The former skills minister on Brexit, the direction of the Conservative Party and David Cameron's legacyby Sam Macrory / September 30, 2016 / Leave a comment
Few politicians felt the abrupt change in the political weather on 23rd June as sharply as Nick Boles. Having found himself on the wrong side of the referendum argument, and as an MP seen as being close to the defeated ex-prime minister David Cameron, Boles describes the result of the vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union as being “as close to a revolution as this ancient, grumpy parliament gets.”
Over a decade ago, Boles was part of a collective of young, ambitious Tories, along with Cameron, George Osborne, Ed Vaizey and Michael Gove, known as the Notting Hill Set. The Conservative Party had been out of power for years, and they plotted how to modernise it—make it electable. Boles was late to the parliamentary party—he was first elected as an MP in 2010, when he won in Grantham and Stamford. But his connections and free-thinking saw him instantly branded as “one-to-watch.”
Cameron has now left the stage. As a fellow moderniser, Boles is exceptionally well-placed to comment on his legacy and how the Conservative Party should react to the referendum.
He resigned his ministerial post in what was then the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills following Theresa May’s coronation as prime minister, but her ruthlessness in terminating the ministerial careers of Osborne, Vaizey and Gove suggests his decision to jump first was a wise one.
“Part of me wishes that… we’d all just had a bit more sleep and a bit more time for emotions to settle,” says Boles, who briefly ran Michael Gove’s failed leadership campaign, of those “extraordinary” days after the referendum, but after a summer of silence he is re-emerging into the post-revolution landscape. He still sports the moderniser’s tie-free uniform, but he has declared as a supporter of Change Britain, the successor group to the Vote Leave campaign.
This may not be as surprising as it looks. In his 2010 book Which Way’s Up? Boles made the case for a “new immigration settlement,” and he now admits that he “deluded” himself into believing that Cameron’s pre-referendum renegotiation package was such an arrangement. Lincolnshire, home to his constituency, was a bastion of “Leave” voters, and Boles has rejected arguments put forward by Conservative colleagues and Open Britain, the successor group to the…