Furious Theresa May has accused her own Cabinet ministers of plotting to undermine her as she fights to save her Brexit deal, a bombshell secret No 10 memo has revealed.
An email leaked to this newspaper lays bare the open warfare in the Cabinet as rival ministers jockey for position amid reports the Prime Minister could be forced to resign if her Brexit deal is defeated.
The email, written by No 10 director of communications Robbie Gibb, slams rival Tory leadership contenders Sajid Javid, Amber Rudd and Liz Truss.
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during a press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan
He accuses them of trying to upstage Mrs May’s £20billion annual NHS boost unveiled last weekend by announcing their own initiatives at the same time.
He says Mrs May was ‘frustrated’ by their actions; she had not approved them – and they had not even bothered to ask her permission.
And in the email to Cabinet ‘special advisers’ – high powered spin doctors employed by senior ministers – he claims they are making her Brexit task even harder. He says: ‘We deliberately starved out the Downing St weekend (media) grid to give the launch of PM’s NHS plan the best coverage.
British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) hold a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street today
‘But because of briefings and articles by ministers in Sunday papers, attention was diverted elsewhere.
‘To add to our frustration, No 10 had no warning of two ministerial op-eds (articles) and there was a briefing on a policy change we did not approve. I’d like to say it was out of the ordinary, but it isn’t.’
In a stern warning not to defy Mrs May’s authority, he adds: ‘Let me remind you that all Government special advisers work for the Prime Minister as well as your own Secretary of State. This situation cannot continue.’
Gibb says Mrs May was ‘frustrated’ by their actions; she had not approved them – and they had not even bothered to ask her permission. Pictured with a senior British Army officer
Downing Street Director of Communications Robbie Gibb walks towards Number 10 Downing Street on October 15, 2018
The accusation of Cabinet plotting came as:
- A BBC projection was reported to show Mrs May’s deal could be defeated by 228 votes – the heaviest Government loss in modern history;
- Conservative MPs Remainer George Freeman and Brexiteer Trudy Harrison gave Mrs May a chink of light by saying they would drop their opposition to the deal and back her;
- A Former MI6 chief and former head of the Armed Forces claimed that Mrs May’s deal would ‘threaten national security in fundamental ways’ – a claim angrily rejected by No 10;
- Mrs May rounded on John Bercow for tearing up Commons rules to allow her opponents to cause trouble on Brexit.
Former BBC executive Mr Gibb does not name individual ministers in his email. But insiders said his anger was directed at Home Secretary Mr Javid, Work and Pensions Secretary Miss Rudd and Treasury Chief Secretary Miss Truss.
All three are highly ambitious figures and seen as leading contenders to replace Mrs May when she steps down.
Miss Rudd’s office briefed a Sunday newspaper on new changes to the Universal Credits welfare system.
Former BBC executive Mr Gibb does not name individual ministers in his email. But insiders said his anger was directed at Home Secretary Mr Javid and others
Mr Javid’s allies reportedly briefed another paper on tighter rules on asylum claims.
Home Office sources say Mr Javid was due to write a bylined article setting out his policy until No 10 vetoed it.
And Miss Truss wrote an article calling for expensive ‘white elephant’ projects such as the HS2 rail line to be scrapped to inject more cash into the economy after Brexit. Miss Rudd and Mr Javid have both clashed before with Mrs May.
The email, written by No 10 director of communications Robbie Gibb, slams rival Tory leadership contenders Sajid Javid, Amber Rudd (left) and Liz Truss (right)
‘I am sorry to start the New Year on a sour note but…’ Mr Gibb’s full leaked email
This is a challenging time for the Government.
Number 10 worked incredibly hard and deliberately starved out the Downing St weekend grid [of media appearances] to give the launch of PM’s NHS plan – its biggest ever cash injection – the best possible coverage.
But because of briefings and articles by ministers in Sunday papers, attention was diverted elsewhere. To add to our frustration, No 10 had no warning of two ministerial op-eds [articles] and there was a briefing on a policy change we did not approve.
I’d like to say it was out of the ordinary but it isn’t. More and more interviews and briefings appear that have not been approved or are even on the No 10 grid.
There is a clear process for doing this and it must be adhered to.
Let me remind you that all Government special advisers work for the Prime Minister as well as your own Secretary of State.
Your duty is to promote the Government’s message, not just your own minister’s.
I am sorry to start the New Year on a sour note but this situation cannot continue.
Allies of the Prime Minister say she was ‘irritated’ by the way pro-Remain Miss Rudd is leading a rebel Cabinet move to promote a so-called Norway-style deal with the EU.
No 10 was angry with Mr Javid for refusing to back Mrs May’s vow to reduce immigration to ‘tens of thousands’. When Mr Javid was forced to cut short his Christmas holiday to deal with the Channel migrant crisis, it was alleged that Downing Street leaked details of his luxury safari holiday in an act of revenge.
The memo is the latest evidence of what some ministers claim of total disarray inside Downing St.
New Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill has been shocked by persistent leaks at Cabinet meetings. In some instances, Cabinet discussions have been leaked while the meeting is still in progress.
Some Tories say the growing revolt against Mrs May’s Brexit deal from her MPs and Cabinet ministers, together with her own crumbling authority, has resulted in her and the Downing Street machine losing control of events.
Mr Gibb last night declined to comment.
A shred of good news for Mrs May came yesterday when two Conservative MPs expected to vote against her deal stood up in the Commons to pledge their support and express their fears about the dangers of no deal.
Former business minister Mr Freeman had argued for the Norway-style Brexit but yesterday said he would vote with the Government ‘with a heavy heart’. Copeland MP and Leave supporter Mrs Harrison had been widely expected to vote against the deal having signed up to the Stand Up For Brexit website.
Mrs May will hope that their decisions, which came on the second day of debate over the Withdrawal Agreement, will encourage other MPs to do the same.
Mr Freeman, the MP for Mid-Norfolk, told MPs he respected the referendum result and was ‘deeply opposed to a second referendum’.
He warned that ‘public trust in our politics and parliamentary democracy is at a dangerous low’.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, third left, meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 10 Downing Street, today
He said the deal was ‘not perfect’ and he had ‘many reservations’ about it but added: ‘It would be woefully irresponsible of the Government to pursue no deal.’
Mrs Harrison, a mother of four, said she did not want a no deal Brexit, adding that Mrs May’s proposal met ‘the key points of leaving.’