A Conservative press conference designed to raise doubts about the credibility of Labour's general election manifesto backfired on Wednesday 17 May. Prime Minister Theresa May twice refused to say that Philip Hammond would remain chancellor after the 8 June vote.

"We've worked together over the years for many years, longer than we could care to identify. That's an age-related comment, nothing else, just in case you try and relate anything into that," she said. Hammond also dismissed reports of a rift between Number 10 and 11 as "tittle-tattle".

"We do work very well together as a team and all this media tittle-tattle is just that, media tittle-tattle," he said. But May's refusal to give Hammond a full endorsement and guarantee that he will be chancellor after the election will fuel speculation around his political career.

Hammond's credibility took a blow when he proposed hiking National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for self-employed workers in his first budget.

The chancellor was later forced to scrap the plan after it was repeatedly pointed out that the 2015 Conservative manifesto had promised a "triple tax lock", which would stop income tax, NICs or VAT from rising.

Hammond and May also came under fire on Wednesday after the release of the latest UK labour market data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The figures showed that basic wages are falling behind the rate of inflation, as real pay declined for the first time since 2014.

"These figures bring home the Tories' total failure to improve the living standards of working families," Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said.

"Real wages are lower than they were in 2010 and, after seven years of the Tories, they are now falling again.

"The choice at this election couldn't be clearer: either a Tory party presiding over a crisis in living standards or a Labour government that will build a Britain for the many, not the few."