This week in Parliament, we honoured the bravery of our troops who took part in the Normandy landings 75 years ago. Alongside our American and Canadian allies, by night-time, around 156,000 Allied troops had arrived in Normandy, despite challenging weather and fierce German defences. At the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a foothold in France and within 11 months Nazi Germany was defeated. Along with the bravery on the ground, there was an incredible amount of military cunning, which led to Germans to believe that the invasion was going to be near Calais, not Normandy.
The ceremony for a new memorial to honour the British troops who died was a humbling and moving experience. We owe so much to those who made the greatest sacrifice. Time has robbed us of many of the survivors but it is essential that we still honour those who served and we respect the freedom which they fought for and have handed down to the generations. The service was also quite poignant for another reason for me because it was one of Theresa May’s final official engagements of her premiership. People will have contrasting views on our departing Prime Minister but no-one can question her dedication to public service. As I did when I watched her at the press conference alongside Donald Trump earlier this week, I felt very sad for her that she will be leaving an office which she loves with her mission incomplete.
Politics being as it is, Parliament is currently fixated by who will come next. For those not aware, the process works by Conservative MPs whittling down the list of hopefuls from the present number of eleven down to two candidates. The membership of the Conservative Party, which amounts to 124,000 people at the last count, then get a final say. The bookies favourite is currently Boris Johnson. So far, he has the most number of MPs, from those who have declared their hand. There is an assumption that the membership of the Conservative Party will go for the strongest ‘Brexiteer’. My vote will be going to the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. As a successful businessman who has subsequently headed portfolios which have delivered the London Olympics, the largest post-war boost for NHS spending and brought warring sides together in Yemen, I feel he has the best track record to negotiate with the EU and across Parliament. Amongst the leading candidates, he has the best appeal to both sides of Parliament. With the electoral arithmetic as it is, the ability to build bridges with the opposition will be vital if we want to finally get Parliament to deliver Brexit. I am not going to be critical of other candidates but I want a unifier with experience and substance. I am very suspicious of people who want the top job so badly yet have invested little when it comes to policy. It feels like a game at a time when we really need someone to deliver the goods. Other candidates are worth a mention. I really enjoyed meeting Dominic Raab. He has steel, determination and is steeped in policy ideas. He would make a good Prime Minister. The same could be said for Matt Hancock and Rory Stewart, who has a brilliant ability to reach out. Penny Mordaunt may throw her hat in and would be a strong candidate. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I suspect that the final two will be Boris Johnson and one of Michael Gove or Jeremy Hunt.
I can understand the unease which readers will have about this process. Firstly, it is incredibly self-indulgent of Conservative MPs to have caused this. I did not want Theresa May to step down and I feel she is carrying the can for us failing to leave the EU even though she voted in the division lobbies to make it happen. It should be those MPs who did not vote for it, in my party and across the opposition, who should be studying their records. Secondly, it may seem bizarre for the 99.5% of my constituents who are not members of the Conservative Party to have the 0.5% of us who are select a new Prime Minister for the country. This is not a recruiting sergeant for my party. It is too late because a member has to have joined 3 months previously to take part. For those of us in the 0.5%, I hope we will take this responsibility as a great privilege and select the candidate who will best unite the country. In my view, it should be the candidate with the best skillset to actually deliver Brexit in Brussels and Westminster. The candidate who makes the most noise and ambitious promises is not necessarily the one who will get the job done.