This morning Andrea Leadsom stood down from the leadership contest, meaning Theresa May will be confirmed as the new leader of the Conservative Party and the next UK Prime Minister. Mrs Leadsom has chosen the national and party interest over her personal political career, and that is deeply admirable.
However, it is undoubtedly the best choice. Under May’s leadership, the Conservatives can embark upon a One Nation government, mopping up support from the Liberals and disillusioned Labour voters. May will achieve a good deal from Europe. As she announced in a speech this morning, “Brexit means Brexit” and there will be “no attempt to remain in Europe.” She has been very clear that she recognises that the British public voted to leave the European Union, this was a vote for a clear change and now we must make a success of it.
This will undoubtedly assure many of her Pro-Brexit colleagues who fear she will try to side-line the issue of Brexit. Her speech this morning was a strong, passionate one, where she demonstrated her understanding of the world outside the Westminster Bubble – a rare quality in modern politicians.
Under her leadership, and with Labour in turmoil, we are faced with a real opportunity to lead the country in fresh territory, in a new direction with new ideas. May’s manifesto will be both at the heart of traditional conservative values, but also challenging social and economic inequalities in the UK. It is on this basis, that she could deliver a very large majority for the Tories in the next election.
Of course her appointment raises another question – when will the next General Election be? She has previously ruled it out on the basis that the Conservatives were given a mandate, barley over a year ago to run the country until 2020. However, one might argue that there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of the UK since then, and the timing of a snap election could prove advantageous.
With Labour in the midst of a messy leadership election, and the Tories at the centre of the news, now could be the perfect time to call for a vote. The Conservatives could allow themselves to run a platform of delivering Brexit, combatting social inequalities that would appeal to the typical Tory and potentially disheartened Labour voters.
The Conservatives have already grasped a massive opportunity in allowing May to become the next party leader. Had Leadsom won, she would have taken the party back out to the political right, away from the electability of the centre in a complete polar reaction to Labour. Now, while Labour have left the centre ground open, is the chance to prove the Conservatives are the party of the working class, are the party who makes economic mobility a realistic prospect for everyone and who are the party who should lead the country.
In the coming weeks, Theresa May has some monumental decisions to make. She must firstly decide her cabinet, having to play a delicate balancing act between rewarding allies and not alienating pro-Brexit colleagues. She must also decide when to trigger Article 50, something that will gain her support across the country with Leave voters, no matter their party political colours. Finally, she must decide whether it is right to go to the country and receive a mandate.
This could work for her, she could receive a larger majority than the one Cameron has, and would demonstrate her accountability. However, it could also backfire and see the slim majority reduced to coalition partners, which would complete destabilise her plans.
It has certainly been a fascinating few months in British politics, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get boring any time soon.