Never since the passage of the Great Reform Act have so few registered electors had it in their power to determine the leadership of Her Majesty’s government, yet such is the choice and duty which will soon befall members of the Conservative Party. Indeed, since modern party politics developed in the mid-19th century only two individuals have ever succeeded as Prime Minister from within the serving party of government who were not the serving Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. The exceptions were Balfour, who was already First Lord of the Treasury, and Churchill in exceptional circumstances (and who had previously served as Chancellor).
I was - until events conspired - of the view that circumstances again were sufficiently exceptional to countenance the Boris-Gove arrangement; that such a combination of talent working together in the Party and National interest would and should have been without parallel. We have no time to dwell or mourn what might have been. That arrangement is now dust, but the exceptionality of our times and circumstances are unchanged.
This is no time to trifle now with our choice; to experiment or gamble; to rehabilitate crashed former ministers or take risks with junior ones. Such are the luxuries of Opposition. We must not forget the ancient requirement that the person invited by the monarch to form a government must be the individual who can best command the confidence of the House of Commons and that of their Parliamentary colleagues.
Neither can the architect of such destructive treachery as was laid bare on Thursday ever be in a place to unite either our Party or our Country.
We are left with only one serious option in who we may have confidence as our Party Leader and Prime Minister in these turbulent times and that is Theresa May. Her record in office over the last six years is without parallel in modern times, a record of which our Party should be mightily proud, and from which few could detract with any conviction. It would be judicious to say that she found the Home Office lying in the gutter where it had been cast by a succession of Labour popinjays and ne’er-do-wells, and raised it up once more to be restored as one of the modern Great Offices of State.
We must put aside all childish notions of Brexiteers vs Remainers, particularly as we are all Conservatives. Mrs. May has determined her position on leaving the EU very clearly, and I have absolute faith - as a Leave voter - in her integrity when it comes to delivering our exit for the institutions of the European Union.
I would counsel colleagues across the Party, and those in Parliament, to choose well and wisely. The eyes of the world are upon us and the fates of this nation and others may well rest upon our decision. Negotiations will soon begin which will shape the foreign policy and the economy of this country for several generations. On the outcome of those negotiations also hinges the electoral fortunes of our party and the thousands of party members serving in local government or standing in local elections who will be the first to face the voters’ judgement next year. We cannot afford to indulge the petty vanities of those who would use this opportunity to posture or position: only a serious candidate will do.
When the Conservatives fought and won the general election only 14 months ago, we did that on a platform of “Securing Britain’s Future”. This is our commitment to Britain, and to the millions of people who voted Conservative in 2015. We owe it to them to back the candidate best placed to secure Britain’s future, which now has to be Theresa May. The burden of responsibility is on our shoulders. We cannot let them down.
*These are the views of Thomas Ashton and do not represent the corporate view of CWF.
Thomas is a farmer, District Councillor and Branch Officer from East Lindsey, Lincolnshire. He has taken a keen interest in political history and followed Conservative leadership elections back to the attempt by Redwood to unseat Major in 1995; he was 10 at the time.