Tories 'deserve to lose' if they carry on feuding over public spending and Brexit, admits Theresa May’s former policy chief

Leaving the EU has become 'an alley street-cat fight between rival gangs', George Freeman says

What is still needed to complete a deal with the EU?

The Tories will “deserve to lose” if they carry on feuding over public spending and Brexit, Theresa May’s former policy chief says.

George Freeman accused his party’s senior figures of turning the process of leaving the EU into “essentially an alley street-cat fight between rival gangs”.

He also attacked the “chaos” of cabinet members lobbying publicly for extra funding for their departments, prompted by the breakdown of collective responsibility.

“I think if we lose our reputation for economic competence, if we can't show that we are managing the public finances properly, if we treat Brexit like an anti-business moment, contemptuous of the concerns of business, and if we don't show that we have a distinctive conservative approach to supporting enterprise, risk, hard work, savings, and we go down the road of big tax rises, big spending spree, anti-business, I fear we will lose and we'll deserve to,” Mr Freeman said.

“If we look like Corbyn-lite the public will conclude they are better off voting for the real thing.”

The former minister - who quit as head of Ms May's policy board last year - added: “I don't recognise the party that I joined, in this conversation at the moment.”

The criticism comes amid an increasingly bitter row over higher spending, triggered by the prime minister’s pledge of a £20bn boost for the NHS by 2023-24.

Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, is alleged to have demanded an identical £20bn for the armed forces – threatening to bring down Ms May’s government if she refuses.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has also vowed publicly to fight for extra funds for the police, to the anger of the Treasury.

Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, hit back at fellow cabinet ministers demanding “un-Conservative” spending sprees that would result in “higher and higher taxes”.

Mr Freeman told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme that he was “very worried” about the Conservative party's future in government.

He said: “We cannot have this process done by cabinet ministers going to the press and briefing against the prime pinister, and putting their bids in early.

“Unfortunately, cabinet responsibility was withdrawn by David Cameron for the Brexit referendum - it's never been restored.

“This is chaos. If we have ministers winning their bids for money on the basis of who has got the biggest headlines we will lose our reputation for financial competence.

“At the moment, we look like we are bringing to the public finances the chaos of the Brexit conversation. We can't simply tip more money into the old silos.”

In a speech on Tuesday, Ms Truss laid bare the tensions, demanding further efficiencies “rather than just upping the budget of every department”.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, she wrote: “I will make it clear to my cabinet colleagues that it's not macho to demand more money. It's much tougher - and fairer to people - to demand better value for money.

Some of her colleagues had “not been clear with the public about the tax implications of their proposed higher spending,” she warned.

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