This week, we finish the MPs’ rounds of voting for leader, and hand the process over to the wider Conservative Party membership. The final two candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, will go forward and by the second week of September, the Conservative Party will have a new leader, who will then ask the Queen for permission to set up a new government.
I’ve had a lot of emails about this process. Indeed, every time we have a leadership election – my third in the last 6 years – people contact me asking why we won’t have a general election, who I am supporting, and why the choice of prime minister is left to the Conservative membership. It’s the same when Tony Blair stood down and Gordon Brown was crowned, unchallenged, as leader of Labour.
The answer, of course, is that this is how our constitution works. Party leaders are appointed by political parties; prime ministers by the head of state – the Queen. Leaders lead parties that are made up of MPs elected by constituents.
But I to understand how people see things. 33,000 people voted for me in Wyre Forest at the last election. But of course, I recognise that when they ticked my box, they were voting for Boris and for Brexit, and the Conservative manifesto. And it’s because of that mindset of voters that I recognise why constituents feel a bit cheated that they will have a prime minster they did not feel they voted for in office for the next couple of years.
It’s because of the importance of perception against constitution that I felt strongly about neither coming out publicly against Boris, nor publicly backing a specific candidate for leadership. Indeed, I’m incredibly conscious that the members of our local Conservative Association have differing views on who should lead our party. For me to opt for one over another is to potentially split our local party. I refuse to be drawn into being accused of doing some kind of back room deal to get a job in government. But most importantly, I want to support whoever will be our next leader and Prime Minister.
The coming few weeks will, I hope, be a debate about direction and ideas. It should be a time of refreshing ideas, seeking Brexit opportunity and tackling the big, big issues. And in September, I look forward to a new leader taking our country forward with a fresh agenda.