Friday, 8 July 2016

Leadsom should not be underestimated in the battle for Conservative Party leadership

David Cameron only announced that he would be resigning as Prime Minister just over two weeks ago but the Tory leadership contest to replace him is already well under way. Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom are the last women standing after beating Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, and Liam Fox in ballots by Conservative MPs. May was an EU 'remainer' and Leadsom campaigned as an EU ‘leaver’. They represent an interesting cross-section of the Conservative party as what they stand for and their motives for running are intriguing.

Theresa May
With 90 Conservative MP endorsements and the bookies putting her odds at 1/3 to be the next Tory leader, it seems inevitable that May will be the next Prime Minister. She has a wealth of experience in foreign negotiations as she served for 6 years as Home Secretary and she calls herself "not a showy politician" which means that few people have preconceptions of her and she could start her term with a clean slate.

Although she was anti-Brexit, she has since accepted the result and has stated “the campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the country gave their verdict… Brexit means Brexit.” This is unsurprising as during the EU referendum campaign she was virtually silent. Many at The Spectator predict that she was playing the long game all along and being quiet so she would be in good standing in the case of Brexit and Cameron resigning. Her strategy appears to have paid off as she is now favourite to be Tory leader… not that opinion polls can be trusted.

One thing which strikes me is, if May wins the Tory leadership contest it surely defeats the point of Cameron resigning in the first place? Replacing one anti-Brexiteer with another seems a waste of time.

Andrea Leadsom
Leadsom has emerged as the dark horse in this race for Tory leadership. She appears to have come out of nowhere but many are already pumped about her potential. Leadsom is currently a junior minister and has only been in Parliament for six years.

In the last few days she seems to have been appealing to social conservatives; speaking out against gay marriage and talking about her Christian views in a series of TV interviews. Appealing to the right-wing of her party which might just pay off. There is around two months Leadsom now has to portray herself as material for the next Tory leader and PM. From what we have seen in the last week, she definitely seems up to the job however she is going to have to fight a excellent campaign to beat May.

If history is anything to go by, David Cameron can be likened to Andrea Leadsom because he too was the underdog candidate in the Tory leadership race in 2005. He was overshadowed by David Davis right up until the end of the contest when Cameron managed to win to the surprise of many.

No matter who wins the leadership contest and becomes the next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (leader of the EU leave campaign) should not be allowed to walk away from the turmoil that Brexit has so far created. When a Brexit department is inevitably set up, Boris must be made the head of it so it is him who is held accountable for Britain’s exit deal from the EU and the other changes that follow.