and then you kick them in the teeth by voting down a pay rise for them. "This government is facing a ticking clock over the Brexit negotiations", he said.

"I'm not going to talk about what was or wasn't said", he said.

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The lead story in the Times cited five separate unidentified sources as saying Hammond had described public-sector workers as "overpaid" during the cabinet meeting last week and was criticized by Johnson for the statement.

Mr Grayling today denied he was briefing against the Chancellor, as did allies of Mr Johnson, Mr Gove, Brexit Secretary David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

THERESA May is set to lay down the law with her Cabinet after a series of damaging leaks by senior ministers have targeted her Chancellor.

There is of course the leadership factor, both in terms of Theresa May being present but not powerful, but also in terms of the burning ambitions of many ministers to replace her. So, to adapt the words of a very different politician from a very different context, centre-left remainers have a clear task: they should simultaneously fight Hammond on austerity as if there were no Brexit, but back Hammond on Brexit as if there were no austerity.

Meanwhile, Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, urged colleagues to "for once, shut up for God's sake, and let everyone else get on with the business of governing". "Taking public sector pay before pensions contributions - that gap has now closed", he said.

Asked on the BBC about the reports, Hammond said that "some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda that I have, over the last weeks, tried to advance of ensuring that we achieve a Brexit which is focused on protecting our economy".

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