Today’s exchange at the Despatch Box marks the last big appearance for the Prime Minister before MPs decamp for the summer, and presents a key opportunity to draw a line under the turbulent post-election period.
It comes after a series of damaging leaks from the Cabinet, which yesterday culminated in a warning from Mrs May to senior ministers to remember their “responsibilities” .
The Conservative leader has also made fresh attempts to keep her MPs in line, which many have welcomed as an indication that the party is ready to get back to the business of governing.
Addressing Cabinet yesterday, the Prime Minister moved to put a halt to further reports of a rift in government as she urged her colleagues to display “strength and unity”.
In a direct rebuke to those involved in briefings against the Chancellor Philip Hammond this weekend, she described the leaks as “a case of colleagues not taking their responsibilities seriously”.
She went on to state that as Prime Minister she had introduced a more genuine and collective process of discussion in the development of policy in the belief that this would result in better decision-making. But she stressed a guarantee of privacy in Cabinet discussions was “vital” for this to work.
The attempt to reassert her authority follows a similar speech to back bench MPs during the annual summer drinks party for the 1922 Committee. Mrs May reportedly used the address to warn against “backbiting and carping” and tell MPs to prepare for “serious business” after Parliament’s summer recess.
The show of leadership was welcomed by the committee, with vice chair Charles Walker stating that the “party is united behind the Prime Minister” and would support her if she decided to sack unruly ministers. He told the BBC’s World at One: “The vast majority of members of parliament wish to see Theresa May continue as Prime Minister and get on with the job, and are hoping that secretaries of state... focus on their jobs, and not talking to journalists”.
Another Tory MP told the Yorkshire Post that they hoped their party colleagues would “take heed” of Mrs May’s words. Others claimed there was no appetite among backbenchers for the uncertainty of a leadership contest, and suggested recess would give the party an opportunity to come back refreshed and united.