Alok Sharma MP is Minister for Employment and Member of Parliament for Reading West.
With the runners in the Conservative leadership race starting to canter to the starting line many Conservative MPs will be continuing to reflect on who they will back.
The European election results, and the outcome of the local elections a few weeks ago, will undoubtedly be concentrating minds. For me the new leader has to be someone who demonstrably has the ability and ideas to do three things.
First, have a coherent unambiguous plan to deliver Brexit and take us out of the European Union. Second, set out and enact a domestic policy agenda which resonates with the electorate and delivers on what our constituents want. And third, be a proven election winner with the unique capacity to simultaneously be the antidote to both Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn.
There are many brilliant colleagues putting themselves forward for the top job. Some are real contenders, others are putting down markers for the future. But I believe that the individual best placed at this time to deliver on the three big asks of the new leader is Boris Johnson. That is why I am backing Boris to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and our next Prime Minister.
I campaigned for the UK to remain a member of the EU. But I also made clear in the run-up to the vote that I would respect the outcome of the referendum. And the recent election results demonstrate what happens when political parties do not deliver on a fundamental promise.
Continuing uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit is not good for business decision making. It continues to sap trust in our democratic processes. And is soaking up government time and energy which would be better expended on our domestic agenda.
I am persuaded by Boris that we need to have one more go at agreeing an amended deal with the EU. But we must be prepared to leave at the end of October if this is not possible. A never-ending negotiation will certainly sound the death knell of the Conservative Party as a major political force.
We have achieved a great deal in government since 2010. Cutting taxes by raising the personal allowance. Introducing the National Living Wage. Many more pupils in outstanding and good schools. Giving the NHS its biggest cash boost in history. More people in work than ever before, and wages are rising faster than inflation.
But we need to now turbo-charge our domestic agenda. Focusing on key areas like policing, schools, housing and creating a fairer society. These are all areas where Boris has a proven track-record of delivery during his two terms as London Mayor.
During his time as Mayor, Boris pledged to tackle knife crime and delivered, also cutting overall crime levels by about 20 per cent. He promised to build 100,000 affordable homes and delivered on that promise too. As a former Housing Minister, I know just how badly Sadiq Khan has been failing on delivering affordable homes, where Boris succeeded by working collegially with house builders and local London councils.
Boris also committed to tackle poverty and inequality in London. When he took office in 2008, London had four of the six poorest boroughs in the UK. By the end of his two terms there were none in the bottom 20.
I have worked closely with him in Government, during my time as a Foreign Office Minister. I saw just how deeply he cares about Britain’s place in the world and our ability to project a global footprint, which will be increasingly important post-Brexit. I have also seen first-hand his ability in meetings with foreign dignitaries to strike up good and productive relationships and engender real warmth and positivity.
As Foreign Secretary, Boris got money from the Treasury to open up to ten new posts around the world and take on more diplomats. He drove the successful Commonwealth Summit, personally negotiating the communique. He made a serious effort to see whether better relations with Russia were possible, and his visit to Moscow was the first by a British foreign secretary since 2010. But when it proved impossible, he orchestrated the biggest ever expulsion of Russian spies following the Skripal affair, causing huge damage to the Russian intelligence network globally.
And so to Boris Johnson the election winner. He was twice elected Mayor in our capital city. There is no other front-line Conservative who could have achieved this. Boris is uniquely placed to win back the voters we lost to the Brexit Party in the European elections and also appeal to those who want more from our domestic policy agenda.
As many MPs who have recently had him visit their constituency know, Boris continues to have star quality and box office appeal like no other Conservative. Following a recent visit to his patch a fellow MP, who would not be classed as a natural Boris supporter, said to me: “Boris is hugely, hugely, hugely impressive. The guy is dynamite on the doorstep.”