Prime Minister David Cameron shrugged off speculation over challenges to his leadership of Britain’s Conservative Party, saying he’s surrounded by “talented people” and is letting them get on with their jobs.
While the career aspirations of Home Secretary Theresa May became the object of humor among lawmakers in the House of Commons yesterday, Cameron singled her out for praise along with Education Secretary Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
“I’ve given people their jobs, I’ve given people the tasks I want them to carry out and then I let them get on with the job; I look around the table and think isn’t it great we’ve got this talent,” Cameron said late yesterday an interview in his Downing Street office. “I don’t want shrinking violets.”
Cameron’s leadership of the Conservatives has been under pressure over his policies on areas from European Union membership to the introduction of gay marriage, a policy opposed by many rank-and-file party members that he pushed through with the help of the opposition Labour Party.
May made a speech to the Reform research institute in London three days ago in which she said the Tories need “to keep reassuring people about our motives and values.” She also strayed from her own responsibilities, which include law and order, immigration and counter-terrorism, to comment on the economy, public services and business.
It was May’s second speech in just over three months to set out a wider vision for Britain. A March 9 address to Tory supporters giving her views on the agenda for the 2015 election drew an attack from Gove for undermining Cameron.
Business Minister Michael Fallon was questioned in Parliament yesterday by an opposition lawmaker who asked him to urge May to back British industry in a move that would help her leadership ambitions. “They may not need that much help,” Fallon replied, drawing cheers and laughter among lawmakers.
On Johnson, who has repeatedly refused to rule himself out as a future Tory leader, Cameron said: “Isn’t it fantastic that here we are halfway through a government that is having to take difficult decisions, we have a Conservative mayor of the biggest city in the country.” He said that “Boris is doing a great job, he has a lot more to give.”
Chris Patten, a Tory lawmaker in the upper House of Lords and a former minister, urged his party yesterday to unite or face losing the next general election in 2015. Patten was the chairman of the party during the 1992 election campaign in which John Major won a majority of seats in Parliament, a feat the Tories haven’t managed since.
“It’s very difficult to lead any party which isn’t united and win any election,” Patten told reporters in London. “What used to be one of the most important characteristics of the Conservative party, and I hope still is, is that it was more interested in running the country than in who ran the Conservative Party.”
Patten said that “if you lose that sense of being united, if people start to think you are more interested in fighting one another than fighting for the country then the game is up.”
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