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Behave, May tells sparring cabinet colleagues

British Prime Minister Theresa May has asked her cabinet colleagues to stop “carping” and “backbiting” and get down to serious business after the summer holiday.

world Updated: Jul 18, 2017 23:57 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
UK Prime Minister Theresa May,Britain cabinet,Brexit
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May exits 10 Downing Street in central London on July 18, 2017 to greet Estonia's Prime Minister. (AFP)

Irked by ministers briefing the news media against colleagues, Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday upbraided her cabinet amid continuing speculation in Westminster over her own future in office.

In office with diminished standing after losing majority in the June 8 election, May has been hit by news reports about cabinet members criticising colleagues, particularly on the issue of Brexit. She told colleagues at a drinks reception on Monday to return from summer holiday to attend serious business.

The focus of headlines was chancellor Philip Hammond, who is allegedly trying to frustrate the Brexit process and has suggested that public sector workers are overpaid. May told cabinet members there should be “no carping, no backbiting”.

May, who is also said to be facing a coup plot from within the Conservative Party, said: “There is a need to show strength and unity as a country and that starts around the cabinet table.”

Home secretary Amber Rudd added her voice to the row by advising colleagues on Tuesday to get on with the job: “I wholly support the prime minister in her views that we must all – as ministers and, indeed, backbenchers – get on with the job in hand.

“There is an important job of government to be done and…(ministers) are honoured to have their roles and I know they should be getting on, as some of them do, and delivering on what they have been asked to do.”

The Guardian quoted a pro-Brexit MP as saying that he was asked to sign a letter of no-confidence in May but had refused to so far because of doubts over who would take over, including concerns that a pro-EU leader could be installed.

“If there was someone credible to take over I’d probably back them. But I’m not convinced that where we are now is tenable. There is not a winning situation at the moment,” the MP reportedly said.

Former prime minister David Cameron has urged party leaders not to “slip backwards”, telling the Evening Standard (now edited by his former chancellor George Osborne): “The Conservative Party only succeeds if it is a party of the future…I want us to go on being the open, liberal, tolerant party that we became post-2005, because I think that was part of our success.”

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 19:23 IST