Philip Hammond’s decision to abandon his proposed NI increase for the self-employed is one of those political debacles I find slightly puzzling.
The Chancellor provoked a furious reaction from Tory back-benchers after using his Budget to announce plans to raise NI contributions for the self-employed by 2 per cent.
It was easy enough to foresee that Hammond's proposed change would be attacked by Conservative voters and probably by his own MPs too. In which case one might conclude that Hammond completely misread an obvious problem with his proposal and from that one might go on to dismiss him as a fool.
Maybe he is a fool or maybe he simply made a political blunder, but the budget is a team effort and however tight that team may be, such a simple blunder seems unlikely. Far from impossible, but unlikely.
A blunder is one explanation and perhaps the best explanation because unlikely events happen all the time, but another explanation is bad advice. Somehow Hammond was persuaded that the NI change was a good idea, or it was his idea and nobody managed to dissuade him. The possibility that he was badly advised is interesting. Somebody sticking the knife in by landing him with a wholly foreseeable political disaster?
That’s one of the problems with politics. We rarely know enough detail and tend to plump for the easy explanation which in this case may be right. Or it may not. The knives may be out for Phil.