Sajid Javid is Business Secretary, and is MP for Bromsgrove.
I don’t think any of us can remember a time when Europe wasn’t a major talking point in a Conservative leadership election but, thanks to last week’s historic exercise in democracy, the issue dominates the current campaign even more than usual. It’s understandable. After all, securing an EU exit package that works for Britain will, quite rightly, be the number one priority for our next Prime Minister.
But it would be a mistake to choose a leader who can look no further than the day we leave the European Union. We need someone who has not just the determination required to secure the best possible deal from Brussels, but also the vision needed to bring the UK together and take us forward. Someone who has a plan not just for the next two years, but for 2020 and beyond.
That’s why I’m backing Stephen Crabb.
Like me, he doesn’t come from the traditional Conservative leadership mould. He understands what life is like for people in communities up and down this country who feel left behind. He knows that the Conservative Party has to speak for everyone, whether they grew up on a country estate or a council estate. And he knows what we need to do to unite this country and build a future that works for all of us.
Since last week, it has become fashionable to say that the referendum campaign has left Britain a divided nation. I don’t believe that’s true. The only thing the vote has changed is our relationship with Europe.
Rather than creating division, it’s clear to me that the campaign – and the fallout since – simply flicked the scab off divisions, resentments and misunderstandings that have been spreading beneath the surface for years, if not generations.
Nor are the rifts that have been exposed purely geographical. There’s a rather crude view that neat patches of blue and yellow on a map mean this is a case of “London and Scotland versus the rest of Britain”. In the capital, that great bastion of Remain, more than 1.5 million voted for Leave. Boston, the small Lincolnshire district where Leave picked up its biggest share of the vote, is home to 7,000 people who wanted us to stay in the EU.
The divisions we now see so clearly are not between Left and Right or North and South. It’s not even about Baby Boomers versus Millennials. In 2016, the UK is a nation divided between those for whom politics has worked, and those it has failed. Those who have been carried forward by 30 years of progress and growth and those who have been left behind. Those who look to Parliament and see people just like them, and those who believe politicians are a remote-out-of touch breed with no experience or understanding of their day-to-day lives.
No party can hope to secure the support of most Britons if it fails to bring these two sides together, and I have no doubt that Stephen is the man who can do that.
You just need to look at what’s currently happening in Labour to see what happens when a party puts tribal factionalism ahead of serving the people. We need to choose a leader for our whole party, and a Prime Minister for our whole country. A leader who will tackle tomorrow’s challenges instead of fighting yesterday’s battles. A uniting figure who can lead us through Brexit and beyond.
Stephen Crabb can be that leader. I’m proud to support him, I’m proud to run as his number two, and I’ll be proud to serve under him.