Like many people, I felt sympathy for Theresa May when she stood down. She was a decent and hardworking individual and her heart was in the right place but she was simply overwhelmed by the task before her, had lost her authority, couldn’t get things done so there was no alternative but for her to stand down. In politics, life goes on and Conservative MPs must now turn their attention to selecting a new leader and Prime Minister.
The European Elections were not even supposed to be happening and when the results came through last weekend they were a reminder, just in case we needed it, that the Conservative Party faces annihilation in any future General Election unless we have first delivered the decision to leave the European Union. Anything that precipitates an early General Election, before Brexit is delivered would leave our Party in tatters, Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and our country facing a bleak future.
So, as we face this leadership election, we need someone with the resolve and the ability to unite our party and our country and get Brexit delivered. That leader must deliver the biggest and most complex peacetime negotiation our country has every faced and must do that against the backdrop of a hung parliament and a divided country. They must immediately reverse the low morale and division in the Conservative Party caused by two years of drift. They must grab this sorry situation by the scruff of the neck and fix it. Time will be an enemy. There will be no summer break for whoever takes over, just hard graft.
It is not enough for the next leader to “respect” the 2016 referendum result - we have tried that in Theresa May and it didn’t work. Nor is it enough for them to just believe in Brexit. The next leader must respect it, believe in it and, crucially, have the wherewithal to deliver it. I am backing Michael Gove because I think he is ready to lead, ready to unite our party and ready to deliver for the British people.
He exercises judgement, he has an eye for detail and he has the conviction to deliver Brexit. Michael Gove led the Leave Campaign which was one of the most successful campaigns in recent history. Working alongside him in Defra I saw how hard he applied himself to ensure that the opportunities opened up by the leave vote were not squandered. He energised the department on his arrival injecting momentum and pace in everything he did. He weighed up arguments carefully but always made decisions in a timely way.
Michael Gove has always been passionate about the Union of British nations and in my time working with him has shown a particular interest in ensuring that every part of the UK gets the support they need. I think that for those of us representing constituencies in places like Cornwall, Scotland or Wales, of all the candidates standing he is the most supportive of an agenda to help address regional disadvantage. As we confront this most serious of challenges as a country, I believe Michael Gove has what it takes to lead us out of the EU successfully and the future of both our country and our party depends on that happening.