ConservativeHome has sent a detailed questionnaire to all the Conservative leadership candidates.
We are also asking public questions of the leading contenders each morning – which are deliberately crafted to be as testing as possible.
The questionnaire answers from all candidates will be published later today.
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1. You write that Britain should leave the EU without a deal “with great regret”, if one can’t be reached. But in the next paragraph, you add that it’s “not credible” to promise No Deal if Parliament is set against it. Which is it?
It’s both. If the only way to leave on October 31st is with No Deal, then I would choose that over No Brexit. But it would not be being straight to say anyone as Prime Minister could force that outcome if parliament was set firmly against it. That’s why it’s so important we get a deal we can unite behind. The plan I set out was how I would deliver that.
2. You add that No Deal would “risk driving us to a pre-Brexit general election this year” which you describe as a “disaster”. But haven’t you said in the same article that you are ultimately prepared to leave with No Deal?
Yes I am prepared to leave without a deal. But that is not what I want. That’s why I’ve set out a clear and realistic plan to work with the Irish to get the necessary changes to the backstop
We have to be honest about the parliamentary arithmetic though. We are a minority government, and that won’t change whoever is leader. Any gung-ho move to no deal would put our position at risk. So yes, we must prepare for the possibility of no deal. But we must show throughout we are serious about getting a deal, and that is what we want to deliver.
3. If you believe that an election this year would be a “disaster” – and one sees the rationale – aren’t you in effect conceding that you can’t win it, if it happens?
Whoever went to the country would be going to a public rightly frustrated that once again they were being asked to vote on something that should have been delivered by now. The recent success of the Brexit party shows exactly how that could play out.
Now no election is ever about just one issue. And I have every confidence that someone, like me, showing change, and with a bold, positive, and unifying Conservative vision of the future, could win hands down in the battle of ideas against the tired old socialism peddled by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.
So could we win? Yes. But it’s a huge risk. And one that, in the midst of the chaos the still unresolved question of Brexit could cause, could accidentally usher Corbyn straight into Number 10.
That’s why we should come together to ensure we deliver Brexit. So we can fight an election centred on that battle of ideas. Not one which also asked people for their verdict on Brexit again.
4. Do you feel in retrospect that you tilted too far towards Leave in 2015, once saying that the costs of EU membership “currently outweigh the benefits”, before tilting towards Remain – and damaging your credibility?
I spent a long time torturing over that decision, which was the hardest of my political career. As I said at the time the EU wasn’t something I would want us to join now. But I was also concerned about the transition to get us out.
Ultimately though – this was never a call for us as politicians to make. It was one we had delegated to the British people. And as I said after that clear instruction to leave came through, it became our duty as elected politicians to work to deliver that, and ensure we benefit from all the opportunities that leaving the European Union offers us a country.
5. Along with two of the other top five contenders, you clung to your place in Cabinet while Theresa May presided over a disastrous collapse of public trust in the Party. Haven’t you thus forefeited the right to lead?
I came into politics to serve the country I love. Of course, the Government I have served in hasn’t got everything right on Brexit. We’re in a position none of us wanted to be in, and frankly, which we shouldn’t. But in Government I’ve been able to do important work to ensure that in the Home Office we are doing the preparation we need to be doing for leaving the European Union, with or without a deal, to keep our country secure and protect the rights of EU and UK citizens who have made their homes in eachothers’ countries.
Yes, I could have stepped away from that. But I’ve never been the type of leader who tries to do so from the sidelines. I want to make a difference. And that means being out on the pitch.
6. You want 20,000 more police on the streets at a cost of about £1 billion over three years. Where will the money come from to pay for the pledge?
The changing face of crime has put greater pressure on our police, and so we absolutely need to increase funding, as I already have as Home Secretary, for our police, getting more bobbies out on the beat.
Of course that doesn’t come free. And to keep a strong economy, we also need strong public finances. But thanks to the hard work since 2010 we are now in a much stronger position than we were, with borrowing low and debt falling as a share of the economy. Within that we now have room to invest more in public services whilst keeping taxes low, and debt falling. That’s exactly what I would do as Prime Minister.
7. Polls tell us many things – but many give you better ratings than all your competitors. How come that your colleagues don’t seem to see that: on their public endorsements, you are fifth?
It’s completely understandable in a contest like this, particularly when it hasn’t even officially started, to fixate on public endorsements. And of course as the contest continues we’ll see more of them.
But ultimately it’ll be the votes that matter. That’s why I’m focusing on setting out a realistic plan on Brexit, and a positive vision for the country. One that can unite the party, and the country.