Tory minister says Theresa May's call for ideas from other parties is 'grown-up', but then criticises Labour policies

Damian Green said voters want politicians to work together after the Conservatives lost their Commons majority 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Monday 10 July 2017 09:21
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Damian Green says cooperation is 'grown up', but then attacks Labour

Theresa May’s deputy has said the Prime Minister’s call for ideas from other parties is “grown-up”, but then went on to attack a string of Labour’s policies.

Damian Green said voters wanted to see parties working together, but seconds later could not stop himself criticising the opposition’s plans to increase public sector pay and scrap tuition fees.

It comes ahead of a speech in which Ms May will plead with other parties to work constructively with the Government. Critics say the speech demonstrates her weak position in the wake of the election.

Talk of a challenge to her leadership persisted this morning despite the Prime Minister’s attempts to relaunch her administration following the G20 summit.

First Secretary of State Mr Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Politicians of all parties are invited to contribute their reports, their ideas, that’s a grown-up way of doing politics.

“I think a lot of your listeners would think, actually, if politicians just said, why don’t we just do this about a particular national issue, rather than just sit in the trenches and shell each other, then we might actually have better government and that’s what the Government is talking about.”

Mr Green was then asked whether he was prepared to join forces with Labour in plans to increase public sector pay, something that a series of other cabinet ministers have also voiced support for.

But he appeared to suggest that on that particular issue, working together would not be possible. He said: “In that instance, clearly what you need to do is balance the need to be fair with public sector workers with the need to be fair to taxpayers as well, and in particular maintain the downward pressure on deficit that we need to have.”

Pressed again, he said: “This is a matter obviously for the Chancellor in the Budget.”

Then he was asked whether there was scope to work with Jeremy Corbyn on tuition fees, which Labour wants to scrap.

Instead of pointing to areas of the policy where there may be common ground, Mr Green claimed the opposition’s plans were unaffordable.

In her speech tomorrow Ms May will look back over her year in Downing Street and insist she was right to assess the Brexit vote as a call for “great national change”.

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But after a month of speculation about her future, Ms May will also apparently acknowledge the Conservatives’ fragility in the House of Commons.

She is to say: “I say to the other parties in the House of Commons ... come forward with your own views and ideas about how we can tackle these challenges as a country.

“We may not agree on everything, but through debate and discussion – the hallmarks of our parliamentary democracy – ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward found.”

Labour said the speech showed the Government had “completely run out of ideas”.

Ms May's speech on Tuesday is being seen as an attempt to relaunch her premiership after the humiliation of the election result and the need to strike a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up her administration in the Commons.

It comes after weekend reports of a plot to oust her by allies of Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell, who ran Mr Davis's unsuccessful 2005 leadership bid, sought to play down claims he told a private dinner that the PM had “lost her authority” and was “dead in the water”, saying the account of the gathering was “overheated”.

Mr Green rejected suggestions Mrs May could be challenged.

He told Sky News: “I'm saying that there is no credible plot going on. There is nothing like that going on.

“The Prime Minister is determined to carry on to lead the party and the country for many years to come and the overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs are behind her in that.”

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