Guto Bebb is the Member of Parliament for Aberconwy, and a former defence minister.
Having looked in some detail at the leadership contenders I have decided to announce my support for Sam Gyimah.
Now most people will guess that I am supporting Sam because of his commitment to a three-way final say referendum and they might have a point. I think that offering a way out of the Brexit impasse that embraces rather than rejects democracy is both right and brave.
But having discussed Sam’s priorities in detail I know there is much more to his candidature than being the only candidate offering a solution to the Brexit impasse without the need for an immediate general election. And, let’s be honest – that would not be a success story as things stand.
So here are some other reasons why the talented Mr Gyimah deserves consideration;
He is the only candidate building a case based on traditional Conservative values, rather than further division of our already fragmented party. Indeed, one of his strongest messages is the importance of rediscovering what it means to be a Conservative – such as respecting and supporting the business community!
Sam is a man who will put the country first. He resigned as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation because he couldn’t, in conscience, back Theresa May’s deal. You may disagree with his views on Brexit, but you cannot deny that he holds firm to his principles – and this country desperately needs a leader who can be trusted to show that sort of moral courage when the going gets tough.
There was no flip-flopping from Sam on the May exit deal during our three votes on the issue. That certainly cannot be said for all the leadership candidates now proclaiming their willingness to do a no-deal Brexit.
We are electing a leader to take us into the next general election, not just to resolve Brexit. When it comes to that election, we are going to be found sorely wanting if we cannot appeal to those forgotten Conservatives who voted Remain as well as those loyal Tories who voted Leave.
Any work undertaken to analyse the demographic trends in terms of political support for the Conservative Party should tell us that we are in trouble. A party with as little appeal to the under 40’s as we have is not going to prosper. Our efforts to alienate our cosmopolitan cities is also a recipe for a base of support far too narrow to offer long term prospects of success.
Sam, through his backstory and his ability to personally embody the very conservative values of success through hard work and grasping opportunities will speak to the very portion of the electorate currently turning their back on us.
We also need a leader who will reach out to both Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, to prevent Jeremy Corbyn winning a wholly undeserved victory or leading some hellish Labour/SNP coalition that threatens the very existence of the Union. A no-deal Brexit might appeal to our members at first sight, but we are the Conservative and Unionist Party. One look at the European Parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland and Scotland tells you that a no-deal is a “no” to another Union policy. This time our Union. Is that what we want?
Sam can be described as ‘The United Nations of British politics’ – a loyal and talented Conservative, who has been praised by Labour figures, and who could appeal to those considering the Lib Dems as a haven from a Conservative Party that appears increasingly ideological and out of touch. Such an appeal is not a weakness but Sam’s great strength. This would be true at any time but especially when the next leader of our party will face a nation in a state of deep division.
Sam is the only candidate with a realistic, workable plan to resolve the Brexit issue. His Plan A-Plan B approach offers our best chance of avoiding a damaging No Deal Brexit and offers our best chance at using this divisive issue to start bringing both Remainers and Soft Brexiteers back into the conversation – we are going to need their support in the months and years ahead.
No-deal rhetoric might appeal to some of our members, but leadership is about a simple concept. You lead. You do not follow.
On the defining issue of this leadership campaign Sam offers leadership rather than attempting to find a position that will gather most votes from our members. The Conservative Party I joined and worked for always displayed a willingness to be engaged in argument, and to be persuaded that we as a Party always need to fight our battles in the context of recognising the world for what it is, not what we want it to be. That means stating obvious truths; such as for Scotland to abandon its single largest market in 2014 would have been a grave mistake but no graver than for leadership candidates advocating various forms of no-deal Brexit to advocate abandoning our largest single market.
Sam has offered that honesty and if there was no other reason to support him (there are plenty) his honesty is deserving of support.
To conclude, Sam is a candidate who offers radical yet practical solutions in the short-term and, crucially, has the best chance of any candidate to bring back a focus on unity and traditional Conservative values to this party as we look to navigate an extremely perilous political landscape over the next few years.