Theresa May tells Conservatives to end 'backbiting'

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Theresa May has told Tory MPs and ministers to end the “backbiting” over disagreements within the party.

The prime minister warned her MPs that the alternative to her in Number 10 would be Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

It came at a backbench 1922 Committee summer reception on the House of Commons terrace on Monday.

When the cabinet meets on Tuesday, Mrs May will tell them they must keep their discussions private, after a series of leaks and briefings on disagreements.

At the drinks reception, Mrs May told the party “no backbiting, no carping”.

The choice, she said, is “me or Jeremy Corbyn… and nobody wants that”.

Go away over the summer for a “proper break”, she told MPs, and “come back ready for serious business”.

Plea for unity

The prime minister is expected to remind her cabinet of their responsibilities and the need to keep their meetings private, after what appears to be a breakdown in discipline at the very top of the party.

The plea to her party for unity comes just over a month since she lost her Commons majority after a snap general election gamble backfired.

The attempt to instil discipline follows a sustained outbreak of cabinet leaks and leadership gossip.

Hostile briefings in the press over the weekend appeared to show a growing rift in the cabinet over the government’s approach to Brexit.

On Sunday, Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested colleagues opposed to his approach to Brexit had been briefing against him.

It followed press reports of his cabinet remarks on public sector pay.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “Of course, cabinet must be able to hold discussions of government policy in private and the prime minister will be reminding her colleagues of that at the cabinet meeting tomorrow.”