Theresa May will hope to rally the Conservative faithful in Cardiff on Friday (17 March) after a triple whammy of bad news this week. The Welsh capital is playing host to the party's spring forum for two days.

The prime minister, Tory chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox are among the high-profile speakers on the agenda.

However, Chancellor Philip Hammond is notably absent from the line-up following an embarrassing U-turn over his Budget plan to increase National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for the self-employed.

Hammond still maintains that scrapping class two NICs for self-employed workers and raising class four NICs (the main rate) by 2% addressed a "discrepancy" in the tax system.

However, the aborted reform broke a key Conservative general election manifesto pledge – not to raise VAT, income tax or NICs.

The chancellor's future in Number 11 now looks uncertain. Elsewhere, the Tories were fined £70,000 on Thursday (16 March) by the Electoral Commission for misreporting expenses for the 2015 general election and three by-elections in 2014.

"The Conservative Party has complied fully with the Electoral Commission's investigation since it began more than a year ago and will pay the fines they have imposed," a spokesperson for the party said.

"This investigation and these fines relate to national spending by CCHQ, and the Conservative Party's national spending return for the 2015 general election.

"As we have consistently said, the local agents of Conservative candidates correctly declared all local spending in the 2015 general election. CCHQ accepted in March 2016 that it had made an administrative error by not declaring a small amount constituting 0.6% of our national spending in the 2015 election campaign.

"This error was subsequently corrected and the Party has since improved its accounting practices, reporting structures and staff guidance. Even taking this into account, the Conservative Party still considerably underspent the statutory national spending limits for the 2015 general election."

At least 12 police forces across the UK have passed files onto the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to investigate the spending claims. On top of that, May was caught off guard on Monday (13 March) when First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called for a second Scottish independence referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Holyrood will vote on the matter next week, but May has vowed to block the potential plebiscite before the UK splits from the EU. The prime minister is expected to trigger those two-year-long negotiations at the end of March.

'Infighting, failure and disarray'

"The Tories are in a mess, riven by infighting and failure and disarray," said Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour's campaigns and elections chair.

"They have embarrassed themselves over the Budget, they still have no answers on Brexit and they're fighting between themselves rather than fixing the problems.

"May says she has a plan and is sticking to it, but almost every day we see another promise broken or another change of heart.

"Flagship policies are being delayed or abandoned altogether while working people across this country bear the brunt of the Tories' incompetence."