Theresa May has warned her squabbling Cabinet that they need to end their in-fighting over Brexit and take their jobs “seriously”.
The Prime Minister told her top ministers “there is a need to show strength and unity as a country - and that starts around the cabinet table”.
Her opening words at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday followed days of bitter rows and leaks that saw Chancellor Philip Hammond come under vicious attack from colleagues.
One minister has even accused Hammond, who favours a ‘soft’ exit from the EU, of trying to “f*ck up* Brexit, while others accused him of sexism and snobbery over public sector pay.
One senior Tory told HuffPost UK on Monday that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were “dangerous and deranged” in their drive for a ‘hard Brexit’.
Weakened by the loss of her majority in last month’s general election, May moved to use her remaining authority as PM to order her top team to start showing they were focused on the best interests of the country.
Her official spokesman revealed that she started the Cabinet meeting with a warning about the recent spate of leaks of private conversations.
“The PM said that the briefings and counter-briefings over the weekend had been a case of colleagues not taking their responsibilities seriously,” the spokesman said.
“She said the government would make better decisions if colleagues were able to hold open discussions but it was vital that discussions in cabinet must remain private.”
Maintaining privacy in Cabinet meetings was the best way to allow “genuine and collective discussion into the way policy is developed and agreed”, he added.
The PM’s spokesman said that there was “widespread” agreement in the meeting at the tone and content of her plea for unity. “It was clear from the mood in the room that colleagues agreed with the position the PM was setting out.”
Asked if the Chancellor had spoken up during the meeting, he replied that “various ministers spoke throughout Cabinet, which dealt with a range of issues”.
During Treasury questions in the Commons, Labour described Mr Hammond as an “enfeebled chancellor”.
“I don’t feel particularly enfeebled,” he replied.
On Monday night, May told a summer reception for backbench Tory MPs on the House of Commons terrace that she wanted “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”.