I have been privileged to have witnessed and met many national politicians while I was Leader of Oxfordshire County Council and this does give some sense of their style and capability. In my time, I met:
- Margaret Thatcher after she had stood down from office
- John Major while he was Prime Minister
- William Hague when he was in his euro-sceptic phase, sadly lost more recently
- Ian Duncan Smith when he was Leader of the Opposition. I voted for him to stop Ken Clarke who would have been a Europhile disaster
- David Cameron, having stood as a candidate in the Witney selection and having lost out to David and then working with while I was Leader of Oxfordshire County Council
I have also met and had dealings with Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Angela Leadsom so have had a chance to talk with them and to sense their style and capability.
Having won the referendum to leave the European Union, I am quite clear that this leads to four conclusions:
- We need to get on with the process without equivocation or deviation;
- We need to make all reasonable speed to minimise market uncertainty;
- We need to re-unite the Party after a bruising debate as well as the country and to reassure the 48% who wished to remain while being quite clear we are leaving;
- We need to recognise the serious concerns about huge levels of immigration that were one of the causes of the ultimate decision.
I am not convinced that Theresa May shares 1, 2 or 4 and I fear she will lead the country into an unholy fudge. We have made it clear we want out and that has to be delivered. Someone who kept her head below the parapet during the debate does not seem to me to have the courage of conviction to give leadership now. Also look at her supporters, including Heseltine and Clarke and you have to wonder ….
I have been thinking about parallels in our political past. I think the choice is clear:
- Continuation or change
- Management or innovation
- Hand wringing or optimism
To me, Theresa May is a part of the establishment that wanted to remain and against which 52% of the electorate rebelled decisively. If I think of a parallel in our political recent history, it is Edward Heath. Pro-European, distant, dull and defensive. I think he and Theresa May share a lot in common and neither of them were or are for me.
In contrast, Andrea Leadsom has something of Margaret Thatcher about her. She has challenged the Euro establishment and won the argument. She is for speedy withdrawal and she has enthusiasm and confidence in our ability as a nation to thrive outside of the Euro morass. She is for change and renewal and I think this is what the country needs. Cameron had never served in Cabinet when he was elected so let us not worry. Andrea will rise to the challenge.