Theresa May performs biggest u-turn yet… and gets skewered by Yvette Cooper
Former Labour leadership contender showed Jeremy Corbyn how to do it, say commentators (and the odd MP).
Theresa May has been taken to task over her government’s screeching Budget u-turn – with Yvette Cooper leading the charge for Labour.
Philip Hammond today announced that he was cancelling National Insurance rises for the self-employed. It follows public uproar from Conservative MPs after he appeared to break the party's 2015 manifesto pledge not to increase income tax, VAT or NI contributions.
In a letter to Tory MPs, Hammond said last week's protests had made it clear that the "spirit" of that promise had been broken.
Hammond's letter to Tory MPs was released to the press at 11.38am - 22 minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions. The issue then dominated exchanges at PMQs, with May insisting the u-turn did not mean she accepted the NICs rise went against the 2015 manifesto.
Jeremy Corbyn had argued that May was presiding over "a government in a bit of chaos here" and that ministers had produced "a budget that unravels within seven days".
But the Labour leader failed to fully exploit the biggest u-turn of May’s prime ministerial career as he focused many of his questions elsewhere.
The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow said: "He had clearly prepared a set of questions about education and was not quick-witted enough to abandon them and instead devote all six questions to the NICs U-turn, as he should have done. A better leader would have taunted her with a series of questions about why she defended the policy last week."
With Corbyn pulling his punches, commentators and Labour MPs including Ben Bradshaw agreed that heftiest blows were landed by Cooper and the SNP’s Angus Robertson.
Robertson accused the prime minister of a "screeching, embarrassing U-turn", while Cooper said:
"The prime minister has just done a £2bn Budget u-turn in the space of about a week.
"Last year the government did a £4bn u-turn in the space of five days.
"Is that why they want to abolish spring budgets? Because they just keep ripping them up?"