The next few weeks promise to be a difficult time as Conservative Members of Parliament narrow down the nominations for leader of the Conservative Party (at the time of writing 10) to just two. After which the Conservative Party membership will decide who will be the next leader and Prime Minister. Hundreds of Tories in our Royal Town will join those choosing who that shall be. In the first ballot I have been choosing between two dark horses and four strong contenders.
We certainly do need new leadership. Unlike the last leadership election in which there was too little scrutiny of the candidates the same mistake is certainly not being repeated – as has been shown this week.
Below are the four contenders I believe could reach the last two – all are experienced both in politics and in the “real world”.
Michael Gove: until recently a frontrunner he is nevertheless, seen as being able to unite the party and is a genuine Brexiteer. He also appeals to the next generation with his track-record on climate change and the environment.
Jeremy Hunt: before entering Parliament, Mr. Hunt was a successful entrepreneur and negotiator which will be critical when dealing with the EU. In Parliament he was extremely effective in the most difficult ministerial role for a Conservative, the health ministry. And as Foreign Secretary he has a clear vision for Britain’s place on the world stage after Brexit.
Boris Johnson: his charisma and excitement electrify the contest. Boris has been a genuine Eurosceptic since being put on the Conservative candidates list (by me as it happens) in 1992. But, importantly, he is socially liberal and against the odds won the London mayoralty twice, beating the charismatic Left-winger Ken Livingstone.
Dominic Raab: A no-nonsense Brexiteer who has been consistently and courageously clear, especially in his role as Brexit Secretary. As he resigned from the Cabinet, he is seen as untainted by the current regime.
However, there are two dark horses that could emerge in the campaign’s latter rounds:
Matt Hancock: regarded as a success at Health, he is thoughtful on policy, consensual and conciliatory with colleagues, and respected across the party. But could we leap a generation?
Rory Stewart: delivering his bid in a more unusual manner and appealing to the county as a whole he has skillfully raised his profile, along with promoting serious and original ideas. Subtle and clever, he manages to combine thoughtfulness and charm in a way which is attracting colleagues.
In the first round I shall be voting for the man I supported at the start of the last leadership election, Boris Johnson.
Although I voted to remain in the 2016 referendum, I do think it would be extremely difficult at this point for someone who voted remain to lead our country and our Party. I also like Boris’ brand of social liberalism, which saw him elected – twice – as Mayor of London.
As this goes to print we will know where the initial opinion of the Parliamentary Party rests. But like everything in politics, much can change between the first and last round in the House of Commons.