The Telegraph – Election Bulletin

Good evening.

Theresa May showed little mercy to George Osborne when she told him soon after becoming Prime Minister that his services were no longer required in Government. The former Chancellor doesn’t seem to have forgiven her as he has not been afraid to stir up trouble in his new job as editor of the Evening Standard. He used his first editorial in the paper to mock Mrs May’s campaign efforts as “ no more than a slogan“, and then stoked a Tory rebellion on education funding on his second day in the editor’s chair. In its latest editorial, Mr Osborne’s paper calls on Mrs May to ditch her “economically illiterate” commitment to reducing net migration to the tens of thousands and claims that no senior member of her cabinet backs the pledge. “All would be glad to see the back of something that has caused the Conservative Party such public grief,” it reads. “But no. Mrs May has kept digging.”

Mr Osborne’s revelation of cabinet dissent is acutely awkward for Theresa May as it ensures attention will be focused tomorrow, when the Conservatives are expected to launch their manifesto, on what it says about immigration. Ukip is already on the attack, with Nigel Farage archly welcoming the admission that “ the Tories never planned to cut” migration numbers. The Prime Minister has already made clear her intention to stick by the pledge, but she struggled to fulfill it as Home Secretary, so will be under pressure to go further to explain how it can finally be fulfilled. The Brexit talks could present her with an opportunity to show how it could be done, although she will face resistance from the likes of Philip Hammond if she tries to curtail the numbers of migrants coming from Europe too quickly, as he has made clear that he wants free movement to remain in place until 2019.

Irking the Chancellor will not concern Mrs May much, as she failed twice to confirm this morning that he would remain in place after the election. Speaking alongside him at a press conference, all she would say was that they were both “focused on June 8” and “winning this election, because it matters”. It may be tempting to replace him with someone like Amber Rudd, but she will know that sending Mr Hammond to the backbenches would make him a rallying point for ardent Tory Remainers. Mr Osborne shows the irritation a scorned Chancellor can cause, so she might be wary of alienating another.

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