PM Theresa May defends record ahead of cabinet reshuffle

The prime minister has defended her record and set out her plans for the coming year, as she prepares to reshuffle her cabinet.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, she defended NHS funding amid questions over the handling of winter pressures.

Mrs May also defended rail fare rises and pledged parole reform after the decision to release sex attacker John Worboys.

On the NHS, Labour said the PM lacked a plan to get “people off the trolleys”.

Theresa May confirmed a cabinet reshuffle was imminent, but refused to give any detail.

She is expected to replace Damian Green, who was sacked as first secretary of state in December, but keep key figures such as Chancellor Philip Hammond and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mrs May also:

Set out plans to create a new Northern Forest stretching from Liverpool to Hull

Warned Toby Young about his language amid calls for him to be sacked from his job on the board of the new university regulator for his tweets about women

Said she knew one of John Worboys’ victims, and she wanted to bring “greater openness” to the parole system

Dropped a manifesto pledge to hold a vote on the fox-hunting ban during this parliament

Confirmed President Trump would be coming to the UK

Said she wanted to fight the next general election, due in 2022

‘More to do’

On the NHS, Theresa May said thousands of cancelled operations in January were “part of the plan” for coping with pressures on the health service.

She said she wanted cancelled operations to be “reinstated as soon as possible”, but added the government was “making sure that those who most urgently need care” get it quickly.

Mr Marr disputed the idea that urgent care was being delivered in time, raising the case of Leah Butler-Smith and her mother, who, having suffered a stroke, waited an hour in an ambulance and a further four in A&E before seeing a doctor.

“If I’d been waiting for five hours before I’d seen a doctor after my stroke I would not be here talking to you,” he said.

“This is about life and death, and up and down the country people are having horrendous experiences of the NHS.”

The prime minister said she had not heard of the specific case and so could not comment, and insisted that the NHS was delivering more than ever before.

“But of course nothing’s perfect and there is more for us to do”, she added.

Mrs May also defended the rail fare increase announced at the beginning of January, saying that rises were in line with inflation.

“For every pound that somebody pays on a ticket in the railways, 97p of that goes back into investment in the railways.” she said.

Analysis by Susana Mendonca, BBC political correspondent

Theresa May wants to reset her premiership after a difficult few months. The message she wants people to hear is that her government is about more than just Brexit.

So plans to develop a new forest on land between Liverpool and Hull have been announced and she’s kicking a free vote on fox hunting into the long grass.

But old problems haven’t gone away. The New Year has brought with it another deep winter crisis in the NHS, with tens of thousands of operations cancelled.

Mrs May told Andrew Marr that postponing operations was all “part of the plan” to help the NHS cope.

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said that the current crisis was “entirely predictable and preventable” and blamed government cuts.

The hike in rail prices is another issue that’s getting in the way of the prime minister’s efforts to present a more positive message.

Fresh faces

The interview comes ahead of a cabinet reshuffle, which is expected to take place across Monday and Tuesday.

Several newspapers have reported that Education Secretary Justine Greening will be among those to lose her role, although No 10 has described this and other speculation as “guesswork”.

Mrs May told Mr Marr that Damian Green’s exit as first secretary of state in December – he was sacked after making “misleading statements” to the press about pornography found on his office computer in 2008 – meant a reshuffle was needed, but she would not pre-empt what would be announced.

Labour reacted angrily to rumours that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, may be promoted to fill the vacancy.

“They should be demoting this health secretary.

“If she promotes this health secretary tomorrow it’s a betrayal of those 75,000 people (waiting) in the back of ambulances,” Mr Ashworth said.

Two other cabinet ministers – Sir Michael Fallon and Priti Patel – have also quit since November, but they have already been replaced as defence secretary and international development secretary respectively.

While Mrs May is believed to be planning to promote more women and MPs from ethnic minorities, it is expected that prominent cabinet members such as Boris Johnson, David Davis and Philip Hammond will stay in their roles.