The Conservative leadership election now takes centre stage across the media and for good reason; Conservative MPs will not just be taking a key role in selecting the leader of a political Party, but will be responsible for whittling down to two whom is to be presented to the Party membership for their final selection as the next Prime Minister. This all sounds very dramatic, but it must be remembered that there is no constitutional position of Prime Minister, we don’t (thankfully) have a Presidential system in the UK, but obviously extensive levers of power are in the hands of the winning candidate, and our perceptions, enhanced by the media, is that the PM ‘is’ the government and the face of any candidate standing for the Party melts behind the perceptions and standing of the PM.
I have not declared who I will be supporting, and as I write we do not yet know which of them will have sufficient support to formally enter the race with the threshold of eight supporters being reached. We’re hearing about the private lives and back stories of the candidates: all very interesting as the media attempts to diminish the process to some sort of soap opera.
There is a mixed field representing the broad church of the modern Conservative Party with their positions on Brexit not surprisingly looming large. We are starting to hear of their ideas across other policy issues – tax being one. We do need to ask ourselves serious questions and simplistic ones: what do we expect of government?; is it the role of government to meddle endlessly into our lives?; what is the right amount of taxation and spending to hit the ‘sweet spot’ of not too much tax to discourage work and investment, but sufficient to pay for public services that we want and need? This is the essence of Conservatism. You will not be surprised to hear from me that I want a smaller and more efficient State which allows freedom and business to flourish. Every penny of public expenditure be it local or national has to be taken from the productive economy and salaries in tax or is borrowed, and over the last twelve years too much has been borrowed. There is no ‘magic money tree’ and borrowing today will need to be paid back probably by generations as yet unborn into the future.
The candidates’ positions on Brexit are important to me. Some are recommending more of the same as if the European Commission will suddenly bend to their will when over the past three years intransigence has been the predominant feature. Others are being more realistic that the new departure date of 31st October 2019 must be the final one, new deal or no deal. I couldn’t agree more. We have stretched the patience of the electorate to breaking point and Parliament has not delivered. Trust in politics, always low, has reached a new nadir. The European Parliamentary elections and the recent by-election in Peterborough showed all too clearly that significant numbers of the electorate will look elsewhere outside of the normal parties and may continue to do so. Peterborough showed that the beneficiary of the rise of the Brexit Party will be Corbyn’s Labour. Local Labour voters may rejoice as to the stupidity of the centre-right for splitting their own votes, but for the majority in South Thanet, those who vote Conservative, we are in a dangerous place. A new leader must re-vitalise our message, come up with sound policies for the age and deliver Brexit. It really is that simple.