UK Politics

Theresa May sacking ministers 'would get MPs' support'

The annual photo of cabinet ministers Image copyright PA
Image caption The cabinet has been posing for an official photo

Theresa May would have the backing of Tory MPs if she sacked disloyal ministers for plotting and briefing, a senior backbencher says.

Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, told ministers to "stop chattering away".

Earlier the prime minister told her cabinet to show "strength and unity" as she attempted to stem recent leaks.

And Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon called for the military virtues of "loyalty, cohesion and discipline".

Speaking at an event organised by the Policy Exchange think tank on Tuesday evening, Sir Michael urged the cabinet to "concentrate their fire" on Jeremy Corbyn, whom he described as a "dangerous enemy in reach of Downing Street".

At the same time, he said his party needed to make traditional Conservative arguments for "lower taxation, for honest public financing, for wider opportunity, enterprise and ownership".

Mrs May's attempt to instil discipline follows a sustained outbreak of cabinet leaks and leadership gossip.

Number 10 said press briefings were a case of colleagues not taking their responsibilities seriously.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World at One, Mr Walker said that aside from a few "outliers", the party was united behind Mrs May - adding that those plotting were "not doing themselves any favours at all".

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Image caption The defence secretary has issued a warning to his colleagues

"I do not care about people's personal ambitions," he said.

"If the prime minister has to start removing secretaries of state because they are not focusing on their job, they are focusing on their own personal ambitions, so be it.

"And she will have the support of the 1922 Committee."

According to her spokesman, the PM told cabinet at its regular Tuesday meeting: "There's a need to show strength and unity as a country and that starts around the cabinet table."

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Image caption Tuesday's cabinet meeting was the last before the summer recess
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Image caption Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was among those at Downing Street
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Trade Secretary Liam Fox, seen arriving with Environment Secretary Michael Gove, has said he "deplores" leaks
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid arrive at cabinet

On Monday she told Tory MPs to end the "backbiting" over disagreements within the party.

At a summer reception for backbench Tory MPs on the House of Commons terrace on Monday, Mrs May told the party "no backbiting, no carping".

The choice, she said, is "me or Jeremy Corbyn... and nobody wants that".

Go away over the summer for a "proper break", she told MPs, and "come back ready for serious business".

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said media reports of splits and negative briefings did not reflect her experience in cabinet.

Hostile briefings

She said Mrs May was "absolutely right" to tell ministers that "what is said in the cabinet should stay in the cabinet".

The PM's plea to her party for unity comes after she lost her Commons majority when her snap general election gamble backfired.

Hostile briefings in the press over the weekend appeared to show a growing rift in the cabinet.

On Sunday, Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested colleagues opposed to his approach to Brexit had been briefing against him, following press reports of his cabinet remarks on public sector pay.

During Treasury questions in the Commons, Mr Hammond dismissed Lord Heseltine's claim - raised by Labour - that he was "enfeebled".

"I don't feel particularly enfeebled," he said.

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