In the next couple of months thousands of Conservative Party members will have to choose between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom to be Prime Minister. This is not Referendum II, it is not a choice between Remain and Leave – after all, both candidates have promised to deliver Brexit. If you were a Leave voter, do not write off Theresa May because she voted Remain; likewise if you were a Remain voter, do not write off Andrea Leadsom because she voted Leave.
This leadership election seems a relatively simple choice. Both candidates are committed to delivering a Brexit we can all get behind and both candidates are offering a relatively similar policy platform. What we are voting on, is who we think is best placed to enact that platform.
Theresa May is the candidate to unite the Conservative Party. With the backing of 199 MPs from across the Leave/Remain spectrum, it is clear that May commands the support and respect of a significant majority of her colleagues – which is vital in the process of reuniting a divided Party and a divided Parliament, and getting them behind a plan for the future of our nation. When you look at the current state of the Parliamentary Labour Party, it should not be underestimated how important a unity candidate is in this leadership election – Theresa May is that unity candidate.
Arguably even more important at this time of uncertainty is experience. As we sail HMS Britain into new and uncharted waters, do we want a captain who has previous experience as a first mate, learning from the previous captain, or do we want a captain who has brief experience manning the oars but considerable experience as a passenger? Theresa May has been Home Secretary for the same length of time that Andrea Leadsom has been an MP. May has considerable experience in the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet and on top of that she has 19 years of legislative experience in Parliament; whereas Andrea Leadsom has no experience in the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet – she has only had 2 years of experience of any form of government role, during which time she was described as the ‘worst minister ever’.
If we are looking for a firm hand on the rudder, then Theresa May is the obvious choice. Indeed, the choice between one of the longest serving Home Secretaries and the ‘worst minister ever’ seems an obvious one. People will point to Leadsom’s considerable experience in the private sector – but with significant elements of that experience under question, it is not clear that she is overly qualified. In addition, private sector experience does not qualify you to be Prime Minister – otherwise everyone in a board room would be running for the job – and now is not the time to have a Prime Minister who is learning on the job.
It is a time of uncertainty we face, and that is not a period in which we need an anti-establishment candidate. It is not a period in which we need a candidate with little experience and no record. It is not a period in which we need a candidate with questionable tax affairs. It is not a period in which we can afford a candidate whose media gaffes are either the result of naivety or incompetence – or perhaps a genuine belief that being a parent is a requisite requirement to occupy Number 10.
There is a clear choice in this leadership election. A choice between experience and inexperience. A choice between a candidate with a cool demeanour in the media – and one who seems prone to gaffes. A choice between the person who was the Minister for Equalities who championed equal marriage – and a candidate who questions it.
We need a candidate with experience. We need a candidate to unite our country behind a Brexit tolerable to both Remain and Leave voters. We need Theresa May.