Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.
And then there were six. The 1922 Committee’s efficient handling of the current leadership voting is ensuring that the Conservative Party makes steady progress in finding a new leader and therefore a new Prime Minister. The very firm instruction to all voting MPs to ‘put your phone down on this table’ before we marked our ballot papers showed they had also learnt from previous contests about the lengths that some campaigns go to, to be certain their pledges turned into firm votes.
Of course, every MP has their reason for backing a particular candidate. Loyalty, friendship, ambition, the views of their local association, apparent polling evidence, views on Brexit – all of these are reasons I’ve heard cited. But the one that too often seems to be missing is the basic competence of the candidates. Instead, the focus seems to be about winning the next election. This is an election which in theory almost no one in Westminster wants to happen early and which no one in the country is calling for. What everyone does want though is a resolution to this first Brexit withdrawal phase and the demonstration of competence in office to give confidence to the country and to restore the UK’s rather battered reputation. And if we get the first phase of Brexit over the line in the Autumn then there will be no need for an early election anyway.
On the basis of the reports of the most recent PLP meeting it is more than possible that Jeremy Corbyn may not even be the Labour Leader by the next election, whenever it is, so to choose our next Party Leader on the basis that they would ‘beat Corbyn’ when they might be standing opposite someone of a different age and gender would be a mistake.
As polling expert Lord Hayward said this week:
“‘Any MP who believes that the Tory Party will win an election based on polls using hypothetical questions about the unknown future clearly don’t understand opinion polls.”
Instead, as I’ve said before on this site, the Conservative Party rapidly needs to re-discover its pragmatic, competent, capable side. If we did that and demonstrated it repeatedly, it would stand in huge contrast to the whole of the Marxist-leaning current Labour Party.
We need to re-discover our ability to spot the problems our constituents are facing and do something about them. While we fiddle about the Labour Party are working on, and sometimes announcing, all sorts of policy ideas and winning over some unlikely supporters.
Voters will trust us if we give them a reason to do so. And being able to fulfil the basic tasks of being in Government – running the country well, tackling the problems faced by our constituents, planning for the future, running a sound economy, keeping the country safe, projecting a confident image around the world as well as delivering Brexit in a competent way that avoids economic turmoil – are the ways to rebuild trust with those who already vote for us and those who might vote for us in the future. I firmly believe that if we do our job right in the next few years then that will be recognised at the next election, however much the electorate might be irritated by our behaviour over the past three years.
This leadership contest is not about the next General Election, it’s about the next few weeks and months after July 22nd and how quickly the next Leader can steady the ship and get the Country to move forward without further undermining the Conservative Party’s reputation for inspiring confidence and demonstrating competence in office.