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Theresa May issues plea for Conservative unity as David Cameron makes exit from No 10

Emotional scenes as party's top brass pay tribute to PM after final Cabinet meeting

By Andrew Woodcock

Published 13/07/2016

Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street yesterday
Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street yesterday
Outgoing PM David Cameron visits a London school
The removal men taking the Camerons’ furniture out of the PM’s official residence

As removal vans arrived at 10 Downing Street to prepare for David Cameron's departure, Theresa May has paid her first visit to Conservative head office as Tory leader, urging staff to "work together ... to truly unite our party and our country".

In an indication of her determination to resist demands for an early general election, Mrs May told party officials that she was aiming to "win big" in the poll scheduled for 2020.

Mrs May's comments came shortly after Mr Cameron chaired his 215th and last Cabinet meeting at Number 10.

In "emotional" scenes, Mrs May and Chancellor George Osborne paid tribute to Mr Cameron, who will take his last session of questions as PM in the House of Commons today before heading to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to the Queen.

Cabinet ministers spoke of a "sad day", but also revealed Mr Cameron's determination to remain upbeat and continue to drive the one nation Conservative agenda as he prepared to hand power to Mrs May.

Mr Cameron spoke of his "honour and pleasure" at having served for six years and told colleagues Mrs May was "the right person to lead the country wisely through the difficult times ahead".

In a mark of respect to the outgoing PM, there were four rounds of banging on the table - a traditional Westminster alternative to applause. Mr Cameron later made his last visit as PM to a school in west London, and toured Number 10 to thank staff.

The new Tory leader posed for photos as she arrived at 10 Downing Street in her trademark kitten heels on the day before she moves into the famous address as the UK's second female PM.

Leaving Number 10 after the meeting, she had an awkward moment when she walked to the wrong car, forcing her into a swift U-turn in front of waiting press cameras.

She later visited Conservative campaign HQ to tell staff that it was "an honour and a privilege to be the new leader of this great party".

Mrs May told party workers: "Now, more than ever, we need to work together, to deliver on Brexit, to build a country that works for everyone, and to truly unite our party and our country."

And she added: "Let's not forget about the opposition. The Labour Party brought our country to the brink of bankruptcy and we can never let them do it again.

"Whether it's led by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Jeremy Corbyn, when Labour prospers, the country suffers. So let's make sure they don't prosper.

"Let us redouble our efforts. And let us make sure we put this time to good use, to build the support we need to go to the country in four years' time, and not just win, but win big."

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said there was a "touch of sadness" about the Cabinet meeting, saying: "It was emotional but quite rightly we spent a long time on the Government business, but then we had a period during which we could raise tributes to the extraordinary service the Prime Minister has given, led on by George Osborne and Theresa May."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers insisted Mr Cameron was leaving Britain in a better state than when he took office in 2010.

"He's changed our party for the better, he's changed our country for the better, he's also given me huge opportunities, so for me it was a kind of sad day to see David Cameron's last Cabinet meeting," she said.

"But I'm sure our country is in safe hands with Theresa May."

It was later reported the outgoing premier would not be taking Number 10's resident feline to his new family home. Larry the cat, who has been the official mouser at with the Cameron family for six years, is understood to be staying behind to welcome Mrs May.

Larry was brought to Downing Street one year after the Camerons moved in in 2010.

Matthew d'Ancona once asserted in his biography of Mr Cameron, In It Together, that the Camerons found Larry annoying owing to his lazy attitude towards rodents - and that he was little more than a public relations ploy.

Having charitably been given a second chance when he was taken from Battersea Dogs And Cats Home in 2011, the cat only recorded one kill in his first year in residence. His normally nonchalant approach to the mouse problem in Downing Street had led to speculation that his days there might be numbered.

Belfast Telegraph

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