Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, on Afghanistan, the Alternative Vote and polling.

1. Depression debt

Responding to Niall Ferguson, Paul Krugman looks back to the 1930s and finds that the deterioration in the US debt took place under tight-fisted Hoover, rather than high-spending FDR.

2. The Alternative Vote in Australia -- what does it produce?

At ConservativeHome, Tim Roll-Pickering looks at what outcomes AV has produced in Australia, including the impact on extremist parties and whether one party can win the most votes but not the most seats.

3. This is the beginning of the end in Afghanistan

This is the endgame for our involvement in Afghan affairs, says the Telegraph's Mary Riddell. The test now is whether the west can improve its disastrous record in Iraq and leave Afghanistan a better place.

4. Has the Times now given up on polling?

PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson explores the dearth of opinion polls since the election and asks if the Times and the Telegraph have given up on them.

5. Cameron: Megrahi release "not a BP decision"

Gary Gibbon discusses David Cameron's appearance on a Washington radio show ahead of his press conference with Barack Obama this evening.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.