There will never be another week like it, the transformation of the political landscape since the earthquake of June 23rd has been breathtaking in its scale and speed. Whilst the Conservative Party leadership contest gathers pace, this weekend the Labour Party remains in a state of civil war, with the vast majority of MPs at loggerheads with a leader elected with an overwhelming mandate from the membership only 10 months ago. Corbyn allies say MPs aren’t at war with the leader, they’re at war with the membership, there is more than spin to that statement. Labour’s problems will not disappear with a belated Corbyn resignation, the Labour Party’s political class has drifted so far away from ordinary Labour voters the very survival of the party as one political unit is in question. This presents enormous opportunities, but also challenges, for the Conservative Party.
There is no room for complacency, Conservatives may not have the same struggles as Labour, but there is still a gap between the concerns of voters and their perception of Conservative priorities. Theresa May gets that, as long ago as 2002, three years ahead of David Cameron’s election as leader, she made the now famous modernising call to the party, warning we were seen as ‘the nasty party’ and needed to reconnect with everyday priorities. That’s one reason why I believe she can be more than just a ‘safe pair of hands’, although as the longest serving Home Secretary for fifty years she has immense experience in the most difficult department of government.
In her launch on Thursday Theresa May set out a positive and unifying vision for a ‘country that works for everyone’, recognising that government has more to do to make life easier for those in Britain who are struggling. Struggles she will have witnessed firsthand growing up the daughter of a local Vicar. As someone who remains outside the Westminster establishment despite years at the heart of government she is well placed to bring a fresh approach to Whitehall, whilst at the same time continuing much of the Cameron modernising movement. This is a government which has increased the personal tax allowance from under £6,500 in 2010 to £11,000 so far and rising, rewarding work and encouraging aspiration. Conservatives have always believed in the potential of the individual regardless of background, making a grocers daughter from Grantham and an early school leaver from Brixton two of their last three Prime Ministers.
Stephen Crabb, a future star who himself grew up in a single parent household on a council estate made a passionate defence of the inclusive and aspirational vision of One Nation Conservatism in his own leadership launch last week. By his side was his running mate Sajid Javid, son of a Pakistani Bus driver, who, like Crabb, has emphasised the importance of education and work as a route out of poverty. Hailing from the same far flung and beautiful corner of Wales as part of my own family Stephen Crabb was also in a good position to make the case for the continuation of the Union. There were times where the Conservative Party was perceived as the English Party, not helped when we lost all our Scottish and Welsh MPs in 1997, but now we are the only party fully committed to the United Kingdom in all four corners of our country.
The Union has been a tremendous force for good, both in and outside the British Isles and maintaining it in these troubled times must be the number one priority for the next occupant of No.10. Doing so will require reaching a withdrawal agreement with the EU that all parts of the country can live with. That’s why Theresa May, experienced at negotiations in Europe, absolutely committed to delivering the will of the British people but understanding the concerns of the 48% of people who voted to remain, is quite simply, the best person to be our next Prime Minister.