The Chancellor fell into his own worst nightmare while trying to attack Labour on Radio 4 [AUDIO]


Chancellor Philip Hammond fell into his own worst nightmare while trying to attack Labour on BBC Radio 4. Hammond was trying to fearmonger about Labour’s spending plans. But ended up messing up his own party’s costing by over £20bn. For someone known as ‘Spreadsheet Phil’, it couldn’t have gone worse:


Hammond was attacking Labour’s plans to bring vital public services, such as energy, into democratic ownership. The Chancellor claimed Labour’s pledges do not add up. But moments later, the candidate for Runnymede and Weybridge messed up his own costing on the HS2 railway by £20bn. BBC Presenter John Humphrys called him out:

£32bn? Not £52bn?

The government estimates the cost of HS2 will be £55.7bn. But commentators argue it will end up costing a whole lot more.

Hammond spluttered about ‘contingency plans’ in response:

Errr, it’s over… I mean, there’s a huge amount of contingency built into the budgeting for these projects.

The other side of the story

But there is a deeper issue here. How much a government initiative costs is only one side of the story. The other side is the future returns and savings brought about by that investment. The Conservatives, for example, say HS2 will bring £2.50 for every £1 spent in later economic benefit.

That is precisely the logic behind Labour’s investment policies. And it’s why Humphrys cut through Hammond’s scaremongering about Labour’s plans for public ownership on Radio 4:

Except you know perfectly well that a huge amount of that money will come back to the government, to the taxpayer, one way or another.

Everyone already pays for energy, mail, shelter, water and travel, so Labour argues it would be cheaper to pay for it together under a public ownership scheme.

The media rarely asks how much government investment will save the taxpayer in the future. And journalists like Humphrys must bring it up a lot more if this is going to be an informed election.

Double standard

Of course, misspeaking isn’t the be all and end all of politics. But there appears to be a double standard here. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott gave the wrong number in a radio interview earlier in May, and the negative coverage was everywhere. Now, ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ messes up his figures by £20bn, and there isn’t much of a peep from the press.

Get Involved!

Register to vote in the 8 June general election.

– Discuss the key policy issues with family members, colleagues and neighbours. And organise! Join (and participate in the activities of) a union, an activist group, and/or a political party.

– Also read more Canary articles on the 2017 general election.

Featured image via Wikimedia

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed