Theresa May has declined an opportunity to guarantee that her chancellor, Philip Hammond, will keep his job after the general election, following reports of tensions between the two.

May has run a campaign based on claims that she and her team would provide stability for the country, but the prime minister would only say that she was focused on winning the election when asked whether Hammond would remain in Downing Street.

“It’s true to say the chancellor and I and every other member of my team are focused on 8 June,” she said. Asked again whether she endorsed the chancellor, May gave an affirmative but unenthusiastic response. “Yes, very happy to do so. We have worked together over the years, many years, longer than we would care to identify. That’s an age-related comment, nothing else, so don’t read anything into that,” she said.

She gave the answer in a joint press conference with Hammond at Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands, which they convened to address Labour’s economic plans and portray them as dangerous.

It is the first time they have appeared together in an election campaign in which May has been front and centre, talking repeatedly about her own leadership qualities and intention to negotiate the best Brexit possible.

Hammond fuelled rumours when he was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He dismissed as “tittle-tattle” detailed reports of arguments with May’s aides, including the co-chief of staff, Nick Timothy, over tax proposals and energy prices.

He added: “I’m not going to say that I have never occasionally sworn, but I work extremely well and closely with Theresa May’s team. I work extremely closely with Theresa.”

Later, standing alongside May, Hammond claimed he had been talking generally. “What I candidly admitted this morning – and my family will confirm this – is that I do occasionally swear. I wasn’t referring to any particular conversation,” the chancellor said.

May confirmed that the party’s manifesto would be published on Thursday, setting out policies that are expected to be more interventionist than a traditional Tory programme for government.

During the press conference, the prime minister also dismissed the idea she had admitted that Brexit was causing inflation that was putting a squeeze on the cost of living.

“I didn’t actually say that Brexit was responsible. I did say that we had seen an impact on inflation from changes to the currency over the last few months and that as everybody knows we are going into a negotiation and that special partnership we want to build with Europe will be for those negotiations,” she said.

“There are two ways of looking at the cost of living. One is our desire to make sure people are in work and we see our economy generating higher-paid jobs. You have got to make sure you have a credible plan to build on the strength of the economy and not destroy with the sort of policies we’ve seen from the Labour party.

“On the other side, you can help people with the cost of living and that’s exactly what we’re proposing to do with energy costs.”

Hammond said the inflation would be “transient” because it was a “result of currency movements last year”. He also claimed real wages would continue to increase.

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