Cabinet ministers allegedly plotting to oust Theresa May are 'self-indulgent' – Chancellor Philip Hammond
Chancellor Philip Hammond has accused Cabinet ministers allegedly plotting to oust the Prime Minister of being “self-indulgent”.
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “To be talking about changing the players on the board frankly is self-indulgent at this time.”
Mr Hammond said he did not think it was the case that Mrs May has run out of road, saying: “This is not about the Prime Minister or any other individual, this is about the future of our country.
“Changing Prime Minister wouldn’t help us, changing the party in Government wouldn’t help us: we’ve got to address the question of what type of Brexit is acceptable to Parliament, what type of way forward Parliament can agree on so that we can avoid what would be an economic catastrophe of a no-deal exit and also what would be a very big challenge to confidence in our political system if we didn’t exit at all.”
Mr Hammond denied reports that he wanted Mrs May’s de facto deputy David Lidington to be installed as a caretaker prime minister.
He said: “That’s not right at all. My position is that this isn’t about individuals: this is about how we move forward.
“The Prime Minister’s deal is my preferred way forward but I’m realistic that we may not be able to get a majority for the Prime Minister’s deal and if that is the case then Parliament will have to decide not just what it’s against, but what it is for.”
Mr Hammond said changing PM would not “solve the problem”, but he refused to be drawn on whether his colleagues had approached him asking him to make an intervention.
However, he acknowledged that “people are very frustrated and people are desperate to find a way forward in the just over two weeks that we’ve got to resolved this issue”.
The Chancellor said Parliament would be given the chance to hold indicative votes on alternatives to Mrs May’s Brexit deal this week.
“One way or another Parliament is going to have the opportunity this week to decide what it is in favour of, and I hope that it will take that opportunity – if it can’t get behind the Prime Minister’s deal – to say clearly and unambiguously what it can get behind,” he said.
But Mr Hammond said a decision had not yet been made on whether Tories would be given a free vote on the matter.
He also said a second referendum was a “perfectly coherent position”, telling the programme: “I’m not sure that there’s a majority in Parliament for a second referendum but it’s a perfectly coherent proposition – many people will be strongly opposed to it, but it’s a coherent proposition and it deserves to be considered along with the other proposals.”
Labour chairman of the Brexit committee Hilary Benn said: “I think we’re probably seeing the final stages of the current Prime Minister’s leadership, but frankly what matters more is the crisis that is still facing the country.”
He told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Whatever deal parliament is prepared to put forward should go back to the British people given the crisis that we’re in.”
The leadership of the Conservative Party he said “is a problem for the Conservative Party”, adding he would like to see a change of Government.
He said: “Whoever is the leader of the Conservative Party, if Parliament decides that it is prepared to support a way forward, and if Parliament decides that it then wants to put that to the British people in a confirmatory referendum, then the nation needs leadership that is prepared to compromise.
“That’s the crucial point and the reason Theresa May is in such difficulty this morning is she has steadfastly refused to shift an inch, and it’s no good saying ‘my door is open, come and talk to me’ if her mind is closed and I’m afraid that’s what the last two-and-three-quarter years has demonstrated, plus there’s been an unwillingness to tell the British people the truth about the real choices we face.”
Conservative former leader Iain Duncan Smith said the last week in politics has been “as close to a national humiliation as I think I’ve seen”.
He lashed out at Cabinet ministers briefing against the Prime Minister in the newspapers, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think that’s appalling, I think they should be censured and some of them should be sacked.
“And the idea of a cabal, a cabal that never wanted to leave the European Union, turning out to decide what should happen over our future would be unacceptable to my colleagues.”
Mr Duncan Smith added: “If there is to be a leadership change that leadership change has to be done through the correct process with the membership out there deciding who will be their leader – not some ghastly five or six man and woman cabal that actually decides things internally.”
Mr Duncan Smith said any idea of a leadership election would create “complete chaos”, and said Cabinet ministers owe Mrs May not to behave as they have.
“They should be apologising and they should shut up for God’s sake.”
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has warned that the risk of a general election would increase if MPs took control of parliamentary proceedings and brought about a “constitutional collision”.
He told the Andrew Marr Show: “If an amendment goes through where Parliament takes control of the order paper then that leaves open the door to Parliament then legislating to take no-deal off the table.
“And that is something that Brexiteers like me would see as a massive risk to Brexit because if Brexiteers and Parliament votes against the deal and also votes to take no-deal off the table then the only option is to then have European parliamentary elections.”
Mr Barclay said if the Commons takes control of the order paper and votes for a different outcome, it would “potentially collide with fundamental commitments the Government has given in their manifesto”, though he said the vote itself would “not be binding”.
Explaining the scenario, he said: “What Parliament has done is vote for a number of contradictory things so we would need to untangle that but ultimately, at its logical conclusion, the risk of a general election increases because you potentially have a situation where Parliament is instructing the executive to do something that is counter to what it was elected to do.”
David Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister, has said he has no desire to take over from Theresa May.
He told reporters in his Aylesbury constituency: “I don’t think that I’ve any wish to take over from the PM (who) I think is doing a fantastic job.
“I tell you this: one thing that working closely with the Prime Minister does is cure you completely of any lingering shred of ambition to want to do that task.
“I have absolute admiration for the way she is going about it.”
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has said he will work with Britain on Brexit, no matter who the prime minister is.
Leo Varadkar said he believed Mrs May could survive a leadership challenge, but his cabinet has ensured their relationship is not dependent on Mrs May alone.
“I think she can, but one thing I know, is that I should not interfere in internal politics in the UK,” he said.
“Whoever the prime minister is, we will work with that prime minister.”
Mr Varadkar said he believed Mrs May could deliver Brexit, but said the Irish-British relationship was not dependent on Mrs May alone.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said he “absolutely” supports the Prime Minister, saying: “It’s not the time to change the captain of the ship.”
“I think this is a time for cool heads. But we absolutely do need to focus on the task at hand, and that’s making sure that we get the maximum possible support for the Prime Minister and her deal,” he told the BBC.
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