CABINET Office Minister David Lidington made a desperate plea yesterday for his warring fellow Conservatives to “come together” after a week of infighting.
He used a Sunday morning television interview to rally the Tory troops with a message of unity and common purpose, saying the party must “come together … and look at what the bigger picture is showing.
“The bigger picture that we are still neck and neck with the Labour Party in the polls,” he said.
A crunch Cabinet meeting tomorrow will discuss how to avoid damaging losses in the May local elections, following warnings from pollsters that the party may lose power in half the London councils it currently controls.
Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, pleaded with MPs last week not to launch a formal leadership challenge against Theresa May.
This invited speculation that the number of 48 MPs needed to trigger a contest has nearly been reached.
One former ally of the Prime Minister, Mark Pritchard, warned of “growing frustration” with Ms May’s leadership and accused her of taking her allies “for granted.”
Another MP, who has not been named, said that she had “no clue.”
Meanwhile, No 10 rejected Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s call for the NHS to receive £100 million after Brexit, while prominent Tory Brexiteers appeared to threaten rebellion if the government moves towards a “soft” Brexit.
But Ms May also distanced herself from Chancellor Philip Hammond’s claim that Britain’s trading relationship with the EU would only change “moderately.”
In a further twist to the EU withdrawal saga, the Sunday Times exposed plotting by former cabinet ministers to line their pockets from the Brexit process.
Former health secretary Lord Lansley was caught offering “intelligence” to a Chinese company for tens of thousands of pounds.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was accused by anonymous Tory MPs of leaking intelligence about supposed Russian threats in order to distract media attention from news of his extramarital affair.
But Mr Williamson’s allies hit back, claiming that the allegations had been planted by people hoping to replace Ms May.
Mr Lidington’s call for “mutual respect” aimed to draw a line under a difficult week for his party.
He came under pressure over his previous opposition to gay rights after being appointed earlier this month.
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