On Thursday 20th June I spoke to the BBC News Channel about the Conservative Party leadership contest. Within minutes of me finishing the results of the final ballot amongst MPs was known and we were presented with what many of us saw coming – a Hunt vs Boris final.
As a Brexiter I am disappointed. I wanted the contest to be between two solid Brexiters to ensure that come the 31st of October we leave the EU, deal or no deal and finally honour the results of the 2016 referendum.
It now looks likely that Boris Johnson will win amongst my party’s membership, and during the upcoming process, he will have the wriggle room to soften his approach to Brexit. By the 31st of October, I am anticipating he will go for another extension despite what he is saying today. I hope I am wrong on this, I really do.
If we fail to leave on 31 October not only will my Party be severely punished by the electorate the country will be punished by yet more uncertainty, which is what business and local government are crying out for.
The machinery of government is paralysed by Brexit. Redditch Borough Council, like all councils, got details of our last settlement very late, meaning we had to set our latest budgets largely by guesswork. This cannot continue, but it happened because the government was distracted by Brexit. Come October they will be distracted again and any extension will further paralyse the machinery of the state.
In my remarks to the BBC News Channel, I call for the leadership election procedure to be looked at again. I believe the Parliamentary Party should have only voted in one round – the first round, which saw Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey eliminated. The remaining candidates from this stage should have all gone to the country in a highly energised and engaging campaign that would allow us all to have a conversation and debate about the future of our nation.
It would be entirely possible for this process to be opened up to the public with them attending the hustings at this stage. Indeed, the Party Board did ask for this to happen as part of this current process and we may see the public at the hustings yet. I would have liked them to be able to question more than two candidates.
The age of leaving this to the Parliamentary party is over. We live in different times. And as we can see – certain MPs clearly gamed the system to allow Boris to face the easiest opponent possible. This cannot be allowed to happen again.
I will continue to push for reform of the leadership election procedure to ensure that the party membership and the wider public are included as much as possible.