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News, gossip and insight from PoliticsHome Editor Paul Waugh

The fuel fools

It looks like Justine Greening wasn't the only Tory MP to be made a fool of by the Chancellor's sudden U-turn* on the fuel tax rise.

The Government Whips office sent out today's 'Line to Take' to all backbenchers at around 12.30pm today and it read thus:

"Fuel prices

At the Autumn Statement, the Government took more action to help households with motoring costs by freezing fuel duty until August and scrapping a second planned rise altogether.

The Government has listened to genuine concerns from motorists and delivered support worth more than £4 billion over two years. Petrol and diesel is now an average 10 pence per litre cheaper than if we had proceeded with Labour’s plans.

Labour’s calls today are hypocrisy of the worst kind. August’s planned duty rise was scheduled in Labour’s last Budget in 2010, which Ed Balls himself voted for."

Yes, you read that right. Freezing fuel duty is 'hypocrisy of the worst kind'.

You could say that has a tiny bit of wriggle room in that it is an attack on Balls, but it does look awfully like a No to a fuel freeze.

And speaking of 'hypocrisy of the worst kind', spare a thought for all those backbenchers (variously called 'nodding dogs' or 'sucker-uppers' by their critics) who have been blithely parroting things like The Line To Take.

In contrast, Tory backbenchers who have been brave enough to sign the petrol pledge to keep prices down - many of whom were planning to vote against the rise in the Finance Bill - have been told for weeks just how disloyal they are.

Independent-minded MPs like Andrew Percy, Caroline Dineage, Tracey Crouch and others can be forgiven for laughing a hollow laugh.

All those loyalists who trotted out the Treasury line on pasty taxes, on caravan taxes, on the charity tax and on fuel duty may now feel rather ill-used.

As one backbencher put it to me today, the job-hunters may one day wake up to the fact that their slavish devotion to the whip has left them with no job in the reshuffle - as well as looking foolish in the eyes of their own voters.

"After all," the MP says, "there is a tiny number of posts up for grabs for white men who aren't Matthew Hancock or Nick Boles. And even those who get jobs will disappear into the Whips' Office."

Given their fondness of the Line to Take, maybe that's the best place for them...

 

 

*FOOTNOTE Number 10 told us today that although the Chancellor updated Cabinet for 10 minutes on the economy, the fuel duty freeze 'was not discussed'.  The Quad did indeed discuss it a month ago, but we still don't know exactly when the final decision was made. Surely not after Cabinet and after the 12.30 Line to Take?

 

 

 

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