Nadhim Zahawi is a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and MP for Stratford On Avon.
Just a few days ago, I wrote here with Nicholas Soames, calling for our party to unite no matter what the result turned out to be. The result has now come in and been digested; while it is one that I believed would happen, it has surprised many. For those of us who wished for Britain to leave, now more than ever we need to come together with those around the country and the world who did not.
Now is not a time for gloating. Now is the time for hard work. This is not the end of something, it is the beginning. I am delighted that the British voters believe that our country will be better off tackling the problems of the future outside of the bureaucratic controls of Brussels, but we must recognise that the country is divided. I do not want to do what is in the best interests of 52 per cent of our country, I want to create a One Nation Britain. And to do this we all must work together.
Many have analysed this referendum as having being contested between those who have benefited from and those who have lost out from globalisation. This should be profoundly uncomfortable for all of us. If we continue to have situation where millions of people feel they aren’t listened to by politicians; who believe that they are held back by a class system, and who worry that their children’s lives will be worse than their own – if there is no improvement in this situation – then we will have failed.
That is why I am saddened that David Cameron has stepped down, even though I profoundly disagreed with him about the necessity of the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union. He identified these problems years ago, and set about trying to solve them despite the terrible economic consequences of the financial crisis. He also knew that our party had to change to tackle them. He knew that we needed more women, more candidates with experience outside of politics, and more from ‘normal’ backgrounds. His outstanding success in this was seen in the talented individuals from all walks of life who were elected in 2010 and 2015. The lasting potential of this evolution is shown in the names now being discussed to follow him as leader.
It is these names that we must now turn to and concentrate on, but I will look forward to seeing whoever puts themselves forward guaranteeing that they will secure and then further this legacy. The central mission of our party must be to ensure social mobility through great education, the provision of skills and a strong economy providing excellent employment. Everyone must have the chance to succeed, no matter who they are, where they live, what colour skin they have or what God they believe in. Nothing should be handed out, or delivered unfairly, but everyone should be able to see where they can get in life if they mix hard work with good ideas – and a little bit of luck. The doors of opportunity should be open to all.
It is a real shame that Cameron had only just set out his new push to improve life chances, a truly valuable and worthwhile programme. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from this important work, even while securing a beneficial exit from the European Union is vital.
In the weeks and months to come we will face uncertainties, but there are opportunities too. These are opportunities we have to seize to create the better Britain we all want to see. Cameron may soon be going, but we must ensure that his legacy is secured, our party should unite, and our work should begin again.