Belfast Telegraph

Why schoolmarm Theresa needs to wield the big stick

Inside Westminster ... ... with Chris Moncrieff

The Prime Minister must restore order to her divided Cabinet... and sooner rather than later if she's to avoid a Trump-style meltdown.

What the Cabinet urgently needs is for Theresa May to hurry back from holiday and read the Riot Act to her ministers, ordering them to cease their childish conduct and get on with the job.

This has been a classic case of "When the cat's away".

No sooner had the Prime Minister arrived in Italy for her walking holiday in the Alps than the Cabinet descended into backbiting and public disagreements, which not only further weaken an already imperilled Government, but endanger whatever prospects there are of an orderly Brexit.

How the EU grandees in Brussels - hellbent on squeezing every last penny out of the UK on quitting - must be chortling up their sleeves as they listen to this disharmony.

The Prime Minister has already rebuked her Cabinet colleagues over leaks, grimly warning there is no such thing as an unsackable minister, but even that threat seems to have had little effect.

Now, she must wave the big stick at them and underline her determination to sack ministers who are seen to be rocking the boat.

The issue which is causing all, or at least much of, the trouble among warring ministers is that of the transitional period after Brexit is completed.

And the name continually cropping up in all this is that of the Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

He has been publicly accused of treachery, by suggesting in recent days a new and softer Government policy towards Brexit, with a further transition period of three years.

The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, in particular, has said that if there had been any discussion on this issue, he was unaware of it.

But Hammond has his supporters, prominent among whom is veteran Tory backbencher Sir Nicholas Soames.

Soames has said Hammond should be listened to, because he is the one preventing this whole sad affair from degenerating into a pub brawl.

Whatever the outcome, it cannot make for a relaxing holiday for Theresa May as she studies what is going on back at Westminster during her absence.

President Donald Trump has promised that what sounds like a splendid trade deal between the US and the UK is imminent.

But before we start uncorking the champagne, we should wait to see this "promise" actually fulfilled.

His so-called "pledges" are myriad, but their fulfilment is virtually non-existent. And pretty well everything he has proposed has been vetoed either by fellow politicians, or the courts of law.

And even though he has been in power for less than a year, names are already being considered for his successor.

Trump epitomises what we in this country call "all mouth and trousers".

He appears to govern, if that is the right word, by tweets and seems to have an almost permanent queue of people outside his office door, waiting to be sacked.

He has reduced the White House to chaos and an unholy mess, which makes Theresa May's problems at Westminster seem puny by comparison.

Gordon Brown once said of Tony Blair that he could never again trust a word he said. That could be applied in spades to Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, put the bubbly back on the ice.

n It is about time those responsible for handing aid out to overseas countries paid more attention to the fears and suspicions of the British taxpayer who has to foot the bill.

New reports suggest Britain is forking out a cool £2bn a year to more than a dozen countries with "shocking" human rights records.

This is not simply a waste of money, but almost certainly means channelling much of this cash into the wrong hands.

How much of it is reaching people in real need? And how much is falling into the grasp of warlords and the like?

There needs to be a complete overhaul of the system. The generosity of the UK is much to be admired - but not when vast sums of money are likely to be used against, rather than for, those people who so desperately need help.

There is serious talk that the relevant local authority may be prosecuted as a corporate body over the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

If it is convicted, it will no doubt face a huge fine, which will, in effect, have to be paid by the council taxpayers, who will also possibly suffer a reduction in services.

Is this really the best way to do these things? There must be a better way.

I do not want to see anyone let off the hook, but surely something a bit fairer could be devised which does not hit the innocent.

Mystery: whatever happened to Labour MP Hilary Benn?

I used to think - and still do - that he would be an ideal Labour Party leader in the unlikely event that Jeremy Corbyn would quit.

However, since Benn left his post as shadow Foreign Secretary, he seems to have disappeared into the aether.

Perhaps he is seriously and very privately planning for a tilt at the leadership, should the occasion arise.

I think he would do Labour a power of good.

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