Nadhim Zahawi is the Conservative candidate for Stratford On Avon.
The election has now begun in earnest, and it’s been great to spend time knocking on doors in my constituency and listening to what the voters have to tell me. Not only is it always a treat to wander around the beautiful towns and villages of the Stratford on Avon constituency, but the response has been truly amazing. I know it’s treated as a bit of a joke when politicians talk of a “great response on the doorstep”, but the conversations I’ve been having with voters over the last few weeks have been very interesting. At times, I have been surprised by the level of support.
On Friday evening, I was in probably the strongest Labour-voting area of the constituency and, at house after house, voters were saying that they are going to vote Conservative this time around. Many have never supported us before in their lives, but are terrified at the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. We saw something similar in 2015, with the prospect of a weak Labour government being propped up by the Scottish Nationalists, but the reaction this time around is even stronger. So it is that many residents who stuck with Labour at the last election were saying that they simply had no interest in supporting that party’s current leadership.
The positive responses about Theresa May were off the charts too. Amongst those who said they were genuinely torn which way to vote, all agreed that she is the only person with the capability, capacity and competence to be Prime Minister. Whether they were a leaver or a remainer, they wanted her making the deal. Whether they were a former Labour voter or a former Lib Dem voter, they wanted her guiding our economy, creating jobs and funding public services.
I think this is because voters see something in May that they like. They see that she is reserved, but has a steely determination to get the job done, and the ideas to make a better Britain for everyone. This has been obvious to all of us as soon as she stepped into the leadership campaign after David Cameron stepped down, and as we faced the task of making Brexit work for all. As the Prime Minister correctly says herself, politics is not a game, and that is why the voters see that she must remain in that job.
There are those who mock the message that a vote for her is a vote to deliver strong and stable leadership – but it is a statement of clear fact. It is not an invented soundbite, or a manufactured position, to make the Prime Minister look good; it is an expression of reality. Most sane people wouldn’t trust Corbyn to run the jam stand at a local fete, let alone an organisation in charge of hundreds of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, as we reform our Govenrment and develop a new relationship with Europe.
But the most important reason that voters want to back the Prime Minister on June 8th is because she has the vision to improve the daily lives of people in Britain, in addition to the leadership qualities to bring it into reality. She is right about the need to improve rural broadband services and therefore enhance not just the lives of people in the countryside, but to revolutionise rural businesses too. She is right that we need to build more houses, including social housing, to ensure our children and grandchildren have affordable homes to live in. She is right that too many people have their loyalty taken advantage of by energy firms if they stay on standard variable rate tariffs. And she is right that big businesses should neither treat taxes as an optional extra, nor actively work to reduce their employees’ rights.
The big issue of the next Parliament will of course be Brexit, but Brexit is not an end; it is an opportunity to change our country. Brexit will provide us with a multi-generational challenge – it is not about £350 million a week, or whether exit negotiations will lead to a hard or soft deal. Brexit will ultimately be seen as the first step in remaking Britain as a beacon of business enterprise and moral leadership. We should aim to become such a significant reservoir of soft power that we can lead the way in making the world a freer, richer and better place. We can be the world-leading advocate of strong and fair economies, contributing to international aid and international security, and free trade.
And our party alone has the vision required to play this role – the only party that is unafraid to be bold and ambitious; the only party that is confident enough to move forwards not backwards.
I truly believe that this election will finally banish the tribal, class-driven polarisation of Labour versus Conservative, workers versus bosses. That rhetoric will be firmly placed in the dustbin of history; it is no longer relevant. This election will instead be about who has a vision of an even greater Britain, who has the leadership to make the quiet revolution of Brexit a moment in which our country is remade, and who, ultimately, believes in our country, our citizens, and what we can achieve together. And that is why people will be voting Conservative on June 8th – even if they have never done so before.