It’s scarcely a secret that I am backing Sajid Javid for leader. He has been my friend for over thirty years. Sajid, Tim Montgomerie (formerly of this parish), David Burrowes (previously the MP for Enfield Southgate) and I ran the Exeter University Conservative Association together. He is an extraordinary and decent individual, and the kindest friend one could have.
But an amigo is not enough of a reason to choose a Conservative leader. I am not supporting him just because he is my friend, but because I genuinely believe that he would serve our country and Party well as Prime Minister – especially in these difficult times.
To ever even think of winning a healthy parliamentary majority once again, we need a leader who will appeal to floating voters in marginal seats, to public sector workers, those from BME backgrounds and the strivers from disadvantaged backgrounds and low incomes.
Behind the headline polling figures, Sajid tops the popularity contest to win back these voters. Amongst the leadership hopefuls, Sajid fared best in a recent YouGov poll, on account of his competence, his ability to handle Brexit, manage the economy and unite the country.
And, already, he is proving to be popular amongst Tory supporters. When asked by Ipsos MORI if each candidate has what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, it was Sajid that came out on top. In fact, Sajid comes in first place as the leadership candidate who would “generally be good for the country,” according to Deltapoll’s survey.
Why would this be? Possibly because voters identify with someone who seems to be a counter-intuitive Tory and someone who embodies the Conservative dream of meritocracy and the ladder of opportunity – self-made, rising to be Britain’s first Home Secretary as a member of an ethnic minority. With so many striving but struggling with the cost of living in inadequate accommodation, perhaps they see in Sajid an individual who can really empathise with this because he, himself, came from such a background. They know a striver when they see one.
Our biggest problem with the public is way beyond our failure thus far to deliver Brexit. It is beyond Brexit: millions of our fellow countrymen and women do not believe that Conservatives are on their side – and are just on the side of the well-to-do. Sajid Javid as leader would go some way to change that.
The more the merrier
I can’t see what all the fuss is about there being are so many leadership candidates. It means we can have a proper debate about leaving the EU without a deal, leaving only with a deal or having a second referendum. My own preference is to leave on 31st October, whatever happens, as the public won’t stand for much further delay, But I would still like to hear the arguments from all of the contenders.
Our Party needs this debate so that, when our leader is finally chosen, all the different viewpoints will have been contested and the new candidate will have a mandate from both the Parliamentary Party and the membership.
The votes for the MPs will separate the wheat from the chaff and test the differing opinions to destruction – especially given the numerous hustings there will be, organised by different groupings within the Party.
I also feel a sense of pride that our leadership contest includes two women, and two candidates from different BME backgrounds. The more that the public sees our rising talent debating and discussing the important issues of the day, the better opinion they will have of the Conservatives. The social media campaigns from all the candidates – some more eccentric than others – show that we can match the Brexit Party and Momentum in this all-important political battlefield.
On the discussions of the 1922 rule change, It does not feel very British (as is being suggested) to amend the rules now, as the contest has already started. When rules are changed quickly in this way, by fairly few in number, it not only seems a little arbitrary, but also creates a dangerous precedent. It means that rules could be altered again in a few months and again, a few weeks after that. That is why, whatever our travails at the time, I was cautious of changing the rules to remove Theresa May.
If the rules are amended, it should be done in proper consultation with the Parliamentary Party and the membership. We should be able to vote on these changes, but only for future leadership contests.