ConservativeHome put 15 questions – some from the editorial team and some from ConservativeHome readers, submitted in our recent appeal – to each candidate for the Party leadership. The first 14 questions were put to every hopeful, and the final one varied for each candidate.
Here are Sam Gyimah’s answers to ConservativeHome’s 15 questions:
1. Theresa May suggested there should be “an end to austerity”. Was she right or wrong – and why in either case?
Austerity is a necessity, not a religion. The alternative to fixing the public finances is rising interest rates, a fall in currency and, ultimately, capital controls and chaos. After nine challenging years, our restraint has paid off and there is some financial headroom to invest in the UK’s future.
That’s why I’m urging a programme of investment in transport, skills and technology, especially in left-behind places. But we must remain prudent – I am against uncosted giveaways.
Our reputation for economic competence is vital to our electoral success. Once this reputation is lost, it is incredibly hard to replace. And it is unthinkable for the Conservative Party to be seen as anything other than the party of business.
2. ”The UK should set a zero carbon target for 2050.” Do you agree and if so why?
Yes. The hallmark of Conservatism is to look after the future, but we will do it through taking advantage of private enterprise, individual endeavour and advancing technology, which has underpinned our progress, to achieve this.
3. What would you do to strengthen the Union?
The British family of nations has existed for more than 300 years, and stood fast in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. United in our shared values and allegiance to the Crown, we must ensure we avoid anything that can put this Union at risk.
That is why Brexit must be resolved in an orderly fashion. With a chaotic No Deal Brexit, we risk leaving the EU as a fragmented family of nations; the bonds of our shared history can survive only if we have a shared future. A family divided against itself cannot prosper.
4. From reader Penny_Change: Will you commit to cancelling HS2?
Bridging the economic divide between London and the rest of the country is long overdue. We need new and creative ways of funding the big infrastructure that is needed to make this happen.
This is what happens in Hong Kong and Japan; we can do that here, as well as reviewing HS2 and other such projects to ensure they offer value for money to the taxpayer.
5. What is the right level of immigration for Britain?
We must rebuild trust in our immigration system, and government quotas that are repeatedly missed do not help. Students must be taken out of our international immigration cap.
We should ensure that those who do come here, come here to work, not to claim benefits, and that they become a valued part of British society. The success of our economy depends very much on brains and human capital – we do need to grow our own, we also need to be a magnet for the world’s best.
6. Is the internet a threat to be contained or an opportunity to be unleashed?
It is an opportunity. But the idea that the web should be beyond careful regulation is long past its sell-by date. Tech giants have come of age in the last two decades, and are making vast profits.
So it is time they took on the big responsibilities we expect of all big companies.
7. Do you agree that the NHS is an expression of British values?
Free healthcare at the point of delivery is a great British achievement, and little credit has been given to Conservative Health Minister Henry Willink, who drafted a blueprint for this icon in the depths of the Second World War.
Caring and community are essential Conservative and British values – but there is no organisation in the world that, over a 70-year period, does not evolve and adapt. With the challenges of an ageing population – which is in itself a sign of health service success – the NHS has to evolve.
8. Would you be prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal at the end of October if necessary?
No Deal is no solution. Given the sober analysis out there on the immediate effects of No Deal, and the weakening of our international bargaining position, we will not be able to sell this as a triumph of government policy to the British public.
The only way to deliver No Deal, given the challenges and difficulties it will entail, is with the explicit consent of the public. My proposal of a three-way referendum, with No Deal on the ballot paper, is the best chance of delivering No Deal with public consent, as no Conservative Prime Minister will risk a general election given the current mood of the country.
9. Please complete the following sentence in no more than 30 words: “Conservatism is…”
…about enterprise, endeavour, creating opportunity. It’s about putting country first, the Union. It’s about supporting families, respecting our great institutions, holding that the State cannot replace community or individual ingenuity.
10. From reader Graham, in Bristol: Why should I rejoin the Conservatives [under your leadership] from The Brexit Party?
The Conservative Party is not a single-issue party. It is a national party that can resolve Brexit, address some of the underlying concerns that led to the Leave vote, and ensure our country continues to prosper.
I also want to reach out to the forgotten Conservatives, those who voted Remain, without whom we cannot win an outright majority.
You cannot govern in grievance – the Conservative Party is your home.
11. Pick one: No Brexit, a 2019 general election, or a second referendum this year.
Second referendum – a new referendum with a new set of questions to break the impasse and begin the process of bringing our country together, including those forgotten Conservatives who voted Remain.
12. Should the Party Chairman be elected?
I want to strengthen the voice of our party members but, with all the division we face at the moment, we do not want a rival power base to the Prime Minister.
We should look at how we can strengthen the role of our membership, because a diverse and united membership – including those forgotten Conservatives who voted Remain – is essential to take this party forward from the divisions that Brexit has caused.
13. From reader LieBertArian: What will you do to root out Islamophobia in the Tory party?
We are a party of decency: we do not tolerate racism, bullying, Islamophobia. This is the 21st century – by now, it should be normal procedure to investigate allegations of abuse, bullying and inappropriate behaviour, whether that is sexism, racism, Islamophobia or any other issue of hate.
14. From reader hertscommuter: What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
It’s a long list, and not for public consumption, but I’d candidly suggest that standing for the Tory leadership on a second referendum platform must rank quite high.
15. Delaying Brexit has hammered the Conservative Party in the polls and led 60 per cent of its members to vote for the Brexit Party. Are you sure it would survive a second referendum in which its leader supported Remain?
We cannot set aside every democratic event in the name of the one that happened in 2016.
The Conservative Party has endured and flourished for more than two centuries by putting the country first. When Britain wins, the Conservative Party wins, and vice versa.
>To read the answers of the other candidates, click here.