Nadhim Zahawi is MP for Stratford On Avon.
Last week, Parliament rose for the summer. This meant that politicians have been set free to concentrate on the goings-on in their constituencies, to spend a bit more time with their families and escape from the Westminster bubble. All of this is welcome – especially because it seems this couldn’t be more necessary for some.
If you’ve been reading the papers during the last couple of weeks, you’ll have been hearing a lot of fevered gossip and references to warm prosecco. It’s clear that the sources of these stories require a bit of a break from politics, in order to cool down and have the chance to regain a bit of perspective again.
We’ve seen weekend after weekend of ridiculous stories as individuals and their allies seek to position themselves to be next in line to reside in Number 10. All of this has made it seem like a fitting time for the new series of Game of Thrones to return to our screens. During the leadership election last year, Ben Wallace tweeted about his desire to deal out some Ramsay Bolton-esque punishment. Just over a year on, I think the Parliamentary Party will shortly experience quite similar emotions towards those who are playing games and jostling for position in government if this lasts much longer.
Those who fancy themselves as being the next great saviour, and those who wish to support them, would do well to recognise the situation our country is in, put self-interest aside and start putting the national interest first. A lot of discussion about these stories has revolved around Brexit: whether the target is a Brexiteer or a Remainer; whether he or she favours a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit. It was perhaps possible to humour such arguments six months ago, even if they did seem a bit of a petty distraction, but now it is unacceptable.
Brexit negotiations have started and, as Michel Barnier has said, the clock is now ticking. Anyone that is focusing on themselves at this point in time, who seeks to divide Cabinet or who tries to distract attention from this key task is not worthy of a seat in government.
A divided team is the exact opposite of what we need right now. After all, it is the British economy that will be the victim of these games if things go wrong, or if different players are pulling in different directions. This is no time for a new leader, and this is certainly not the time for another election. That must surely be plain for everyone to see.
We should not kid ourselves about the importance of the ongoing negotiations; how vital it is to get a good deal and a beneficial trading arrangement with the EU. Banks are already starting to move from the planning stage to execution of moving staff to Frankfurt, Paris and Dublin. Bickering about transitional deals and how long different people believe they should last will soon become irrelevant unless we can make it clear that Britain can get a good deal as soon as possible. There is no room for people on our own side to start trying to meddle with or frustrate this process. I cannot foresee the Conservative Party, or the voters at large, rewarding anyone involved in sabotaging our Government at such a time.
No good Prime Minister should demand that dissenting voices remain silent. A collection of yes men and women is not a route to good government. However, disagreements absolutely must be worked out in Cabinet and Cabinet subcommittees, rather than placed in the press to make someone look good and someone else look bad. Fundamentally, this requires respect – for your colleagues, for your Government and for your nation.
Being seated around the Cabinet table as part of the Government of the United Kingdom is a great honour and a great responsibility. You have a key role in guiding history, and an opportunity to make Britain an even better place. But only as part of a team. That team needs to work together, and get on with delivering a good Brexit deal. Or it should be rejuvenated, or replaced.