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Westlake Legal Group > Rory Stewart MP

Iain Dale: This Cabinet is the most right-of-centre in modern times. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

A reshuffle in which Penny Mordaunt is sacked and Priti Patel is given one of the top three jobs was always going to provoke negative comment. Patel has many talents.  But for her to re-enter the cabinet into one of the great offices of state after such a short time is eyebrow-raising to say the least.

It used to be the case that anyone who resigned ministerial office, or was sacked from it due to an impropriety would be expected to face the voters before being reincarnated into ministerial office. That was certainly the convention operated by previous Conservative Prime Ministers.

Having said that, it is truly a sign of the times when two British Asians now occupy two of the three great offices of state. There are now four British Asians in the cabinet now and two black/mixed race members. Ethnic minorities comprise around 13 per cent of the UK populations, but 18 per cent of the ministers sitting around the cabinet table. That’s real progress.

Rather more disappointingly, there are only six female members of the cabinet, yet women comprise 51 per cent of the population. Work to do.

This is without doubt the most right-of-centre Cabinet in modern times – and for the avoidance of doubt, I see nothing wrong with that at all. It is a cabinet designed with one aim in mind – to get us out of the EU by October 31.

But the view that this is a total Leave Cabinet is for the birds. By my reckoning, 13 of the people sitting around the cabinet table voted Leave and 20 voted Remain. Clearly many of those have pivoted towards Leave since, and have all had to sign up to the possibility of leaving with no deal if necessary. And quite right too.

– – – – – – – – – –

As you read this, there are only 97 days until October 31. Few people can see the pathway to leaving the EU without a deal. There are a few signs that Dublin is experiencing a squeaky bum, and may be willing to urge their EU colleagues to shift their position on the Backstop, albeit only marginally.

If we do leave with a deal, surely it would have to be alongside a slightly tweaked version of the Withdrawal Agreement. The question is: would a few tweaks be enough to get it through the Commons?

It seems difficult to imagine any document which would attract the support of both the Gaukeward Squad and the ERG. It may well be that this has been factored in by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings. They will go through the motions – but that’s about it.

If the EU refuses to negotiate, they’re not going to lose too much sleep. Any such refusal will be seen by the public as typically unreasonable, and if it leads to us leaving under No Deal, the EU will be blamed, rather than the new Government.

One factor few are considering is that the EU 27 may become so enraged by what they will see as Johnson’s unreasonable stance that they themselves may decide that offering to extend Article 50 beyond October 31 is one step too far. It’s entirely possible that Emmanuel Macron may well decide to veto an extension, as he apparently nearly did in April.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tim Shipman must be licking his lips. He has become the country’s official chronicler of the whole Brexit process. His first two books have been best-selling corkers. I can hardly wait to read his account of the events of the last few days.

Forming a Cabinet is one of the trickiest things that a new Prime Minister has to get to grips with. Predicting who will be in or out of a new cabinet is one of the exercises that political journalists and commentators try to carry out – with mixed success.

Strangely they (we) are rarely held to account for our predictions, despite them being available for all to go back to. For myself, I predicted 18 of the May Cabinet would be out – I got it wrong by one. There were 17. I was the first to predict (in my Sunday Telegraph column) that Priti Patel would become Home Secretary and that Grant Shapps would become Transport Secretary.

I also reckoned that Jacob Rees-Mogg would join the Cabinet, although I got the job wrong. In retrospect, I should have worked out that Leader of the House would be a good fit for this devoted House of Commons man. Apart from that, I completely failed to see the removal of Penny Mordaunt, but then again, so did everyone else. I could go on…

– – – – – – – – – –

I have now written two long read profiles and interviews of politicians for the Sunday Times magazine. I profiled Gavin Williamson in December, and Penny Mordaunt last Sunday. Well, we know what happened next. I wouldn’t blame Ben Wallace if he declined to cooperate with any similar article I might be intending to write!

Of course, now that we have a new Prime Minister the betting markets are already turning their minds to who might be the next one. I asked David Williams from the Rank Organisation who was heading that market and was somewhat surprised when he told me it was Rory Stewart.

Given there were 17 sackings or resignations, we can expect some pretty tough jostling position over the next few months as to who would be the King or Queen over the water in the event of Johnson self-combusting. There are quite a few contenders.

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Johnson’s shuffle. If one asks for decisiveness – for an end to drift – don’t complain when it’s delivered.

ConservativeHome offered Boris Johnson advice on his coming reshuffle over a month ago.  Whatever you do, we said, shuffle with purpose.  Every single member of your new Cabinet must be signed up to leaving the EU on October 31 – without a deal if necessary.  Do or die.  All together now.  Band of brothers (and sisters).  No more Theresa May-era mass resignations over Brexit policy, totting up in the end to over 50, even without taking into account the very last ones.

A question this morning is whether or not the new Prime Minister has followed that train of thought to the point where it crashes into the buffers – and drives uncontrollably through them, leaving a trail of wreckage and corpses in its wake.  For he not only fired those Cabinet members who couldn’t support the policy (those that were left, anyway), but went on to sack many of those who surely could have done, or would at least have made their peace with it.

Jeremy Hunt, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Damian Hinds, David Mundell, James Brokenshire, Karen Bradley, Jeremy Wright – all of these would presumably have rallied round the new leader.  Two of them, Fox and Mordaunt, were 2016 Brexiteers.  The latter was prominent within Vote Leave.  One of them, Brokenshire, was a Johnson voter in the leadership election.  Yet the new Prime Minister deliberately chose to bundle them up in no fewer than nine full Cabinet sackings.  Greg Clark hung on until the end, while Chris Grayling went of his own volition. That brings the total to ten.

This was the bloodiest Cabinet Walpurgisnacht in modern history – making Macmillan’s night of the long knives look like a day trip to Balamory (although technically the changes marked the start of a new Government, not a shuffle within the old one).  Add the ten to the departure of Theresa May, Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Rory Stewart and David Lidington, and one reaches 15.  And that’s before getting into the dismissal of MPs entitled to attend, such as Mel Stride and Clare Perry.  That’s ten Conservative MPs alienated and in some cases added, perhaps, to the core of perhaps 25 ultra-rebellious Tory Soft Brexiteers and Remainers.  And the Government’s majority soon looks to dwindle to one.

There are many ways of assessing the replacements for the departed 15 or so.  For a start, there is ethnicity.  To Sajid Javid is added Rishi Sunak, now to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Alok Sharma at International Development plus, above all, Priti Patel at the Home Office (and of those entitled to attend there is James Cleverly, the new Party Chairman, plus Kwasi Kwarteng).  Then there are women: to Patel, we can add Liz Truss at Trade, Andrea Leadsom at Business, Theresa Villiers at Environment, Nicky Morgan at Culture, Amber Rudd at Work and Pensions.  This is Johnson’s briefed-in-advance “Cabinet for modern Britain”.  May had only three female members of her full Cabinet: Rudd, Mordaunt, Bradley and herself.  Javid was the only ethnic minority member.

As for the changes themselves, they seem to us to be a mixed bag.  Sunak, Cleverly, Leadsom, Robert Buckland at Justice, Ben Wallace at Defence: these are good appointments.  Julian Smith will know the Northern Ireland scene well from his work as Chief Whip.  Alister Jack is presumably in because Johnson wants a Leaver at the Scottish Office.  Nicky Morgan at Culture can take as her motto the saying of Leo X: “God has given us the papacy – let us enjoy it”.  Robert Jenrick, with Sunak one of three authors of a pro-Johnson leadership endorsement, has a big promotion to housing.  Their co-signatory, Oliver Dowden, will be a Cabinet Office Minister “entitled to attend”.

He will be among a swelling group of people: no fewer than ten, including Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the House.  The new Prime Minister is doing nothing to make the Cabinet more compact.  The site would have preferred to see Theresa Villiers back at Northern Ireland rather than pitched in to Michael Gove’s shoes at Environment.  The big experiment will be exposing Gavin Williamson to the electorally-sensitive world of teachers and parents.

But if you want to locate the key to this reshuffle, it isn’t ethnicity, or gender, or finding horses for courses.  Rather, it is support for Johnson himself – and for Brexit. Rudd is the only declared Hunt voter to survive.  Morgan plumped for Gove.  Everyone else voted either for Johnson, right from the start of this contest, or at least after elimination themselves (if we know what they did at all).  Furthermore, 15 out of the 32 people eligible to gather round the Cabinet table voted Leave in 2016, compared to seven out of 29 in May’s last Cabinet.

Dom Raab at the Foreign Office – First Secretary of State, to boot – plus Patel, and Michael Gove at the Cabinet Office, working hand in glove with Dominic Cummings, while Steve Barclay hangs on at DexEU.  These are all general election-ready, Vote Leave veterans.  One has the spooky sensation, looking at this Cabinet and leadership, that the year is somehow 2016 – and that we now have the Government that we should have had then, ready at last to counter the charge that Vote Leave scurried away from Brexit, rather than manning up to deliver it.

Yes, the slaugher is spectacular.  And yes, the demotion of Hunt was unwise – though perhaps not as much so as his own refusal to take responsibility in government for our armed forces.  But look at it all another way.  Johnson stood accused of being a soft touch – indecisive; yielding; vacant.  So one can scarcely complain when he wields – not least before those who look on from abroad – the power that the premiership still has.  Brexiteers are accused of not taking responsibility.  After this shuffle, they can’t be: Johnson and Patel and Raab and company are unmistakably, unmissably in charge.

Remainers and Leavers alike can converge on a shared point.  Vote Leave helped to create Brexit.  Let their leaders now own it.  If one asks for decisiveness – for an end to drift – one can scarcely complain when it’s delivered.

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Johnson’s reshuffle. Live Blog. What will happen to Hunt?

9.45am

We are opening this live blog earlier than is perhaps proper.  Boris Johnson will not kiss hands until this afternoon, after Theresa May’s final PMQs, and a last statement from her outside Downing Street.  He is not Prime Minister yet and therefore cannot formally begin his reshuffle.

However, we can identify some themes and points even at this stage.

  • There will be at least three Cabinet resignations today – Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Rory Stewart are set to depart before Johnson takes office – and there are therefore at least three vacancies round the Cabinet table.  David Lidington will presumably refuse to serve under a Government committed to an October 31 No Deal: ditto, surely, Greg Clark.
  • Julian Smith, who as Chief Whip is entitled to attend Cabinet, is clearly moving up down or out.  That’s because the appointment of a new Chief Whip has been briefed out: Mark Spencer.  Spencer is Number Three in the current Whips’ Office, has served in it since the 2016 election, and is thus very experienced in terms of this relatively inexperienced office.  The key to the appointment seems to be, as so often, in trust: Spencer has served as Johnson’s whip, and the two men get on well.  He is low-profile – which one wants in a whip – has been doubling up as Deputy Commons Leader, and is a former Remainer.  That his appointment has been welcomed on Twitter by both Rory Stewart and Steve Baker is a sign that Spencer has an ecumenical appeal among his colleages.  We also read the appointment as a sign that Johnson expects most of his trouble to come from the pro-Remain wing of the party, and wants to combine reach to it with continuity in the Whips Office.
  • Elsewhere, there is a mass of rumour and speculation, which this blog will try, not entirely successfully, to avoid getting drawn into.  Buzzfeed has a scorecard of conflicting lobby predictionsWe made some recommendations over a month ago, based on the premis that Johnson’s Cabinet members must, repeat must, be committed to leaving on October 31, if necessary without a deal (which raises the question of whether Amber Rudd is now reconciled to this position).  Johnson said that such is his intention when interviewed by this site.  Needless to say, this site will also be keeping a record of which of our ideas have been followed up – if any.
  • Having cautioned against reshuffle briefings, there are two that looks reasonably solid.  The first is that Johnson will appoint “a Cabinet for modern Britain”.  In crude political terms, this means he is seeking to escape being framed by his opponents as a narrow right-winger – a British Trump fixated on a nativist version of Brexit.  In crude appointment terms, that means more women (Theresa May’s Cabinet has only four full women MP members) and more ethnic minority members.  Names to watch for therefore include: Priti Patel, Alok Sharma, Andrea Leadsom, and perhaps Esther McVey, Lucy Frazer, Rishi Sunak and Victoria Atkins.  Either Theresa Villiers or possibly Nicky Morgan could also return, but it is unlikely that both could do so.
  • The second briefing is of a stand-off between Johnson and Jeremy Hunt (which this site can confirm).  The former has reportedly decided to demote Hunt, in effect, by offering him Defence, which the latter is resisting.  For what it’s worth, our take is that the new leader would be wrong to seek to move Hunt down a rung because, if the Foreign Secretary is prepared ultimately to back leaving on October 31, Johnson will need all the senior support for this position he can get.  And after all, Hunt has just nabbed a third of the membership vote in the leadership election.  And our view is also that Hunt would be wrong to refuse Defence: it is a very senior post, if not a great office of state, and many MPs, not to mention Party members, would take a poor view of Hunt being unwilling to take responsibility for our servicemen and women.  Especially after the defence spending aspirations that he expressed during the leadership contest.
  • Finally at this stage, moving Hunt into Defence would mean moving the recently-appointed Penny Mordaunt out of it.  Such a plan would be consistent, given Johnson’s stress on promoting women, with a move up for Mordaunt into a great office of state.  But she was a Hunt supporter during the leadership election, and she and Johnson reportedly don’t get on.  That is an ominous storm-cloud.

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Chris White: What will the new Prime Minister’s Parliamentary options be on Brexit?

Chris White was Special Adviser to Patrick McLoughlin, when the latter served as Chief Whip, as well as to Andrew Lansley and William Hague when each served as Leader of the House. He is now Managing Director of Newington Communications.

Boris Johnson will have the happy task today of speaking to colleagues and asking them to serve in his new administration. Yet the honeymoon period for our new Prime Minister will be vanishingly brief.

As Henry Newman outlined yesterday in his article on this site, the palatable options open to Johnson are narrow indeed. He has categorically ruled out extending Article 50 – leaving either the agreement of a revised deal, or leaving without a deal as the only realistic outcomes that he can pursue.

How will MPs react? There are now just 100 days before October 31st, when the UK, under the existing legal default, will leave the EU without a deal. If no revised deal can be agreed, and the new Prime Minister reiterates his commitment to leave without a deal, then MPs seeking to stop a No Deal exit will have to decide whether they want once again to try and “take back control”. Here’s how they might do it:

Opposition Days/Business of the House motions

The easiest option would be for MPs to use an Opposition Day debate to seize control of the Commons timetable, allowing time to debate a Bill that would mandate the Prime Minister to seek an extension should a No Deal exit be on the cards at the end of October.

MPs led by Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper achieved such an outcome with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.5) Act in April, when the Commons passed all stages of the Bill in both Houses in five days, proving that backbench MPs can act to seize executive power for a specific and tightly drawn Bill.

However, the last attempt to do this in June, when MPs used an Opposition Day debate to move a motion that would have given them control of the Order Paper on a later day in the month, failed to pass by 11 votes. With a number of Conservative MPs having resigned during the last week or so, such as Alan Duncan, Margot James and Anne Milton, as well as Cabinet Ministers such as Rory Stewart, David Gauke, Greg Clark and Philip Hammond being expected to do so today, the numbers are likely to be much closer if any similar attempt is made in the future.

The biggest problem with this plan is that the scheduling of Opposition Days is in the hands of the Government, and I doubt very much that the new Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, plans to award any before November 1st.

MPs could instead amend any Business of the House motion to give time for debating of an Extension Bill, as they did back in January for the first “Grieve amendment”. Once again, the Government whips will be wise to this trick, and every effort will be made to schedule only general debates, or non-amendable motions over the next few weeks.

SO 24 Emergency debate

The next option is a ‘Standing Order No. 24’ debate. These debates permit an MP to ask the Speaker to allow time for an emergency debate on a particular topic. Traditionally, such debates are unamendable and are not voted on but, at a UCL Constitution Unit debate that I spoke at yesterday with Hilary Benn, he openly talked of this as an option.

Clearly, the Speaker feels there is enough leeway in Standing Order 24 to allow him to award an emergency debate on an amendable motion. This is the most likely course of action – though with very little sitting time before October 31t, it remains to be seen whether MPs have left themselves enough time to get legislation through, and whether the gambit is watertight.

Vote of no confidence

Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, if the Commons defeats the Government on a motion “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”, a 14 day process is triggered in which an alternative is sought. That alternative Government must win a motion “That this House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government”, or else a general election will be triggered. By convention, only the Leader of the Opposition can table this motion and request it for debate the following day, which he has only done on one occasion this year.

The generally accepted timescale has been that, for an election to be held on October 24th, the last Thursday before October 31st, then a motion must be tabled by tomorrow for consideration on September 3rd, the first day back from the summer recess.

Yet if a vote were to be held, and Johnson’s administration were to lose, and were no alternative Government found during those 14 days, then the incumbent Prime Minister would have the power to delay the election beyond October 31st. The accepted timetable relies on the Crown proclamation and dissolution happening virtually on successive days.  But the exact timing of these would remain in the gift of the incumbent Prime Minister, who could choose to delay.

Therefore the last day for tabling of a vote of no confidence to guarantee a change of Government through an election is today, not September 3rd, and the Leader of the Opposition’s dithering has virtually guaranteed that this cannot be used, unless MPs knew they could form an alternative Government in those 14 days.

Conclusion

If Boris Johnson wants to pursue a No Deal exit, then he will have a fight on his hands with MPs. Whilst the options for MPs are narrowing, with Opposition Days, Business of the House motions ruled out, and votes of no confidence extremely unlikely to work in the short timescale, MPs will turn to new procedural devices to try and change the legal default. Recent attempts over the last few weeks haven’t been very productive, but with the Speaker willing to allow the House to ‘come to a view’, it is very hard to predict whether or not they will be successful.

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Tom Tugendhat: The last two men left standing in this contest must resist the temptation to slug it out

Tom Tugendhat is Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Tonbridge and Malling.

In a contest which has been framed around personality, it is striking how many ideas have been generated by the Conservative leadership contest.  Each of the ten candidates original candidates had something to say. Each has championed a new vision of Britain, and each has given Conservatives plenty to think about.

It’s also showcased some good news about how the Conservative Party is changing. Which other party in any other country could boast a contest that included a television presenter, two newspaper columnists, an entrepreneur, an old-school adventurer, a second generation Muslim immigrant, or the son of a Jewish refugee? Not as tokens, but each arguing on merit their own cause as an advocate of an idea.

I backed Michael Gove’s determination to do everything he can to strengthen our United Kingdom and make this country a cleaner, greener place to live. But there are parts from other campaigns that were inspiring. I love Esther McVey’s promoting of Blue Collar Conservatism that has underpinned the Conservative movement for generations and Dominic Raab’s focus on home-ownership and cutting taxes for the lowest-paid.

Andrea Leadsom’s defence of EU citizens who live in the UK and the need to give them (my wife included) certainty about their future status is a proposal I completely back and Matt Hancock’s continued emphasis on mastering cutting-edge digital technologies as the key to our country’s future prosperity is one I have been pushing for since I discovered that parts of Kent are less well connected than Kabul or Khartoum.

At a time when faith in politicians is waning, Rory Stewart showed us just how we can rebuild trust not only through outreach but by talking about the real issues that change people’s lives.

And Boris Johnson? What isn’t there to say about him? He has picked up school places and tech infrastructure, taxes and the living wage and, closest to my heart in our in a time of educational separation – apprenticeships. That, along with his ability to animate the faithful make his contribution so powerful.

But he’s not alone. No one could be unmoved by Sajid Javid’s back story and determination. His pledge to recruit 20,000 more police is a welcome return to the values many expect of us – protecting those most in need. And as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I’ve long admired Jeremy Hunt’s ability to master the widest of briefs and understand the details that drive change in our world. His commitment to fund our armed forces and diplomacy properly is also hugely welcome.

The range of these ideas gives me great hope for the future. Partly because they confound the lazy allegation that we have run out of them. Partly because none of them need be mutually exclusive. And partly because Brexit is the biggest shift in UK policy in generations with massive implications for everything from the NHS to housing policy: there is a massive opportunity for creative thinking.

While there is no shortage of ideas, there has been a shortage of leadership. We need a Prime Minister now who will take us through Brexit and confront the challenges beyond. The 2016 referendum, and the three years since our vote to leave, have revealed many profound political problems – common to many other countries – that we now have both an opportunity and a duty to address.

The poorest have felt the impact of the financial crisis hardest, while the benefits of our economic growth have been imperceptible to too many: especially those who do not live or work in our big cities. We have to build beautiful new housing that reflects the way we live today. We need to ensure that our education system is focused on endowing our young people with the skills that translate into career security in a world which has already been transformed by internet connectivity and will be further by automation and AI. Finally, everything we do must be sustainable. The policies we pursue today must not imperil our children’s future.

The temptation for the last two men left standing in this contest will be to slug it out. There is a real danger that the race becomes acrimonious and divisive.  We are at our best as a country when we are unified. I know from my time chairing the committee that has scrutinised both Foreign Secretaries that each man is above this.

Let us spend the next week scrutinising these two potential leaders. Then let’s unite behind whoever wins to deliver Brexit and a compelling vision of the future for this great country.

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From Reggie to Rory Sahib: Greetings on your Grand Tour. Here, Boris and J.Hunt esquire are showering punters with taxpayers’ cash

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2017-09-09-at-11.14.55 From Reggie to Rory Sahib: Greetings on your Grand Tour. Here, Boris and J.Hunt esquire are showering punters with taxpayers’ cash Sir Nicholas Soames MP Rory Stewart MP Priti Patel MP Penny Mordaunt MP Mark Francois MP Light relief Jeremy Hunt MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Iain Duncan Smith MP Highlights David Lidington MP Conservatives Conservative leadership election 2019 Columnists Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Amber Rudd MP From: Reggie@toptory.lidl.com

To: Rory.Stewart@Maiwand.com

Subject: Brexit Bidding Competition

Rory Sahib!

I have enjoyed reading your Twitter account and the photos taken on your Grand Tour of the Gulf States. I hope you are trying to hose down our American cousins who want to biff the Ayatollah and his Imans.

How time flies when we are enjoying the Brexit train crash. You laid down a good marker for the next leadership contest – could be before the festive season.

All is quiet on my home front as Lady Mary has been in France as the Patroness of the Lionesses football team. You probably saw her in twinset and pearls standing behind assorted muscular ladies. Can’t say I approve as women are far more lethal on the pitch than men. I still have a cracked shin bone from playing against Cheltenham Gals College in the 1950s.

Last week, Soames and I attended the Armed Forces Day Parade in Winchester in blistering heat. “Bubbles” Smythe gave us a lift in his roller, and parked outside the Cathedral in a spot reserved for the Dean. Then a liquid lunch at one of the better hotels. We raised our goblets to you in an alcohol-free zone.

Now what’s been happening here in the leadership contest? As far as I can tell Boris and J Hunt Esquire are trying to outbid each other in the Brexit war, and showering taxpayers’ money on every interest group. There are all these ghastly photos of them hugging passers by and avoiding difficult questions.

Boris seems to lurch from one disaster to the next. To divert the attention of reptiles he says he relaxes by painting wine boxes to look like buses! Sounds a bit like Comrade Corbyn photographing drainage covers. You wouldn’t have had all this rollicking nonsense from Harold M or Mrs T.

To steady the nerves of his supporters, he has appointed IDS as his campaign manager. As Soames opined, based on his sterling successes as our leader 20 years ago and reforming the welfare morass. I put it about that Rees-Mogg and S Baker were drawing up lists of potential ministers – Francois to defence and Patel to the FCO. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the weaker brethren.

Then we have had that hoary old suggestion to cut the Cabinet by half – international development to the FCO and Welfare, for God’s sake, to the Treasury. Another of the Trussette’s brilliant schemes, but unfolding fast, as the colleagues have worked out there will be fewer ministers.

Over a convivial lunch at “The Prisoner’s Friend” pub off Whitehall, Brandon Lewis, Party Chairman and Keeper of the Files, told Soames and Yours Truly that CCHQ had emails prepared to mobilise for an autumn election. Reminded me of those warning orders prepared by the British Army of the Rhine for a Bolshevik attack. Sad to say a similar end game!

Then we hear that Boris, as part of this Churchill nostalgia, wants to create a War Cabinet for Brexit. Jolly old D Lidington tells me they propose to meet in the Old Cabinet War Rooms to soak up the atmosphere and fag ash. The Imperial War Museum is promised £20 million to cover the lost tourist fees.

Meanwhile, there has been consternation here in the Palace of Varieties at proposals to put panic buttons and CCTV cameras in MPs and Peers Offices. Some blather about preventing inappropriate behaviour. As Soames pointed out, more likely catching him and me watching Wimbledon and sinking a glass of bubbly after lunch.

Well, old lad, only three more weeks of these awful hustings I am spending this weekend in Northumberland with my grandchildren and the Jacks. Sort of loco parentis although apart from using me as a human version of a cash register in the wall, I see very little of the offspring. Plenty of cricket and Wimbledon to see on the telly.

Thank you for your invitation, Soames and I would be delighted to sup with you at the Silk Road Club next week – why not invite those jolly ladies Amber R and Penny M?

Yours at the going down of the sun,

Reggie

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Ten questions about entryism in the Conservative Party

I’ve written several times before about claims that the Conservative Party is being infiltrated en masse by organised and hostile entryists. Every time the allegation has come up, it hasn’t borne very much scrutiny.

Nonetheless, like Chris Williamson or the DFS sale it keeps coming back. This week it has returned yet again, following the recent confidence vote in David Gauke’s constituency association and Baroness Wheatcroft’s breathless claim that the Conservative membership has “changed horrendously” and has “been taken over to a large extent by the far right”.

So it falls to me once more to look at the central facts of the matter, this time by answering the most common questions in the hope of bringing a bit of reason to a discussion which generally lacks it.

Membership has risen, hasn’t it?

Yes, it’s up from 124,000 in March 2018 to 160,000 as of late May 2019.

Surely that’s a sign of entryism in itself?

Not necessarily. For a start, the Party carried out its own recruitment drive, particularly in late Spring-Summer of 2018, targeting potential new members from its own data. That will have contributed to the increase. And the implementation (at last) of a centralised membership system around the end of 2018 meant that for the first time every Conservative member automatically receives a renewal reminder when their membership is up – something previously left haphazardly to associations, and which routinely led to members being lost in large numbers every year. Better retention alone has helped the Party to keep thousands of members on board.

Then there’s the fact that it has been obvious for quite some time that there was a leadership election coming, 14 years since the last contested race to lead the Party and the first time ever that a sitting Prime Minister has been chosen by a party’s members. Plenty of people have been attracted to join by the simple prospect of getting a say in that decision. That makes it a riskier time for entryism than normal, but it doesn’t make someone joining to get a vote on the leadership inherently an entryist.

But Arron Banks says he has 25,000 infiltrators in the Conservative Party, doesn’t he?

He does indeed say that. (He also said he would run in Clacton against Douglas Carswell, and that he was going to revolutionise British politics with a party called the Patriotic Alliance, but hey.) When I wrote about this last time he was saying that his entryist army was 30,000 strong, not 25,000. For either figure to be correct, it would mean between 70 and 85 per cent of those new 36,000 members were ordered to join by Leave.EU, and the other pull factors mentioned above – not least getting to vote on a new leader – had attracted only a small minority of them. That seems unlikely.

What’s more, there’s still no concrete evidence that these supposed proxies exist. CCHQ tracked incoming traffic from Leave.EU’s email and promotional campaign, and rejected the membership applications arising from the click-throughs. They reportedly totalled not much more than 100 applicants. Elsewhere, much-publicised campaigns against named MPs, like Damian Collins, have simply fallen flat. It’s not unreasonable to ask: where’s the proof for these grand claims about numbers and influence?

Could they have got in another way?

While Leave.EU’s online links do not seem to have generated many direct applications for membership, it’s possible their publicity could have spurred likeminded people to join the Conservative Party through another, less direct, route, which might be harder to spot and track. Indeed, I expect it’s likely that some people did so – but it’s inevitable that the higher effort involved, when compared to simply clicking through an email, would have limited their numbers severely.

Even had they done so, there are further barriers to cross. Every new membership applicant pings through on VoteSource, the party’s voter contact tool, to the relevant officer or agent in the local association. They have the right to approve or reject any new member within 14 days of their application, and they are regularly reminded by CCHQ of their responsibility to check up on who these new members are. That involves checking their past canvassing responses, and where possible doing a social media sweep. Neither dataset is perfect, or complete, but from those I’ve spoken to it seems that many associations are quite strict in rejecting people automatically if they had told canvassers they support any other party in recent years.

Some may slip through the net, either by being discreet, or applying to an association which is either too busy to look closely or less strict in its enforcement. But tens of thousands? Really?

So why are there ex-UKIPers and other proven hostiles in the ranks?

The example that often springs to mind is the former UKIP candidate who played a prominent role in the No Confidence vote against Dominic Grieve. Similarly, one of Nick Boles’s critics in Grantham and Stamford was a former UKIP councillor, and David Gauke tweeted about a self-declared Brexit Party member attending his association’s No Confidence vote. They’re important examples which deserve scrutiny.

In the latter case, if it was known that this guy was a member and was so flagrantly in breach of the rules, it’s hard to work out why he wasn’t simply reported (by Gauke or others) and promptly expelled. In Grantham, as I reported at the time, the former UKIP councillor on the Association executive had been welcome to the Party by Boles himself as a defector. In Beaconsfield, the former UKIP candidate was previously a Conservative, who had rejoined post-referendum on the basis that UKIP’s job was done.

Of those three, one – seeking to stand for a rival party – is obviously unacceptable, but the other two seem to me to be entirely in keeping with the Conservative Party’s stated aim of wooing people back to the Tories as a way of healing some of the harm done by the UKIP boom. And, indeed, with Rory Stewart’s desire to broaden the Party by reaching out to people who do not currently support it.

Simply being an ex-Kipper is not in itself evidence of hostility, still less entryism. After all, many Kippers were previously Conservatives. If we take the view that they should never be welcome – or that they would be welcome to cough up their £25 but should never participate in the democratic processes of the Party – then we guarantee the divide on the right will never be healed.

But what about all the deselections?

You might not know it from the coverage, but there still haven’t been any deselections. Yes, really. It is five years since the last two Conservative MPs (Tim Yeo and Anne McIntosh) suffered such a fate. To hear some discussion of this topic you’d imagine there was a small army of unseated MPs. But there aren’t. Some of those who have left voluntarily – Boles, Allen, Wollaston, Soubry – might in time have faced an attempt. It’s possible that they felt compelled to leave by the prospect of deselection, of course, but the fact still stands.

Ok. But what about all the deselection ballots?

This is another misleading idea: that there’s a host of deselection ballots taking place where members vote to get rid of their MPs. This isn’t the case. As this site warned anyone dreaming of deselections back in October, and as I wrote at greater length when the Boles row blew up in January, the Conservative Party rules don’t even provide rank and file members with a vote on deselection in almost any circumstances. In fact, the only time a member would get a vote on the deselection of a sitting MP would be if that MP exercised their own special right to demand a full ballot of the local membership as a measure to save themselves – something Crispin Blunt used successfully back in 2013. Anyone joining the Party with a view to forcing and then voting in a deselection ballot has wasted their money.

So what are these votes we keep hearing about?

There are two types of proceedings underway across a small number of associations.

The first is a simple No Confidence vote. These are non-binding and have no effect to deselect the MP (see Grieve and Philip Lee, for example, who are still in place despite losing them).  When passed, they are embarrassing and a warning about grassroots discontent, but they aren’t deselections.

In various cases – such as Gauke’s – they haven’t passed, which should give further pause for thought about believing claims of secret armies or the party being “taken over” by sinister forces. Elsewhere – in Sam Gyimah’s constituency, for example – the local and regional party machinery has opted to reject them as invalid to even debate.

The second form of proceedings is what you might call accelerated readoption. In the Tory system, only an association executive – the core of officers, councillors and senior activists – actually get to decide whether an MP is readopted as a candidate at the next election. That is normally done at a time of the MP’s choosing. But in some cases disgruntled execs have formally asked their MP to apply early for readoption – a pretty clear threat that they intend to crack the whip, or get rid entirely. However, this process falls into a grey area of the Party rules. Cleverly, Boles simply refused to send such an application, effectively creating a stalemate. A couple of other MPs have followed suit – though they’re really just postponing a clash, it remains the case that the idea of ruthless associations voting out their MPs all over the place is a major exaggeration.

But aren’t the meetings full of people who’ve never been seen before?

This is line has come from a few embattled MPs, keen to dish out a bit of doubt about their local critics. It’s perfectly possible that it is true, but it doesn’t amount to very convincing evidence of entryism.

Spend any amount of time inside a Tory association and you’ll witness an eternal battle to persuade members to come to events, buy tickets for things, and come out campaigning. There are plenty who pay their subs and then never come to anything. In momentous times, and with something as controversial and unusual as a no confidence ballot, for example, more of them will turn up. I’m aware of several people who have been relatively inactive members for many years but who have even been stirred by recent events to sign a motion calling for a confidence ballot. The test for a Conservative member to be allowed to attend a meeting or vote in a ballot is not whether their MP recognises them.

There will no doubt be newer members turning up to these meetings, too. Some, as I’ve noted above, may indeed have joined up wanting to support a change – of MP, or policy, or the Party’s structure. Some might even be former UKIP supporters or members. But aside from the three-month period after joining, there is no limit to a member’s participation in party democracy just because they are new.

Watchfulness is healthy, but paranoia is not. It would be absurd for the Conservative Party to spend years lamenting its falling membership, only to panic and try to forbid new members from getting involved just as the numbers start to rise.

Where is all this anger from, if not entryists?

You don’t need to be a Banks-controlled entryist to be displeased at the failures of the Government or the behaviour of some Conservative MPs. A majority of Conservative Party members in 2016 voted Leave, and like the rest of the 17.4 million who did so, they’re more than a bit brassed off at the current situation.

Is it really so impossible that genuine members might truly be angry, on their own accord and with no entryism required?

It’s also important to note that there simply isn’t a direct correlation from an MP’s views on Brexit to open revolt in their association. A topical dispute might light the touch-paper, but more often than not an MP with serious association problems is in trouble because they had already lost some degree of popularity due to longer-standing issues. As one Grantham and Stamford activist told me of Boles: “If feeling towards him was warmer generally in the association, people would say ‘oh, move on’, but instead, he doesn’t have that electoral goodwill in the bank.” In the reverse situation, there are MPs who have proved troublesome to the progress of Brexit but who have not faced an association rebellion.

Grieve and Gauke are interesting exceptions to this rule. Both had good relationships and reputations locally prior to their recent troubles. The former has managed to burn through a lot of that trust and positivity in a short time, by the sheer radicalism of his political position on Brexit and his refusal to be moderated by his association’s advice. He duly lost the confidence vote, for that reason. By contrast, the Justice Secretary certainly blotted his copybook by failing to vote with the Government at a crucial time, but he won his confidence vote because his critics’ annoyance about it simply wasn’t shared by enough of their fellow members. He had, after all, abided by his promises at election time.

In a sense, the Gauke ballot is an instructive case with something to say about this whole panic: yes, he faced a no confidence ballot. Yes, that means some of his local members are very displeased. But that isn’t the end of the story: he then won the vote comfortably. The all-powerful entryist takeover we keep being told about would hardly let that happen.

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Jason Aldiss: Hunt’s mature pragmatism is preferable to a lurch to the right under Johnson

Dr Jason Aldiss BEM is Managing Director of Eville & Jones, and Chairman of Pudsey Conservative Association

The battle for the Conservative Party leadership is becoming increasingly robust. That is to be expected and even welcomed given the importance of the job both candidates seek. But I fear that the Party, which I have loyally served as an office holder and campaigner for many years, is in mortal danger.

As chairman of Pudsey Conservative Association, I recognised the hurdles we faced in the run-up to the May local elections. West Yorkshire is not the easiest place to be a Tory, even in good times. But, supported by Stuart Andrew, our hardworking MP, and a team of hardy volunteers, we managed to buck the national trend by taking a key target ward from Labour on Leeds City Council.

The city narrowly favoured Remain in the 2016 EU referendum. I am an unashamed Remainer and voted accordingly. Back then, I believed passionately that Brexit would be a disaster for our United Kingdom. Nothing has happened since to change my view.

As managing director of the company that provides Official Veterinarians (OVs) to the Food Standards Agency in England and Wales, I am acutely aware of the perils Brexit poses to the veterinary profession, the agricultural sector and the meat industry. Ninety-eight per cent of the 550 vets I employ come from outside the UK. Recruitment and retention were already major challenges before the referendum. They have become considerably more problematic since.

I pay tribute to Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Rory Stewart for their commendably open-minded approaches to allowing non-UK workers to come here and contribute to the well-being of our economy. In contrast, some of the anti-immigration rhetoric peddled by hardline Conservative Brexiteers has been misguided and naïve. The desire of some Tory MPs to outflank Nigel Farage on the right risks moving our party to a place on the political spectrum where it should not be.

A countless number of the doorstep conversations I’ve held with voters over the past two years have featured warm words for Theresa May. She faced an impossible task and I believe history will judge her favourably. I doubt that those Conservative Parliamentarians who sought to undermine her every move will be remembered so fondly.

I continue to oppose Brexit. But if it really must happen, it can only be on the basis of the Norwegian model. The EU27 have made clear time and time again that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened. I believe them. Brexit would have happened on 29th March if the pro-Leave ideologues had taken Gove’s advice and supported the Prime Minister’s deal. Attention could then have turned to the much more important negotiations on the future relationship.

Given the current arithmetic in the House of Commons, May’s successor will surely face an even more testing time, with a General Election looming large on the horizon. Mindful of this, I wholeheartedly agree with the warnings from Michael Heseltine and Ken Clarke that elections are won from the middle ground. Despite his many appalling failings, Tony Blair knew this, too.

Conservatives have a duty to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street. The man has spent a lifetime as an apologist for the enemies of a country he now wants to lead. His elevation should be a source of shame for the Labour Party. We must block his path to power. But by lurching to the right under a new leader, we risk collapsing the Government, crashing the economy – or both. It is time for calm heads and clear thinking in the national interest and best traditions of the Conservative and Unionist Party. We cannot risk going into Opposition at a time of genuine crisis.

Rather than slavishly follow outdated political dogma, the new Prime Minister must demonstrate a willingness to act maturely, think pragmatically and accept responsibility for the fate of future generations. I do not believe that a recast Brexit deal with the EU is possible by 31st October. Jeremy Hunt seems to reluctantly share this view. Neither can I envisage any scenario in which Parliament will countenance a No Deal outcome. Again, I credit Hunt for his realism on this, too.

On the other side of the leadership election, the British people have the right to expect that the victor will be frank and honest with them. There is no evidence to suggest that Boris Johnson is remotely capable of such behaviour. The campaign is providing daily encouragement that Hunt can take on the task and steer our country into calmer waters. Should he win, as I feel he must, Tory MPs and members have a shared duty to do what we do best and rally around. Otherwise I fear that the Conservative Party itself, with 185 years of history, may be running out of road.

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Joanne Bartley: Has our Party gone mad? No Deal Brexiteers are acting like pro-Corbyn extremists.

Joanne Bartley is an Education campaigner and a Conservative Party member from Kent.

I’ve had many conversations with Tory friends about the state of the Labour party. We wondered how anyone could stay with its Far-Left leadership and anti-semitism problems. I argued that decent Labour people should leave. Now I think that advice is wrong: they should stay and fight to save their party. I say this because I worry about the changing face of my own party.

I attended a Conservative Association event recently, and I was the only woman among a dozen retired and reckless No Deal Brexiteers. A 16 year old member and I dared to mention our support for Rory Stewart. We voiced our agreement with his message of compromise and we admired the realism in his Brexit plans. It became clear very quickly that we held the ‘wrong’ view. Our brand of moderate, pragmatic conservatitism was seen as a threat to our Party. It is natural to disagree about who should be leader, but I left the meeting feeling my Party is moving away from me.

Surely we must show respect and understanding towards members and MPs with differing views on Brexit? We must be Conservatives first, not Brexiteers. We shouldn’t forget that 30 per cent of party members voted Remain. This to me is a compelling argument for a moderate, risk-free Brexit, and an attitude of understanding to MPs who represent this view. Our hardline Brexiteer party activists risk driving away our moderate, Remain-supporting members.

I voted Leave, but I feel a great responsibility to Conservative members and supporters who happen to hold different views on Europe. Most Remain-voting Tories support leaving the EU, but not a ‘No Deal’ Brexit without a negotiated agreement. Remain-voting Conservatives have softened their position, and now accept that we must leave the EU, but why do Brexiteer Tories never bend to show sympathy for their position? The referendum victory seems to give most Brexiteers a winner-takes-it-all outlook, and the arrogance to support a style of Brexit that actually scares people.

I liked Stewart’s style, but was told he is not Conservative enough. This leaves me and many other members doubting our values. He talked mostly of community, patriotism, civic obligation, fiscal responsibility and the small things that made a big difference. I don’t see a socialist agenda in any of that.

Stewart’s campaign reminded me of why I became a Conservative in the first place. My Tory values are all about realism and good sense. I like that we’re the Party of getting things done, always careful and conscientious. I believe in government that is pragmatic, smart with money, and offers common sense policy. This fits the Tory theme of security. Our supporters want clear-headed government; we represent order and planning. We shun chaos and uncertainty, we’re always a safe pair of hands.

If we look at Brexit through this lens, then it is obvious why many of our voters will be against a No Deal policy. It’s not competent government to be so vague about the next few months, it makes no sense to ignore the Parliamentary maths, or to rush out of the EU without deals in place. This security-first sonservatism is a perfectly valid reason for MPs to seek to avoid No Deal.

I worry that Boris Johnson offers inconsistent messaging and far too little detail about what lies ahead. One day he says we leave on October 31st “come what may”, the next he says no deal is a million to one. One or other of these points has to be untrue. This is chaos – it’s the opposite of safety and moderation. He reminds me of the dad who says he’ll finish work early, but has said it before and not turned up. He has a style of doing things that creates anxiety.

Many Brexiteer Tories loathed Stewart’s Brexit plan. They didn’t notice that many Leave voters, like me, supported it because we simply believe that other plans lead to no Brexit at all. They didn’t notice that many Remain voters supported it because it detoxified the debate, and offered an unthreatening route to get this blasted thing done. Political compromise is unfashionable, but I think Stewart was onto something.

The advantage of a middle-ground approach, as he proved, is that it brings bigger wins for the Conservative brand. The more radical we are with Brexit, the narrower the number of people we appeal too. The more embarrassing our chosen leader and his unpopular, vague, messages, the harder it is to win positive social media attention. Millions of people oppose a hard Brexit, millions see critical comments about our party on Twitter and Facebook. None of this negativity can be countered by blue leaflets posted through letterboxes.

I worry that it is already too late to stop our party moving away from the moderate centre-ground. Sam Gyimha is a principled man, he stood in the leadership election to make the point that not all Tories hold the same view on Brexit. Now he faces a no confidence vote. Antoinette Sandbach has publicly criticised No Deal Brexit, and it seems another MP had asked her to leave the party. David Gauke voted three times for Brexit via the Withdrawal Agreement, yet he too faced a no confidence vote. What’s his crime? He believes that a No Deal Brexit is a bad idea. So do I. So do most people in this country. So do a great many people who voted for Brexit. Has our Party gone mad? We act like radical extremists when we chasten an MP for supporting the most commonly held position.

We need to tackle the hounding of good MPs by the radical Brexit wing of the party. I hope any new leader will take a stand and point out that conservatism is not only about the EU. If we are a single issue party we are diminished. Not to mention the fact there is a single issue party now out there.

I hope anyone reading this will consider their part in this problem, we must ensure our party welcomes all who call themselves a Conservative. The Labour Party should stand as a warning.  It has becoming a party in which moderate views are unacceptable. The next few months will be difficult, but we must remember that our voters trust us to offer safe government and common sense direction. And they expect safety and good sense with Brexit as much as with any other policy.

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Benedict Rogers: Character, values and dignity. Why I am voting for Hunt.

Benedict Rogers is East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organisation CSW, co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a former parliamentary candidate and a Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute.

As a former journalist, a human rights campaigner and a Christian, there are obvious reasons why I like Jeremy Hunt. As Foreign Secretary he has done more in a year than any of his predecessors combined to champion human rights – and in particular press freedom and freedom of religion or belief, two foundational freedoms that underpin any civilized democratic society.

Hunt has also done more to speak out against crimes against humanity in Burma, for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and peace in Yemen than his predecessors. His decision not just to mandate the Bishop of Truro to conduct an inquiry into the persecution of Christians but to write, every day throughout Lent, to a persecuted Christian, speaks volumes about his values.

So too did his decision, on his first visit to Beijing, to meet the wives of jailed Chinese human rights lawyers. And his statements on Hong Kong, a city I lived in for the first five years of my working life and to which I was denied entry on the orders of Beijing 18 months ago, have been far more robust than his predecessors. Has he done enough? No, of course not: no activist would say enough had been done. But has he shone, as a Foreign Secretary who prioritises human rights? Definitely.

But of course, one doesn’t vote solely on these issues. The challenges facing our party and our country are wide-ranging. Brexit is the most immediate and most obvious. But there are pressures on our public services, threats to our security, challenges to our economy and questions about our standing in the world. And the answer to all of these major questions is clear: Hunt.

Of the original 11 candidates, there were only ever four whom I seriously considered – Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart and Jeremy Hunt. Rarely have I had such a difficult choice. Rarely have I been such a floating voter.

I didn’t declare my support until last Thursday, when Javid was knocked out, for the simple reason that whichever one of my four favourites made it into the final two would have won my support. It was only when Javid was eliminated that I decided, when it came down to the final three, to declare my support for Hunt. Once I made the decision, the reasons crystalised. It comes down to three factors: character, values and dignity.

I have not really met Hunt. The only time we have encountered each other was just before Christmas last year. To my surprise, I received an invitation to a meeting with the Foreign Secretary to discuss the persecution of Christians – prior to his announcement of a review. Around the table were the Archbishop of Canterbury, a Catholic bishop representing Cardinal Nichols, the Coptic Archbishop Angaelos, the chief executives of three charities, and survivors of persecution.

I was impressed by Hunt’s personal engagement with the issue. It was obvious by the fact that he allowed people to speak for far longer than they should have done, and asked insightful questions, that he really cared.

While we had never met before, when he called me to speak he addressed me by my first name, and as he left he said: “It’s great to finally meet you.” There’s no reason, in the great scheme of things, why he should know who I am, but he did and that shows an impressive mastery of detail and personal focus.

I first became aware of Hunt about 13 years ago. A colleague of mine was his constituent. My colleague is a living saint – the epitome of charity, compassion, justice and Christian faith. But he is definitely not a Tory – he is firmly on the Left. Yet he told me early on that he had become a fan of his local MP – Hunt – who, he said, was remarkably responsive, compassionate and interested in human rights. My colleague then brought a Burmese friend, the daughter of a political prisoner, to see Hunt.

I am inspired by Hunt’s emphasis on turbo-charging the economy, deploying his experience as an entrepreneur to turn post-Brexit Britain into the world’s most dynamic economy. A man who has made millions from a successful business, and known the hard grind of business failure, is more likely to be able to take us forward as a global enterprise than one who has never run anything except some precarious newspaper columns.

One handicap sometimes held up is Hunt’s conflict with doctors. But if you look at his record as Health Secretary in full, it is this: he stood up to vested interests, expanded NHS delivery, won battles for further funding and championed the NHS – all qualities we want in a Prime Minister.

Brexit must be delivered, and made not just to work but to succeed. For that to happen all of us, whatever side we were on three years ago, must come together. That means we don’t need a ‘Brexiteer’ leader, we need a unifier, a leader who is not marked by labels but by their ability to implement the referendum result. We need a skilled and experienced negotiator. That man is Hunt.

If Britain is to walk tall in the world post-Brexit, it needs a leader respected by his counterparts as a statesman, taken seriously and not regarded as a subject of mirth. And we need a man who is internationalist and outward-looking. Hunt is clearly that man. Just read his speech on building an “invisible chain” of democracies.

My mother used to live in Japan, and speaks Japanese. When I showed her the video of Mr Hunt delivering a speech in fluent Japanese with no notes she was impressed. To have a Prime Minister who can speak several languages fluently walking the world stage would help turbo-charge Global Britain.

I joined the Conservative Party at the precocious age of 13. In 2005, I stood for Parliament. I have been a Conservative for over 30 years, and I retain hope. In times of victory and wilderness, I have never doubted the Conservative dream and Conservative values. In ups and downs, in government and opposition, I have stuck with three things I hold dear: a Great Britain, a Global Britain and a compassionate conservatism. It is clear to me that it is Hunt who will deliver all three.

I have always championed the underdog – minorities in Burma and Indonesia, prisoners in North Korea, dissidents in China and Hong Kong. So once again, I am with the underdog, and I believe he can win. As the American poet James Russell Lowell once wrote, “once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide, in the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side … Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust, Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ‘tis prosperous to be just; Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside.”

Join me in backing Jeremy Hunt.

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