Young Tory MPs urge Phillip Hammond to end austerity
Pressure mounts on Philip Hammond to loosen the purse strings to give the economy a much-needed boost as the effects of Brexit bite
Philip Hammond - Ben Birchall/PA
A new group of young Conservative MPs have told Philip Hammond to end austerity in his budget next week.
Hammond, who is under pressure because of Theresa May's fragile majority to deliver a popular budget, met with a new group of young backbenchers formed by Ben Bradley, Alan Mak and others.
Cabinet colleagues have demanded he find the money to end the public sector pay cap, as well as fund house-building.
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One senior minister said they feared the Budget could be a "car crash" unless Mr Hammond manages to come up with some voter-friendly policies.
At the meeting, Bradley - who has established the group of 19 young Conservative MPs with the aim of reconnecting with young voters - pressed the Chancellor to change course.
Speaking afterwards, he told Holyrood's sister site PoliticsHome: “I think we are in a position now where austerity is grating on people and I think we need to move on from that. You can cut too far and I feel like now we need to start to invest again."
The group of young Tories also made the case to the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell on Tuesday night at a two-hour meeting in which they discussed the party’s future.
Mansfield MP Bradley suggested to Barwell the party had a communication problem over its economic stance and had got too “bogged down” in the Brexit process.
He said: “People don’t even particularly associate jobs with the Conservative party which is nuts because it’s the only thing we’ve been banging on about for years.
“So clearly we are missing a trick when it comes to putting that message across in a relatable way.”
He added that the message to younger voters should be less focussed on an “ideological commitment to austerity,” and more about promoting the benefits of efficient public services.
The influential Institute for Fiscal Studies warned last month that he was "between a rock and a hard place", with political pressure to ease off on austerity while economic growth slows and the national debt continues to rise.
Hammond is preparing to cut stamp duty for first time buyers and come up with millions of pounds to train up construction industry workers to help tackle the housing crisis. Campaigners also want him to freeze fuel and alcohol duties, a move which would cost the Treasury millions. He has also already committed to a £1bn handout to Northern Ireland to guarantee support of the DUP in Westminster.
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