Theresa May today insisted she ‘doesn’t set red lines’ as she dodged questions about what Boris Johnson would need to do to get sacked.
The Prime Minister said she did not lead a team of ‘yes men’ as she played down Tory infighting that has overshadowed the party’s conference in Manchester this week.
She said despite her weakened position following the disastrous election the gathering had set out proposals to help students with tuition fees, reduce inequality and improve life for struggling families.
Asked during a round of broadcast interviews what ‘red lines’ she was setting for Mr Johnson, she replied: ‘I don’t set those kind of red lines.’
In a round of interviews at Tory conference in Manchester, the Prime Minister said she did not lead a team of ‘yes men’ as she played down infighting
In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Mrs May said the government was still working well and making reforms
She added: ‘Leadership is about ensuring that you have a team of people who are not “yes men”.’
Mr Johnson has faced a furious backlash from MPs and Cabinet colleagues over leadership manoeuvring that has seen him draw a series of Brexit red lines.
The Foreign Secretary is due to address the conference later – with fears he could fuel the doubts about the PM’s prospects for survival.
But Mrs May said she was not worried about the content of his speech. ‘His speech has been looked at, don’t worry.’
It is understood that No10 was given a draft of the speech on Sunday, although the text was still being worked on.
In a round of broadcast interviews this morning, Mrs May said the government was still working well and making reforms.
‘People are seeing what we are doing to deliver on that mission,’ she said.
Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered a thinly-veiled rebuke by warning no ministers were ‘unsackable’, while the PM’s effective deputy Damian Green said the rows were undermining negotiations with the EU.
Despite his high-profile interventions, Mr Johnson denied he was deliberately fueling the spat saying he was just repeating government policy and did not know what all the ‘fuss’ was about.
Downing Street has played down the prospect of the Cabinet big beast being sacked, saying his views are well known.
Allies of Mrs May last night insisted that instead of sending him to the backbenches, she was determined to keep him in post.
Figures in No10 believe his attention-grabbing interventions on Brexit and public sector pay are actually losing Mr Johnson support from fellow MPs.
Ahead of the Foreign Secretary’s party conference speech today, a senior ally of Mrs May told the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister ‘does not want to create a martyr’ by getting rid of him, arguing that when you ‘drill down’ there is no base of support among colleagues for what he is doing.
Another senior ally said that rather than removing him, ‘there are far better ways to cause someone misery’, adding: ‘There is more than one way to skin a cat.’
But Jacob Rees Mogg again praised him yesterday, describing his ‘good cheer’ on Brexit as ‘fantastic’.
Mr Johnson’s decision to set out four ‘red lines’ on Brexit on the eve of the Tory party conference has infuriated many MPs and ministers.
It came a fortnight after he stunned Downing Street by publishing an unauthorised 4,000-word essay setting out his vision for Britain’s Brexit strategy.
Figures in Downing Street believe his attention-grabbing interventions on Brexit and public sector pay are actually losing Boris Johnson support from fellow MPs
Asked what she thought of the Foreign Secretary’s ‘red lines’ on Brexit, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: ‘They are not for him to set, they are for the Prime Minister to set. We should stick to the traditional way of fighting it out at Cabinet… and then coming out with an agreed line.
‘Brexit is a challenge but we can make a success of it, but we need to be united.’
Pushed on whether she thought it was sustainable for a Cabinet minister to continue speaking out, she replied: ‘Well, every time he stops making interventions we all breathe a sigh of relief and think, “Now we can get on with the business of government without a distraction”.
‘Yes, it is sustainable, as long as we maintain a united government front.’
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon stressed ‘none of us are unsackable’. He suggested that Mr Johnson does not have enough support to become leader.
Chancellor Philip Hammond warned that signs of disunity in Government were harming the UK’s Brexit negotiations and repeated the mantra that ‘nobody is unsackable’.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon stressed ‘none of us are unsackable’. He suggested that Mr Johnson does not have enough support to become leader
First Secretary of State Damian Green dismissed Mr Johnson’s demand that the Brexit transition period should last ‘not a second more’ than two years, telling activists that the final date of withdrawal could go a few months in either direction.
In a reference to the row over Mr Johnson’s comments, Miss Davidson used a conference fringe event to tell her MSPs: ‘If any of you think of writing anything, without telling me, that is counter to current Scottish Conservative policy; you are out on your ear.’
She said the party ‘needs to get over its current nervous breakdown and man up a little bit’.
Mr Johnson won support from some colleagues. His old Vote Leave ally Mr Gove told LBC: ‘I think the Prime Minister’s leadership in the Florence speech reflected that upbeat and optimistic vision that Boris articulated.’