I voted to leave the European Union and I would crawl over burning coals and broken glass to do so again. My reasons for doing so are many but can be summarised as: I love my country; I want it to not only succeed but be world beating, I want it to be prosperous and thriving, open to world and welcoming to all. A beacon of freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law across the globe. The leadership election allows us to seize the opportunity the referendum has given, but only if we choose the right candidate. I believe that candidate is Theresa May.
We cannot pretend the coming months are going to be easy. Storm clouds are gathering and the world is watching and waiting to see if we sink beneath the waves. In the distance the clear skies and calm seas of a future full of opportunity beckon, but in our path is an angry, churning sea and if we make but one wrong turn, we’ll be dashed on the rocks. Difficult times call for a captain with a cool head and experienced hands to chart this perilous course and in Theresa May you have both.
She’s the longest serving Home Secretary in 60 years, a role that has a reputation for being a poisoned chalice where political careers go to die. Her ability to thrive there demonstrates she’s a woman of steel.
In her six years May has become intimately familiar with the inner workings of government, sat on COBRA committee meetings and the National Security Council in times of crisis, negotiated with her European counterparts and pushed forward UK Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs in the Lisbon Treaty, stood up to the USA in refusing to extradite alleged computer hacker Gary McKinnon, negotiated the deportation to Jordan of Islamist cleric Abu Qatada and managed to cut crime and maintain front line police services despite massive cuts to the Home Office budget all the while uncovering and tackling police corruption.
It’s been noted by those that work with her that she has an untiring work ethic, pouring over her Red Boxes late into the night and drilling down into every last detail whilst still finding time to door knock every two weeks to test the mood of her constituents.
And all this she does without the willy waving of her now stabbed-in-the-back rivals. ‘I’m not a showy politician’, she told supporters, ‘I just get on with the job in front of me’. Never has a candidate for Prime Minister been more ready for the office and more dedicated to public service.
The first major task for the new Prime Minister will be to negotiate our way out of the EU and here she has a major advance over her rival. Andrea Leadsom is an ideological puritan, committed to ‘hard Brexit’ come hell and high water which can only serve to infuriate the 27 other member states and make them uncooperative. We’d be throwing away our one opportunity to make a better country.
There’s no place in the negotiation for ideology and entrenched resentment left over from a bitter referendum campaign. We need a Prime Minister who can build fruitful relationships with their European counterparts and who is prepared to make sacrifices and concessions to ensure the best possible deal for the UK outside of the EU, but who is also not afraid to dig in their leopard print stilettos when the Europeans try and play hardball. In Theresa May the EU will find someone with whom they can do business with. Tough, but fair.
But Theresa May offers much more than just a safe pair of hands and crisis manager. Underneath her proven competence and pragmatism there lies a reforming zeal and a burning desire to create a country that truly works for everyone. We’ve seen flashes of it through her period as Home Secretary: championing devolution of power to the regions, campaigning for marriage equality, reforming the police, tackling vested interest without fear, giving more power and recourse to the victims of crime and instigating an inquiry into historic child abuse. As Prime Minister we see her dedicate her premiership to the bold programme of social reform the Conservatives committed to at the last election and break down the barriers that hold people back.
It saddens me that I can’t feel the same sense of optimism from Andrea Leadsom. I fear her premiership would see us get a terrible deal from the EU and turn us into a backward and inward-looking society.
I understand why many members are fans of her rhetoric, she’s an ideological purist where Brexit is concerned and clearly won’t compromise, though her self-made comparisons to Thatcher are frankly insulting to the memory of such a great reformer.
She holds traditional (outdated) views on families that resonate with many of the older party faithful; she wants to re-instate grammar schools (a throwback to a class-divided society) and declare all-out war on political correctness (a smoke screen for American-style free speech that leaves minorities open to abuse). Leadsom is a woman devoid of any real substance or any great vision and who defines her politics almost entirely in vague platitudes and by the fact she was blessed by a set of fully functioning reproductive organs. Being a mother and a grandmother does give you a ‘greater stake’ in this country or greater rights to be a leader, it just makes you guilty of the same identity politics that is so unpalatable about the Labour Party. Conservatives are better than that.
At her campaign launch, May told journalists ‘I’m Theresa May and I’m the best person to be Prime Minister of this country’. Given the choice we now have, I wholeheartedly agree and I’m convinced the majority of the party will too.