ConservativeHome put 15 questions – some from the editorial team and some from ConservativeHome readers – to each candidate for the Party leadership.
The first 14 questions were put to every hopeful, and the final one varied for each candidate.
We originally published the answers in early Jun, and are republishing them as the distribution of ballot papers approaches – and with it the final stage of this contest.
1. Theresa May suggested there should be “an end to austerity”. Was she right or wrong – and why in either case?
I never liked the use of the term “austerity” and objected when David Cameron said we should have an “austerity Olympics”. We have been right to cut the deficit and to live within our means – but it is obvious that we now need to spend more, notably on education and on policing, as well as ensuring that the £20 billion for health reaches the front line. We have the headroom to do so whilst remaining fiscally responsible and protecting our economy.
2. ”The UK should set a zero carbon target for 2050.” Do you agree and if so why?
Yes we should set ourselves a challenging target. Even if it looks tough to deliver today, the technology is changing and improving the whole time. I believe in the Promethean power of the human race to solve its problems – and Britain can be in the lead in coming up with the answers. When I was mayor of London we saw huge growth in population and GDP, and yet cut CO2 by 14 per cent.
3. What would you do to strengthen the Union?
– Ensure that the UK gets proper credit for UK policy achievements, not just the devolved governments and assembles;
– launch a pro-Union version of the Great campaign, stressing the success of our unique combination of nations and regions;
– use the opportunity of Brexit to strengthen all the legal underpinnings of the UK single market;
– put a dedicated point person in Number 10 to ensure that all policy promotes the Union.
4 From reader Penny_Change: Will you commit to cancelling HS2?
HS2 has a weak business case. Costs are spiralling vertiginously. The company is deeply disorganised in its relations with stakeholders and residents. But as a longstanding student of UK infrastructure and its defects, I hesitate before simply chopping a giant national project. We need a proper and urgent review to test whether the money could be spent differently – and in particular whether we should prioritise HS3/ Northern Powerhouse rail.
5 What is the right level of immigration for Britain?
We need an Australian-style points-based system, and levels of immigration should reflect the particular needs of the sectors concerned. I have always been in favour of talented people being able to come to this country and make their lives. We simply need to ensure democratic control.
6. Is the internet a threat to be contained or an opportunity to be unleashed?
The invention of the internet is the nuclear fission of our age – a development pregnant with boundless possibilities both for good and harm. We need to exploit the internet to the full, and ensure that the providers take responsibility for rooting out the evils online. And the internet giants must cough up their fair share of tax.
7. Do you agree that the NHS is an expression of British values?
Yes – and in being free to all at the point of use it expresses the fundamental sense of fairness at the heart of our national culture.
8. Would you be prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal at the end of October if necessary?
Yes. I believe such an outcome would be very unlikely – but the way to get a better deal is to prepare with conviction for No Deal. As things stand, preparations are far better advanced than is commonly supposed. We have three months to accelerate our work. The British people are capable of great feats, and have risen to far greater challenges in the past. I stress that I do not want a No Deal outcome. I do not seek it, and I do not believe that will be the result. But if we fail to come out on October 31st I believe we are courting mortal retribution from the electorate – a haemorrhage of trust from which we will not recover.
9. Please complete the following sentence in no more than 30 words: “Conservatism is…”
…a belief in freedom, opportunity, responsibility, family, community, nation, duty, service, beauty, democracy, fairness, decency, the ConHome website – and the sometimes hidden wisdom of old ways of doing things
10. From reader Graham, in Bristol: Why should I rejoin the Conservatives [under your leadership] from The Brexit Party?
A vote for the Brexit Party only helps Labour and Corbyn get into power. I hope that Graham and others will rejoin our party because I will fulfil the mandate of the people, take our country out of the EU on October 31st, deal or no deal – and thereby build a new trust in politics and a new, simpler, happier and more harmonious relationship with our European friends.
11. Pick one: No Brexit, a 2019 general election, or a second referendum this year.
Absolutely not to all the above: each choice would be deeply divisive, toxic and undermining of faith in democracy.
12. Should the Party Chairman be elected?
Electing the Chairman is one option but more important is a commitment to broadening the democratic involvement of Party members. I love our members and, more importantly, I trust them. The days where Tory leaders expected the members to be seen and not heard are definitely over – and quite right, too.
13. From reader LieBertArian: What will you do to root out Islamophobia in the Tory party?
My Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life – because even in 1912 the UK was a beacon of freedom and hope. That is how we must always be. As Prime Minister I will not tolerate prejudice, hatred or discrimination of any kind against Muslims or any other group. We need to ensure that there is a clear and transparent means of handling complaints.
14. From reader hertscommuter: What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
My sister and I once filled a row of gumboots with water. We were soundly thrashed. I may have done naughtier things but they have momentarily escaped me.
15. From reader OldManOfKent: If your promise to leave the EU by 31st October is not fulfilled, will you resign?
We will leave by October 31st.
>To read the answers of the other candidates, click here.