Yesterday chaos ruled at the heart of government. This may not be unusual nowadays, but it was chaos which made political tealeaf reading even more difficult than usual. The issue was fuel and road tax rises. Several cabinet ministers went out of their way that the government might back down (again) with the Chancellor apparently abandoning the planned 2p fuel duty hike along with the new Vehicle Excise Duty rates - dubbed by many as the Government's "poll tax on wheels". John Hutton dropped the heaviest hints, which, as Business and Enterprise Secretary, well he might. But later in the day, he and his colleagues were slapped down by Number Ten who told reporters the planned changes would be staying. Period.
But then the Chancellor intervenes to drop a very strong hint in this morning's Sun that he will indeed bow to pressure and abandon the 2p rise in October, and might even go further.
This is very bad politics and is just the kind of 'reactive' government we saw from John Major in the 1990s. It's the kind of government which screams "like me, please like me, why won't you like me?!" Ministers think it demonstrates they are listening to people whereas the people see a government that bows to every prevailing political wind. And if there's one thing they don't like, it's weak government.