The Conservatives “deserve” to lose the next election if splits over Brexit and public spending continue, Theresa May’s own ex-policy chief has said.
In an extraordinary outburst, George Freeman warned the “chaos” of a warring cabinet will turn voters against the Tories.
Freeman said senior party figures have turned the Brexit process into “essentially an alley street-cat fight between rival gangs” and are frequently going public with their anger.
It comes amid a flurry of reports underlining the disunity of May’s administration.
“I think if we lose our reputation for economic competence, if we can’t show that we are managing the public finances properly, if we treat Brexit like an anti-business moment, contemptuous of the concerns of business, and if we don’t show that we have a distinctive conservative approach to supporting enterprise, risk, hard work, savings, and we go down the road of big tax rises, big spending spree, anti-business, I fear we will lose and we’ll deserve to,” Freeman told BBC Radio 4′s World at One on Tuesday.
“If we look like Corbyn-lite, the public will conclude they are better off voting for the real thing.”
Freeman’s scathing intervention came after Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss warned ministers it was “not macho” to insist on more money for departmental budgets.
Her comments were aimed at Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who, in the wake of the NHS being handed an extra £20bn-a-year, reportedly threatened to bring down the government if his department was not handed a bigger budget.
In a speech on Tuesday, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss escalated tensions by demanding further efficiencies “rather than just upping the budget of every department” and by taking a swipe at Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s new regulations on plastic straws and wood-burning stoves.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, she wrote: “I will make it clear to my cabinet colleagues that it’s not macho to demand more money. It’s much tougher - and fairer to people - to demand better value for money.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, rounded on Airbus bosses for sounding what he called “completely inappropriate” warnings thousands of jobs would be lost under a hard Brexit.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s “f*** business” comment to an EU envoy was also widely derided.
It led to the normally-reserved Business Secretary Greg Clark reminding his fellow ministers in Parliament that firms “should be listened to with respect”.
Should the arguments continue, the party’s prospects at the ballot box will be damaged, said Freeman, who quit as head of May’s policy board last year.
The former minister added: “I don’t recognise the party that I joined, in this conversation at the moment.”
The Mid Norfolk MP told the programme that he was “very worried” about the Conservative party’s future in government.
He said: “We cannot have this process done by cabinet ministers going to the press and briefing against the prime pinister, and putting their bids in early.
“Unfortunately, cabinet responsibility was withdrawn by David Cameron for the Brexit referendum - it’s never been restored.
“This is chaos. If we have ministers winning their bids for money on the basis of who has got the biggest headlines we will lose our reputation for financial competence.
“At the moment, we look like we are bringing to the public finances the chaos of the Brexit conversation. We can’t simply tip more money into the old silos.”