Dr Sarah Ingham is a former Deputy Chairman of Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Association. She is currently working on a project about the British Army since 1945.
As a longstanding Conservative party member, I sincerely hope I am not asked to vote in the leadership contest. In an ideal world, I would like to see the coronation of Theresa May – preferably within the next hour.
MPs and Party bigwigs somehow seem to have failed to notice that the country is suffering collective shell-shock after the referendum result. The City is nervous, the pound faltering and investors hesitant. Millions of EU citizens settled here are wondering whether Britain is going to be ethnically-cleansed, becoming a more benign version of Bosnia. Czech bankers, French yoga teachers and Bulgarian art students are asking if they will be allowed to stay in London. Equally, ex-pat Brits in the Spanish Costas and Chiantishire are anxious about their long term security, healthcare and pensions.
Many voters took the opportunity afforded by the referendum to give politicians and the current political system one of the biggest-ever ‘up-yours’, forcing us all finally to confront the enormous structural problems and fault-lines within British society. Similarly, Chilcot will lead to more questions about Britain’s future role in the world. There is a great deal of work for the new Prime Minister to get on with – not forgetting the thorny issue of triggering Article 50 – while convincing a nervous country that abandoning the EU is the right course.
Despite this, in what psychiatrists would probably label displacement activity, government is on hold while a leisurely Conservative leadership contest takes place. By delaying the result until 9th September, the Party Board believes it is a good idea for the United Kingdom to drift, rudderless, for another two months. Crisis, what crisis, eh?
Grant Shapps is one of the few who is waking up to the possible pitfalls of all this chillaxing. Stating there might be “real-life consequences for jobs, livelihoods and the security of families across Britain,” he wants all the faffing around to stop. In a letter to Lord Feldman, with whom he previously shared the job of Party Chairman, he has called for the leadership contest to be completed by the end of the month.
The majority of Conservative MPs are endorsing Theresa May, so why shouldn’t she get the keys to Number Ten by the end of the week? The Home Secretary’s ‘Brexit means Brexit’ sounds good enough to me, a Leaver. A Remainer such as Mrs May has far more chance of selling Brexit to the doubting 48 per cent. Equally, during the Brexit negotiations she will probably get a more sympathetic and open-minded reception in Europe than any Leaver, particularly if Britain is perceived as the arsonist responsible for setting fire to the European house.
Conservative Party members backing Andrea Leadsom should ask themselves whether they want to be a situation in which the leader has the backing of the majority of the grassroots, but not of MPs. Not only is this the current cause of the chaos within the Labour Party, but didn’t something similar happen during the uneasy leadership of Iain Duncan-Smith? That at least was during the long years of Opposition: the stakes are surely far higher today.
Continuing this leadership contest serves little useful purpose other than providing MPs and the media with some distracting entertainment. Compared with Theresa May, the Andrea Leadsom simply does not have the necessary experience of government. She will lose in any final ballot, as surely as Stephen Crabb would have lost. In the interests of the country, she should stand aside, giving May a clear run, so she can form a government.