U.K.'s May Endorses Hammond, Stops Short of Pledge to Keep Him

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May “endorsed” Philip Hammond as chancellor of the exchequer while declining to say he’ll keep his job if her Conservatives win next month’s general election.

“The chancellor and I and every other member of my team are focused on June 8,” May told reporters in London on Wednesday when questioned about Hammond’s role after the vote. Later, when asked to “endorse him,” she replied: "Happy to do so, yes. Very happy to do so.”

With just over three weeks until voting, May’s party leads in the polls by a wide margin, suggesting they’ll be returned to power with an increased majority and raising questions over the premier’s top team. The lukewarm endorsement and lack of a signal on whether Hammond will stay in post will do little to dampen speculation that he may be replaced. 

Officials have said May’s demands to control all areas of policy have alienated key colleagues, including at the Treasury. Hammond’s standing fell in March when a rebellion by rank-and-file Tories forced him to make a U-turn on a controversial tax hike, leaving a shortfall in his budget.

“We work very closely together; the prime minister and I have known each other for many, many years,” Hammond said on Wednesday, appearing alongside May. “She’s got an extremely strong team around her. I work very closely with her team, indeed some of them are people that I’ve known for many, many years. We do work very well together as a team. And all this media tittle-tattle is just that: media tittle-tattle.”

May also emphasized the length of their working relationship. “We’ve worked together over the years, for many years. Longer than we would care to identify,” she said. Then, realizing her remarks might be open to interpretation, added: “That’s an age-related comment, nothing else, just in case you try and relay anything into that."