Justine Greening is Secretary of State for International Development and is MP for Putney.
The British people have spoken. For many, this is a hugely exciting time for our country, a mandate to forge a new future outside the EU. Others, myself included, wanted a different path inside a reformed EU but we must stand by this democratic decision and get on with the business of delivering Brexit.
As far as the leadership of the Conservative Party goes, it’s clear that there are two front-runners for the job. One is Boris Johnson, who led the Leave campaign that won this referendum. A strong Conservative Government should have Boris Johnson at its centre to best recognise the outcome of the referendum.
The other is, of course, Theresa May. She has huge experience and gravitas as the longest-serving Home Secretary in a century. Again, she should be at the centre of a strong Conservative Government, not least because the Government must take forward the post-referendum negotiations and address the European debate on migration and freedom of movement.
Between them, they both have crucial roles to play. And they both command huge respect, inside and outside the Party.
A leadership contest now is not in the interests of our country. It will mean our party focuses inward – at the very time our country most needs us to focus outward.
Instead of a leadership contest which could take weeks and months, Boris and Theresa should agree to forge a deal which means they are a united leadership, under one or the other: a united leadership that for the sake of unity I hope the rest of our party could support. Ideally and in normal times, the full party membership would have its say, but there some moments when you absolutely have to put the country’s interests first, particularly following this referendum that our own party was so instrumental in enabling to be held.
Certainty of direction is vital for business and jobs: it’s vital for democracy and we must put that first above all. Stability matters, too. Every day we spend on a leadership contest is a day that would be better spent getting on with making the most of Britain’s new future outside the EU.
Only in uniting our party can we begin to unite our country around the opportunities that leaving the EU will bring, whilst best enabling government to immediately get on with tackling some of the very real short term risks to our economy and getting a smart negotiation strategy in place.
I urge Theresa and Boris to work together on a collective ambition of making our path outside the EU a successful one. They need to come together and unite – and if they cannot, then which other two candidates from either side will bring Britain back together?