David Cameron’s final full day as Prime Minister began with a removal van arriving in Downing Street, a “poignant” last ever Cabinet meeting - and confirmation that Larry the No.10 cat was staying put.
A huge blue removal truck made its way into the back of the PM’s home, delivering boxes for packing of his and his family’s belongings ahead of his exit tomorrow.
The van arrived as ministers gathered to pay tribute to Cameron in his 215th, and final, Cabinet meeting since he succeeded Gordon Brown in 2010.
Having expected to leave in September after a six-week Tory leadership contest, the sudden election of Theresa May forced him instead to compress his “legacy” tour into just one day.
In a deliberate attempt to symbolise the radical public service reform for which he wants to be remembered, Cameron attended a new Free School in West London. It was one of 31 of the flagship schools unveiled today, providing 21,000 more places, on top of the 300 Free Schools created under his premiership.
The historic Brexit vote and referendum which ultimately ousted him from Downing Street was barely mentioned in his final Cabinet meeting.
Another key Cameron reform - his ‘Life Chances Strategy’ for vulnerable families - was discussed, however, as was the coming Commons vote on Trident renewal.
The PM’s official spokeswoman said that he arrived at the Cabinet room in No10, where ministers gather around the coffin-shaped table, “to a round of banging on the table from his colleagues”.
The Government’s ‘Life Chances Strategy’ - which aims to turn round the lives of the 10% of families with multiple disadvantages - was discussed by Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb.
“The PM summed up by saying it was a prime example of the way the Government he had led had worked to do more for those that have the least,” his spokeswoman said.
“He concluded that it would be for Theresa May as the new Prime Minister to take forward this strategy and publication in due course.”
And May’s presence, as new Tory leader, was felt as Cameron thanked her for her words yesterday outside the Commons.
But today was Cameron’s day. He said “a few words” about how it had been his “honour and pleasure to chair Cabinet for the last six years.”
Over the course of those 215 meetings they had discussed over 900 items of government business, with the Prime Minister personally leading the discussion on over 150.
“He talked about his pride at the record of achievements of the Government, echoing the comments he made yesterday about Theresa May taking over as the new Prime Minister, thanking her for the support and friendship he had received. And she would be right person to lead the country in difficult times ahead,” he spokeswoman said.
Theresa May then led the tributes, talking about “the warmth and respect the Prime Minister had from his colleagues”.
She praised “the way that he had led the country through a difficult time, particularly the economic circumstances the Prime Minister had inherited in 2010, and the decisions he had had to take about public spending, managing the terrorist threat and a whole range of foreign affairs issues and that he he had always put the country first”
Osborne then picked out a few highlights of the Cameron era - education reform, apprenticeships, the national living wage, gay marriage. “He said they all agreed that the Prime Minister should be proud of the way he had left the country in a better place,” the spokeswoman said. “And with that the Prime Minister brought Cabinet to a close.”
“I counted four rounds of banging on the tables. One at the start, one when the Prime Minister started to talk about the achievements of the Cabinet, then echoing the Home Secretary’s comments and then the Chancellor’s comments. It was a kind of warm, reflective mood.”
The spokeswoman said that there were no tears from any of the ministers. But she added: “It was a very warm Cabinet. The tributes for the PM’s achievements from the Home Secretary and Chancellor were poignant and well received around the table.”
There was one moment of humour during the discussion of Trident. “The PM recounted that one of his more memorable visits as Prime Minister had been when he was being winched into a submarine off the north coast of Scotland on one of his visits,” his spokeswoman said.
Asked about the removal vans, No10 refused to speculate. “There are vans that come and out of No.10,” the spokeswoman said.
And when quizzed on why May had stayed behind after Cabinet for what looked like her first ‘handover’ meeting, she added: “I don’t normally get into details of ministerial movements. There are a number of arrangements that need to be put in place.”
But on the key issue of one figure who will stay behind in No.10, the spokesman did confirm that Larry - the Downing Street cat - was not moving. “He will remain,” she said.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon declared “We’re all Brexiters now”. But there’s clearly one Remainer left in No.10.
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