Theresa May to tell ministers: stop leaking details of cabinet rifts


Theresa May to tell ministers: stop leaking details of cabinet rifts
  1. Theresa May to tell ministers: stop leaking details of cabinet rifts
    hitc.com
    Theresa May is to order her ministers to stop leaking details of cabinet discussions following days of infighting over Brexit policy and anonymous briefings against ministers, particularly targeting Philip…
    Politics

Theresa May is to order her ministers to stop leaking details of cabinet discussions following days of infighting over Brexit policy and anonymous briefings against ministers, particularly targeting Philip Hammond.

While there was no formal investigation planned into the leaks, May’s spokesman said, the prime minister would use Tuesday morning’s weekly cabinet meeting to insist they stop.

Related: Why we should be suspicious of the Tory ‘get Hammond’ project | Jonathan Freedland

“What I would say is of course cabinet must be able to hold discussions on government policy in private and the prime minister will be reminding her colleagues of that at the cabinet meeting tomorrow,” he said.

“She’ll just be reminding them of their responsibilities and making the point that ministers across government need to be focused on getting on with delivering for the British public.”

Asked whether May’s plan to upbraid her cabinet amounted to an acknowledgement that such leaks had, indeed, come from ministers, her spokesman said: “I’m not going to get into speculation of who said what, where and when.”

He said: “I’m simply saying that cabinet must be able to hold its discussions on government policy in private, and the PM, as I said, will remind her colleagues of that at tomorrow’s meeting.”

Philip Hammond refuses to deny saying public sector workers are ‘overpaid’

Hammond was the target of leaks from other ministers on both days of the weekend about his supposed comments in cabinet, one saying he called public sector workers “overpaid”, the other claiming he said driving modern trains was so easy “even a woman can do it”.

On Monday, the Telegraph cited an anonymous cabinet colleague as saying Hammond and the Treasury “want to frustrate Brexit” and that the chancellor viewed Brexiters as “pirates”.

In a counter-briefing, an unnamed ally of Hammond told the Sun that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, was the source of some of the leaks from last week’s cabinet meeting. But this was denied by friends of Gove as “simply untrue”. A senior Tory also claimed that Gove and Boris Johnson were behind the briefings against Hammond, saying they were “so obsessed with a hard Brexit that they’re prepared to run the economy off a cliff”.

But Tim Shipman, the Sunday Times political editor, later confirmed that Gove and his allies were nothing to do with his report of the leaks.

Related: Philip Hammond urges caution over moves to lift public-sector pay cap

It comes at a time of intense speculation over May’s leadership and the future of Brexit, with Hammond, David Davis, and Boris Johnson all potentially vying for supremacy.

Allies of Davis appear to be furthest down the road in talking of a leadership bid but, like Hammond, he is viewed with suspicion by some proponents of Brexit, even though he campaigned to leave.

Dominic Cummings, a former adviser to Michael Gove and architect of the successful Vote Leave campaign, tweeted on Monday that Davis was pitching himself as a choice who would compromise on Brexit, while describing him as “thick as mince, lazy as a toad, and vain as Narcissus.”

Although May will ask her cabinet to stop bickering, she appears powerless to stop the battle over her succession and the shape of Brexit.

Michael Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, said May’s government was enfeebled and deeply divided. He guessed that the person responsible for the cabinet leak was a leading Brexiteer because that was “where the self-interest lies”. But he argued that that person cannot be sacked because the prime minister has no authority.

Lord Heseltine told the World at One: “So you have an enfeebled government. Everybody knows this. I don’t like saying it, but I’m not telling you anything that every journalist is not writing every day ... The Europeans have worked it all out. This is a government without authority. This is a deeply divided government and what they know, what the Europeans know, and what our national press knows is every day there’s a more depressing headline.”

Earlier, the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said he did not recognise the reports about the cabinet meeting, during which Hammond was reportedly chastised by May for his comment about driving trains.

“I read some of the stuff in the papers at the weekend and it bore no relation to the meetings I was in last week,” Grayling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Speaking on Sunday, Hammond vehemently denied making the comment about women being able to drive trains, and called for people to stop leaking discussions from cabinet.

Related: Philip Hammond in row over 'even a woman can drive a train' jibe

Grayling endorsed this: “The chancellor is absolutely right to say no one should be discussing, on or off the record, what takes place in cabinet meetings. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that at all.

“But the coverage I read at the weekend about the tense rows in the cabinet simply didn’t happen – it wasn’t like that.”

Grayling said…

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