You won't be surprised to learn that Philip Hammond was no big fan of Brexit. But Mr S was still somewhat taken aback by just how little the former chancellor made of Theresa May's 'Brexit means Brexit' strategy:
'My assessment of Theresa May’s Prime Ministership, in terms of Brexit, is that she dug a 20-foot-deep hole in October 2016 in making that speech'
Hammond was, of course, referring to the speech May made to Tory party conference in her first year as prime minister. But Hammond's interview, released this week by UK in a changing Europe, has opened up something of a riddle. The Eeyore-ish ex-Chancellor said he had not seen May's speech in advance and that he was 'absolutely horrified' by what his boss had to say:
'All I remember thinking was, ‘There will be a television camera that will be on your face. If you move a muscle, it will be the story on the front page of every newspaper tomorrow.’ I remember I wasn’t even really listening to her....I just remember focusing my entire energy on maintaining a rictus half-smile, and trying not to show any reaction at all, and then get out of the room without speaking to any journalists.'
Mr S has unearthed a picture of Hammond in the audience for the PM's speech in which that 'rictus half-smile' looks particularly convincing:
Perhaps Hammond need not have worried what journalists might have thought of his reaction. But the confusion doesn't stop there. Elsewhere in the interview, Hammond said this:
'I remember exactly where I was sitting: on the end of a row, to the side of the stage, looking up diagonally at the stage, looking up at her.'
Mr S is confused by this picture showing Hammond listening to May, in which the former chancellor is not sitting at the end of a row:
What's going on? Perhaps Hammond was so horrified by May's Brexit vision that he forgot where he was sitting?