Newspaper headlines: 'Chancellor hits white van man'

White van Image copyright PA

There is widespread criticism of Chancellor Philip Hammond's decision to increase National Insurance payments for the self-employed.

With the headline "Tories break tax vow", the Daily Telegraph says Mr Hammond "prompted an angry response" from Conservative MPs when he ditched a manifesto pledge to not raise taxes.

Alongside a photograph of a smiling Mr Hammond, the Daily Mail describes the broken promise as "no laughing matter", and says the move to penalise enterprise and thrift provoked an instant rebellion "of a scale rarely seen" on a day when MPs usually line up to praise the chancellor.

Friends of Mr Hammond have told the Times that he was "aware of the scale of the fight he was picking" in breaching a key manifesto pledge but he was determined to put tax fairness before keeping his predecessor's promises.

That does not wash with the Daily Mirror.

It argues the "betrayal Budget" is a "political failure" and a "glaring demonstration of unjust two-nation Conservatism" because tax breaks were gifted to huge corporations that "exploit" the very workers who face higher taxes.

"The whiff of George Osborne's disastrous pasty-tax fiasco hangs around hopeless Hammond," it says, referring to the previous chancellor's failed attempt to impose VAT on certain types of hot takeaway food.

Beneath the headline "Rob The Builder!", the Daily Star claims the so-called white van man "took a battering".

The Sun agrees, labelling Mr Hammond as "spite van man" who "sparked a national wave of fury" by launching a tax grab on Britain's self-employed strivers.

Writing an opinion piece, Daily Telegraph deputy editor Allister Heath says the "great tragedy" of the "bizarre, omnishambolic raid" is that it marks the chancellor as a collectivist politician, rather than an individualist.

Arguing that the move was a "terrible, unforced error", Heath claims Britain's army of self-employed workers now feel "betrayed".

There is just one way out, he says, "and that is for the chancellor to think again".

The Guardian disagrees and salutes the "courageous" chancellor for repudiating the "Thatcherite myth" that the self-employed are all entrepreneurs whose virtuous animal instincts should be rewarded with a lower tax rate.

In normal times, writes Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, Mr Hammond could have expected a bucket of tabloid ordure to be poured over his head as punishment for declaring war on the self-employed.

But the normal rules of politics are suspended, he argues, because this government believes it can take risks without paying an electoral price "thanks to the parlous state of the opposition".

The chancellor is given greatest credit by the Financial Times which suggests that "with perhaps one exception" on the self-employed, his judgement to put fairness centre stage "looks sound".

He is praised for defusing the furore over the business rates revaluation "with relatively small amounts of money" and for easing the pressure in social care.

His reluctance to spend this year's tax windfall is also applauded with uncertainty surrounding Brexit, but the FT concedes "he has ducked some big issues".

Moves to lift pressure on the NHS and address a large increase in income inequality over the next few years "will not be able to be delayed much longer".