The following article was originally published on the Conservative Home website on 4 July 2016.
At around 5 o’clock in the morning of Friday, 24 June, 2016, I sat in the rather less than prepossessing surroundings of a leisure centre in Deeside, North Wales, considering the events of the previous night. My feelings were a mixture of exhaustion and elation. For several months, I had been heavily engaged in the campaign to secure a “Leave” vote in the EU referendum. I had been an active member of Conservatives for Britain, served on the compliance committee of Vote Leave and had led the Leave campaign in Wales.
And now it was all over. The BBC had called the referendum for Leave and we had decisively won in Wales. I felt it had been a good six months’ work and was pleased that Britain was now at last on the path to leaving the European Union.
A little over three hours later, the Prime Minister, understandably and not unexpectedly, announced his resignation. Just as one campaign ended, another began. The party acted quickly to begin the process of electing a new leader.
As a proud and enthusiastic Brexiteer, it is hugely important to me that the next Prime Minister should be someone I can trust implicitly to push forward the process of withdrawal from the EU. I have not campaigned so hard for so long to see that process stalled. There is a world of opportunity outside the European Union and I want Britain to enter it as soon as possible.
At the same time, it is important that the next leader should be someone I know will defend and advance the national interest in challenging times, when a reinvigorated Britain is carving out new relationships across the globe. Competence, it need hardly be said, is the paramount qualification for the office of Prime Minister.
Theresa May was not a supporter of the Leave campaign; however, as an ardent Leave campaigner, I have no hesitation in saying that I regard her as the person most outstandingly qualified to be our next Prime Minister.
I have worked closely with Theresa in Cabinet, and have observed the formidable array of talents she possesses. She is cool, determined and intellectually impressive. She is an astonishingly hard worker with a meticulous eye for detail. At the same time, she is charming, courteous and never bombastic. She is an exceptional politician.
Theresa has served as Home Secretary for more than six challenging years; indeed, hers is the longest tenure of that office for over a century. The Home Office was long regarded as the graveyard of political aspiration; but Theresa has shown unerring competence throughout her time there.
At a time of financial stringency, she has presided over falling crime. She showed guts and chutzpah when she walked into the Police Federation’s annual conference and told its leaders to stop crying wolf and quit scaremongering. She has doggedly pushed forward controversial reforms. She was not afraid of ruffling powerful feathers when she famously blocked the extradition to the United States of the alleged computer hacker, Gary McKinnnon. And she did not rest until she had secured the deportation of Abu Qatada. Theresa May has shown she is tough, tenacious and efficient.
Theresa has assured me that she understands the need to do everything necessary to carry out the wishes of the British people, as expressed in the referendum, and press on with withdrawal as quickly as possible. That process will call for the sort of detailed oversight that Theresa – uniquely, I believe, of all the leadership candidates – is able to exert.
She underlined that commitment when she confirmed at her campaign launch that “Brexit means Brexit” and that she intends to establish a standalone government department to handle the process of withdrawal, headed by a Secretary of State who campaigned in the referendum on the Leave side.
But withdrawal from the EU will not be the only task awaiting our next Prime Minister. This country will undoubtedly face many other huge challenges in the years ahead. When selecting a national leader, there is no place for risk. Experience, sound judgment and a proven record of delivery must weigh heavily in our choice.
Imagine which of the potential candidates you would be happy to see representing the United Kingdom in the councils of the world, dealing with the likes of Obama, Merkel and Putin. Personally, I can’t think of anyone in whom I’d prefer to place my trust. Theresa May has all the qualities needed to lead our country out of the European Union and into a new place as a nation with global horizons and ambitions.
Furthermore, and not unimportantly, I believe Theresa is the candidate best placed to unite the Conservative party and lead it to electoral success in 2020.
At this crucial moment in our history, it is essential that we choose a leader who will deliver not only the change that the nation has voted for, but also the stability that it needs.
Theresa May, I have no doubt, is such a leader.
That is why I have gladly pledged to support her campaign.