Planning minister Nick Boles.
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Nick Boles learns a valuable lesson in not asking silly rhetorical questions on Twitter

Planning minister scores a solid own goal.

Ask yourself this. Who does Vladimir Putin want to see running Britain after 7th May?

— Nick Boles (@NickBolesMP) April 9, 2015

Pity the poor planning minister. While Nick Boles isn't known for being among the coalition's sharpest, he is something of a tool; as evidenced by his hamfisted attempt to score points around the Trident debate this morning by asking the above question.

We know what he thinks the correct answer is: Ed Miliband, because David Cameron has notoriously been so great at foreign affairs during his time as PM. But, of course, asking such a rhetorical question on Twitter always invites answers...


@NickBolesMP Vladimir Putin

— WelshRacer (@Welshracer) April 9, 2015

.@NickBolesMP H from Steps, maybe?

— David Whitley (@mrdavidwhitley) April 9, 2015

@NickBolesMP @ostercywriter Noel Edmonds ?

— James MacDonald (@jamesma51284102) April 9, 2015

@mrjamesob is it Jeremy Clarkson?

— Henry Scowcroft (@oh_henry) April 9, 2015

@NickBolesMP You? Is this a trick question?

— Julie Carlisle (@JuliecarJulie) April 9, 2015

Alan Shearer? @NickBolesMP

— Ern Malley (@loveandgarbage) April 9, 2015

Barry Scott from the Cillit Bang adverts? @NickBolesMP

— Eddie Robson (@EddieRobson) April 9, 2015

@NickBolesMP Is it astrologer to the stars, Jonathan Cainer?

— Huw (@ed_son) April 9, 2015

...though of course, the best answers were even more to the point:

.@NickBolesMP you are a moron, there is no other explanation for this

— Pete Clarke (@creativeblock_) April 9, 2015

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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