The fight is on. It’s a testament to the sanity of the systems of the Conservative Party that we have reached this stage with relatively little damage done in such a short time. The past week has been but a flavour of the contest to come and the initial pitches have been revealing.
May’s bid is the clearest. Steady continuity, reacting to Brexit rather than acting upon it. This will, and has, appealed to large sections of the party and the party membership. However, the notion that this contest is now a shoe-in for the Home Secretary is overly presumptive. We are now in a 2-month contest – not the fortnight rush we’ve had thus far. Over that time the initial shock of Brexit will fade, and the demand for a ‘safe pair of hands’ will likely fade with it. Thus the chance of an insurgent Andrea Leadsom topping the ballot is a very real possibility.
It’s a disappointment that the brevity of the parliamentary selection process made it impossible for a radical and intelligent reformer like Michael Gove to win given that memories from the aftermath of the Leave vote are all too fresh in people’s minds. I’m certain that if he made it through that he would have proved a formidable candidate.
Now we must move on and consider the choice in front of us, even if the selection is in my view lesser without Gove. The past few days have proven that Andrea Leadsom, despite being a great debater and campaigner during the referendum, is not ready to be Prime Minister. The CV fiasco, though fickle, reflects the potential downfall of having an inexperienced PM who will be consumed by the weight of her new responsibility and the media probing through every unturned stone (of which there will be many) in her private and professional life.
It is with reluctance that I say that though Mrs May will not deliver the radical change I feel this country needs, she is now best placed to take the reins. Whilst Leadsom offers her own version of Tory radicalism, it is for me the same radicalism characteristic of the Tory wilderness years (see IDS, Michael Howard, and so on) as indicated by the soundings of her stump speeches and and past views on same sex marriage expressed in blog posts. Though Mrs May does represent the status quo, we must keep in mind that the status quo she represents is one a lot friendlier, more liberal, more electable, than it was before Cameron began the modernisation project in 2005 that May has largely supported along the way.
My fear is that May thinks that the party has changed enough. It hasn’t. The modernisers wanted to go much further with projects such as the Big Society. Gove offered to take Cameroonian Conservatism into the new post-Brexit world with an outward looking approach to the world. We can only hope that May adopts some of this radicalism as takes a hold of her new found power.