The past ten days have been some of the most dramatic in political memory. Only last week did we discover that Britain voted to “Leave” the European Union. Since then, David Cameron has announced that he will step down by October, and the competition to replace him as both Conservative Leader and Prime Minister has begun.
On Thursday Boris Johnson—the presumptive front-runner in this race—withdrew from the leadership election with minutes to go before the deadline for nominations. This came after Michael Gove—who had been expected to run Johnson’s campaign—announced he would be launching his own.
With the candidates now finalised, our next Prime Minister will be one of: Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb or Liam Fox. Below, a panel of contributors including Toby Young and Penny Mordaunt offer their views on who is best placed to lead Britain.
The time for pragmatism has passed
Toby Young, associate editor of the “Spectator”
It has to be Michael Gove. Not only is he brave and generous spirited, he’s also the most intellectually gifted politician of his generation. He has a radical, well-thought-out vision for a dynamic, inclusive, 21st Century Britain and the courage and determination to see it through. Britain is standing at a crossroads and the time for pragmatism has passed. We need a Prime Minister with clarity of purpose and strong convictions.
Andrea Leadsom—a tough but warm-hearted leader
Penny Mordaunt, Minister for the Armed Forces
Our next Prime Minister must be able to step confidently over the threshold of Brexit and shape the new destiny demanded by the people. Andrea Leadsom had the vision to recognise the opportunities of Brexit and she has the experience and qualities to seize them.
Twenty-five years in financial services and her time as City Minister tell her what business needs from Europe and the rest of the world; she has shown leadership and the ability to unite colleagues through her Fresh Start Project, which from 2011 explored how our relationship with Europe could be recast; and she is a compassionate social reformer whose “1001 Critical Days” campaign and Parent Infant Partnership charity have set children on the paths to better life chances.
Andrea is a tough but warm-hearted leader. She has the knowledge and experience to succeed in the coming negotiations, and the ability to unite our party and the country and lead us all to a better future.
Theresa May can relate to people
Sophie Brodie was Conservative parliamentary candidate for Doncaster North in 2010
Theresa May has presented herself as an experienced candidate who can successfully negotiate with the EU. But for me, her greatest quality is her ability to relate to people. In 2009, I applied to become a Conservative candidate and promptly injured my back in a kite surfing incident. It took me several months to recover and meant doing some of my candidate interview lying on the floor. Nonetheless, I managed to get on the list in early 2010. I thought it too late to apply for seats. But one evening, the phone rang and I was astonished to find Theresa May on the other end. Indeed, I almost accused her of being a friend playing a prank. She, then shadow minister for Women and Equality, was calling women in the Party to encourage them to apply for seats, winnable or not. Her calm, kind words had a big effect on me. I ended up standing against Ed Miliband in Doncaster North. It was an experience that changed my life. I believe her quiet, comforting toughness is exactly what the country now needs to reunite it and bring about rational, positive change for all its citizens.
Only Stephen Crabb can bring people together
Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North
Stephen Crabb has the essential experience, ability and vision to be able to unite the country and get the best for Britain in the hard work ahead. He already runs the largest department of state, which spends one in every three pounds of taxpayers’ money. But the most important thing is the thing that only he can do: reach far out from Westminster and listen to people. Only Stephen really has the background and fresh attitude to be able to bring people together from west Wales to Scotland to Northern Ireland and England, young and old, “Remain” and “Leave,” struggling or better off. As a constituency MP too I know his values work in practice because, just as we should all work to do in our constituencies, he cares most deeply of all about breaking down barriers to opportunity.
Andrea Leadsom is more authentic than any other politician I know
Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham
Andrea Leadsom has been my great friend for 35 years—she is more authentic than any other politician I have ever known and offers just the sort of Fresh Start politics Britain needs at this crucial time in our nation’s history. She passionately believes that Britain’s future is outside the EU and campaigned exceptionally well during the EU Referendum campaign, including her brilliant performances at the two key televised debates. The UK’s exit from the EU is the single biggest task facing the next Prime Minister and Andrea has the clearest vision for what we need to achieve and where our country should be heading. She is also the most competent candidate, having 25 years’ experience of working in finance, including top jobs at one of the largest investment managers in the UK, handling billions of pounds, where she had to carry out detailed and complex negotiations. Her competences, skill and intellect have seen her rise rapidly during her six years in Parliament: she has served as City Minister and now Energy Minister. I have no doubt that Andrea has all the requisite skills, passion and vision to lead this country as Prime Minister through this exciting new chapter in its history.
National interest must come before party interest
Harriet Maltby, Head of Policy Research on the Prosperity Index at the Legatum Institute
A pro-trade, pro-market, Brexiteer, I have natural sympathy for the Gove and Leadsom campaigns. Yet I find myself on the same side as many Remainers in my party: backing Theresa May. Picking a leader is usually about position, politics, and party. Not this time. The Conservative Party is picking not only their leader, but the nation’s leader. National interest must come before party interest. Home Secretaries have to make tough decisions and pressured decisions about our national security, and let’s be clear, our national security is at stake. Unity is needed. Calm, capable, and considered, May can provide the leadership and continuity required to calm markets and lead Britain out of the EU. Given she is widely backed by both “Remainers” and “Leavers,” the contest is hers to lose. Plus, I can’t help but smile at the prospect of a strong, capable woman back once again in 10 Downing Street.
We need intellectual brilliance—we need Michael Gove
Jamie Martin is a former special adviser at the UK Department of Education, and is a management consultant currently focused on education
There is only one candidate who can deliver the change the public have voted for and who has the experience to be Prime Minister: Michael Gove. We need a radical and ambitious programme of national renewal, not careful management, and Michael’s record reforming our schools and prisons shows that he can provide it.
Promising since 2010 to reduce immigration then failing to do it eroded people’s trust in politics and their hope for Britain. To restore it the next Prime Minister must be someone who campaigned to leave the European Union and end free movement.
That will provide a platform to build a new optimistic vision for Britain as the world’s leading country for education and science and as a global advocate of freer trade and fairer societies. We need a leader with the intellectual brilliance to think it and the moral courage to deliver it. We need Michael Gove.
Theresa May is the future
Damian Green is Conservative MP for Ashford
I am supporting Theresa May. She has been the best Home Secretary in living memory, running a department that had the reputation for destroying reputations. Told that it was dangerous for a Conservative Home Secretary to take on the police, she was fearless in exposing alleged corruption surrounding Hillsborough and the Stephen Lawrence case, and brave in tackling the Police Federation.
She also showed reforming zeal in introducing the Modern Slavery Act, taking on the new horrific crime of human trafficking, and in leading the fight against Female Genital Mutilation. This is the kind of practical feminism she had previously expressed by ensuring there are far more women Conservative MPs than before she became Party Chairman. She has followed words with action, and helped stop the Conservative Party being the nasty party she was so frank in warning about, to her short-term discomfort but long-term credit.
Looking ahead, her vision of a modern version of One Nation Conservatism is just what the country needs to tackle cynicism about democratic politics. We need to make the system work for far more people than it has been seen to do, or the populists will triumph. Her statement on this goes well beyond the usual platitudes: it is heartening to see a Conservative Leadership candidate praise the BBC as a valued national institution. Theresa is the future.