I will happily serve behind at least most of the myriad candidates who are now declaring their suitability to be PM. Most of them are very capable and sensible individuals. But we MPs are duty bound to whittle down the Grand National team of candidates to two by the end of next week, when they will set off round the country for a month or so seeking to persuade the grassroots members of the Conservative Party to vote for them, with a view to the new PM being in place when the House returns from the Summer Recess on 5th September.
I have given a great deal of thought to each of them and will be listening very carefully to their campaigns. My criteria for this vitally important selection will include many of the following: - the new PM must be competent. We are facing huge problems and strife - Ukraine, the economy and subsequent inflation, food security, immigration, climate change to name but a few. The Johnson administration was chaotic, and I want to see a smooth running Rolls Royce in Downing Street. They must be a clean pair of hands and be able to put recent events behind them. They must be a dynamic new thinker ready to offer the electorate the agenda they are seeking; and ready to do what is best for our Nation at this difficult time. They must be able to gather around them a group of talented, able, efficient people to run the great Departments of State. Above all they must be true Conservatives- espousing low taxation, smaller government, freedom, respect and the great old Conservative values which have been so respected by the electorate over hundreds of years. They must bring a clean slate which will ensure a renewed Conservative mandate at the next General Election which is likely to be about 2 years away.
So I have thought carefully through the virtues of all of the candidates who have so far declared, and those who seem likely to do so in the next few days and have concluded that I will give my support to one person who ticks most of those boxes. Penny Mordaunt would be a thoroughly competent and decent Captain of the Ship of State. She is charismatic and media savvy; she is a sound Brexiteer and a levelheaded and competent person; that she is a Royal Naval Reserve Officer and Honorary RN Captain counts in her favour in my eyes. She was a first-class Secretary of State for Defence amongst many other ministerial roles; she is thoroughly popular with my colleagues, and in every way is just a very decent person. She comes from a working-class background, and amongst other things paid her way through University by working as a conjurer’s assistant! She is a bit more of a social liberal than am I, but she is through and through a Conservative. Perhaps most important of all she will see herself as ‘First among Equals’, will not try to be Presidential preferring instead to leading a highly competent and unified team.
So it is right that you, my constituents should know that I will be supporting Penny this week, and doing what I can to help her campaign. I very much hope that she will win through the complex electoral system; and that she will then start her campaign in the wider world with a dinner in North Wiltshire a week on Friday. (Let me know if you would like to attend.) I will be perfectly content with most of the other serious contenders if she does not; but I am happy at this stage to declare my strong support for her candidacy.