EEY­ORE’S LAST HAR­RUMPH

Yes, he nursed a healthy econ­omy. But ul­tra-Re­mainer Philip Ham­mond, who’s fi­nally quit as an MP, in­fu­ri­ated his party for his mul­ish op­po­si­tion to No Deal – and couldn’t re­sist a fi­nal barb

Scottish Daily Mail - - The Brex­mas Elec­tion - An­drew Pierce re­port­ing

FORMER chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond is quit­ting Par­lia­ment af­ter de­cid­ing he could not face stand­ing as an in­de­pen­dent against the Tories in next month’s Gen­eral Elec­tion.

In a let­ter to con­stituents, he said he had de­cided he could not fight the party he sup­ported ‘all my adult life’, writes Jack Doyle.

Mr Ham­mond, who said he was stand­ing down with ‘great sad­ness’, was one of 21 Tories who lost the whip af­ter vot­ing to force a de­lay to Brexit. Hav­ing be­come a se­rial rebel and vir­u­lent critic of No 10, he was not one of the ten MPs read­mit­ted to the party last week.

The former for­eign and de­fence sec­re­tary had promised the PM the ‘fight of a life­time’ over whether he could stand as Tory can­di­date in Run­nymede and Wey­bridge, the seat he has rep­re­sented since 1997. He threat­ened le­gal ac­tion and sug­gested he would stand as an In­de­pen­dent Con­ser­va­tive.

But yes­ter­day he changed his mind, say­ing: ‘If I fight as an In­de­pen­dent Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date against an of­fi­cial Con­ser­va­tive Party can­di­date, I would cease to be a mem­ber of the party. I am sad­dened to find my­self in this po­si­tion af­ter 45 years of mem­ber­ship, 22 years as a Con­ser­va­tive MP, 12 years as an op­po­si­tion front­bench spokesman and over nine years as a Cab­i­net minister.’

And in a clear swipe at Boris John­son, he said the party had ‘al­ways had room for a wide range of opin­ions and has been tol­er­ant of mea­sured dis­sent’.

Last night Chan­cel­lor Sa­jid Javid wished Mr Ham­mond ‘all the best’. He wrote on Twit­ter: ‘Whilst we have our dif­fer­ences on Brexit, I’ve al­ways had great re­spect for him.’

Tony Blair hailed his ‘in­tegrity and courage’ while former jus­tice sec­re­tary David Gauke, an­other of the 21 rebels, said: ‘Philip brought in­tel­li­gence, in­dus­try and in­tegrity to all that he did as a minister and MP.’

But one Tory Brex­i­teer told the Mail: ‘His­tory will not be kind to him. When the coun­try needed some­one in the po­si­tion of Chan­cel­lor to step up to the plate and make sure Brexit was de­liv­ered, he was found want­ing.’

For a politi­cian of­ten likened to Win­nie-the-Pooh’s gloomy friend Eey­ore, it seemed ap­po­site that Philip Ham­mond should an­nounce ‘with great sad­ness’ his de­ci­sion to quit front­line pol­i­tics.

rarely dur­ing his time as Chan­cel­lor did the one-time sec­ond-hand car sales­man from Es­sex glow with sunny op­ti­mism.

That said, he was re­spon­si­ble for presiding over some ra­di­ant times for the UK econ­omy — his careful stew­ard­ship ac­cru­ing £26 bil­lion to spend on vi­tal pub­lic ser­vices, to in­vest in the so­cial care sys­tem, on schools, men­tal health, roads, de­fence and tax cuts.

Steady, if not spec­tac­u­lar, was Ham­mond’s watch­word — as was eco­nomic growth while he was in charge of the na­tion’s fi­nances.

But by na­ture more of an ac­coun­tant than a politi­cian, the 63-year-old will also be re­mem­bered for his role in block­ing Brexit.

Many bit­terly ac­cuse him of dis­loy­alty for vot­ing against the Gov­ern­ment line in or­der to pre­vent a No Deal Brexit — the very out­come he re­peat­edly re­fused to pre­pare for and fund while in Theresa May’s Cab­i­net.

By stand­ing down now, in­stead of go­ing through with his vow to en­gage in a ‘fight of a life­time’ against ‘Brex­i­teer en­try­ists’ who he said were at­tempt­ing to turn the Tory Party into a ‘nar­row fac­tion’, he mer­its praise.

By not run­ning as an In­de­pen­dent in the Sur­rey seat of run­nymede and Wey­bridge, he leaves the Con­ser­va­tives with an easy 18,000 ma­jor­ity to de­fend.

And to Boris John­son, his de­par­ture means one less trou­ble­some re­mainer former minister to be of­fered a seem­ingly per­ma­nent slot by the BBC to give a neg­a­tive run­ning commentary on the PM’s Brexit strat­egy.

Ham­mond fol­lows an­other former Chan­cel­lor and arch-re­mainer, Ken Clarke, through the exit door and there will be many Tories who voted to stay in the EU who will de­spair that their party has no place for such big beasts.

Yet Ham­mond has been out of sorts with the

Tory lead­er­ship ever since the 2016 ref­er­en­dum, which he vo­cif­er­ously op­posed.

It is no se­cret that he and Mrs May did not get on. An­thony Sel­don’s new biography of the former PM sug­gests Ham­mond had been re­sent­ful of her ever since 1995 when los­ing the Maiden­head Tory nom­i­na­tion to her. Cer­tainly, he was a very de­tached fig­ure in her gov­ern­ment.

Mrs May hated his at­tempts to ex­plain eco­nomic re­al­i­ties to her. ‘Theresa, that’s not how it works,’ he is said to have told her.

Most fa­mously, he bun­gled the 2017 Bud­get, and was forced into a hu­mil­i­at­ing U-turn over a planned rise in taxes on the self­em­ployed. Back­track­ing threat­ened a £2bil­lion hole in the pub­lic fi­nances over the fol­low­ing five years.

To Cab­i­net Brex­i­teers such as David Davis and Michael Gove, he was a con­stant and im­mov­able ob­ject — the ul­ti­mate ‘Es­tab­lish­ment Re­moaner’ and with­er­ingly dis­mis­sive of any op­por­tu­ni­ties of Brexit. De­spite vot­ing against the Gov­ern­ment a few months ago, he is said to have been as­ton­ished to have the Whip with­drawn.

Ham­mond is a man who hates be­ing out in the cold.

Even when ten of his fel­low 21 rebels were of­fered an olive branch by No10, Ham­mond said he was ‘ag­o­nis­ing’ over whether he wanted Boris John­son to win the Gen­eral Elec­tion.

This was an­other mis­judged act of self-harm and he had reached a point of no re­turn. With­out doubt, he re­alised this ear­lier, in Au­gust, when he de­manded an apol­ogy from Down­ing Street af­ter the leak of the so-called Op­er­a­tion Yel­lowham­mer dossier warn­ing about the per­ils of a No Deal Brexit. Gov­ern­ment ‘sources’ said it had been de­lib­er­ately leaked by a former (anti-Brexit) minister.

An out­raged Ham­mond wrote to Mr John­son, say­ing the ‘clear im­pli­ca­tion’ was that a minister in Mrs May’s gov­ern­ment had leaked the doc­u­ment and he was speak­ing ‘on be­half of all former min­is­ters to ask you to with­draw th­ese al­le­ga­tions which ques­tion our in­tegrity’. In­deed, per­haps, one of Ham­mond’s big­gest weak­nesses is his thin skin.

Ul­ti­mately, though, his po­lit­i­cal obit­u­ary will in­clude much praise for con­tin­u­ing pre­vi­ous Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne’s long bat­tle to re­duce the huge bud­get deficit in­her­ited from the Labour gov­ern­ment of Gor­don Brown.

In the sum­mer, shortly be­fore he left office, the deficit fell to a 17-year low as a re­sult of in­creased tax rev­enues and the squeeze on pub­lic spend­ing. ‘The key thing for me is that we are, prob­a­bly for the first time in a decade, in a po­si­tion where we have choices,’ said a proud Chan­cel­lor Ham­mond.

As he walks away from pol­i­tics, he, too, now has choices.

And also, the quiet sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing that Boris John­son has a £26 bil­lion elec­tion spend­ing war chest only be­cause of his own steady stew­ard­ship of Bri­tain plc.

De­voted cou­ple: With Susan, his wife of 28 years

Last Bud­get: With the fa­mous red box in 2018

On the way up: Philip Ham­mond, then 37, ap­pear­ing on News­night in 1993. Inset, ar­riv­ing at the Com­mons last week

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