Fresh Cabinet split as Philip Hammond blasts 'self-indulgent' coup against Theresa May
Cabinet splits again burst into the open today as Chancellor Philip Hammond blasted “self-indulgent” colleagues plotting to oust Theresa May.
The Treasury boss said changing the Prime Minister would “not help” the country find a way forward on Brexit.
He also confirmed MPs would get to vote on their preferred Brexit options this week - and left open the possibility that the Tories would allow MPs to vote however they wish.
The Sunday papers were full of reports about Cabinet ministers plotting to topple Mrs May and replace her with de-facto deputy Prime Minister David Lidington or Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
One said the Tory leader “won’t be Prime Minister in 10 days’ time,” while a string of backbenchers broke cover to openly call on her to stand down.
But Mr Hammond lashed out at those who think ousting the PM would break the Brexit impasse, during an appearance on the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News.
“To be talking about changing the players on the board is frankly self-indulgent at this time,” he said.
He argued Mrs May had not run out of road, adding: "This is about the future of our country. And changing Prime Minister wouldn’t help us. Changing the party in government wouldn’t help us."
Mr Hammond rejected a report in the Sun on Sunday that he was being lined up by frustrated Tory MPs to tell Mrs May she has to step down.
Meanwhile, he said MPs would get the chance to vote on their favourite Brexit options this week, either with the blessing of the Government or through a backbench amendment set to come to the Commons on Monday.
Ministers are desperate to find a way forward amid the Brexit deadlock in the Commons, with Mrs May threatening not to bring her deal with the EU back to Parliament if it looks set to be defeated a third time.
"One way or another, Parliament is going to have the opportunity this week to decide what it is in favour of," Mr Hammond explained.
"And I hope it will take that opportunity - if it can’t get behind the Prime Minister’s deal - to say clearly and unambiguously what it can get behind."
But he refused to be drawn on whether the Government would allow free votes to Tory MPs on the various Brexit blueprints, after Brexit Minister Kwasi Kwarteng indicated they would.
And he sounded a notably softer tone than ministers have previously struck on a second Brexit referendum - one of the options MPs are pushing to consider next week.
"I'm not sure that there's a majority in Parliament in support of a second referendum," he said.
"But it's a perfectly coherent proposition. Many people will be strongly opposed to it. But it's a coherent proposition and it deserves to be considered along with the other proposals that you've got on the list."
The reports of a move against Mrs May come after she was forced to ask EU leaders for a delay to Brexit following two heavy defeats for the withdrawal agreement she spent two years negotiating with the bloc.
The PM previously saw off a Conservative leadership ballot in December, with Tory rules giving her a year of breathing space in which she cannot be ousted by the party, meaning she would have to actively choose to step down.
The Mail on Sunday said Downing Street was pinning its hopes for the deal on prominent Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, in the hope that winning him over will bring other critics round.
Responding to Mr Hammond's interview on Sunday, Labour's Jon Trickett said: "The Chancellor signaled that the deal they've worked on for nearly three years is dead and junked the idea of no deal which Theresa May has held onto from the beginning.
“This is a Government in which the country can have no confidence as the Chancellor confirmed we are on the edge of a catastrophe."