Deciding who our next party leader should be is no easy task. The consequences of the decision for our party weighs heavily on the minds of all Conservative and Unionist MPs. It certainly has on mine. With an array of eleven candidates putting themselves forward for the top job; the choice is certainly varied.
But with Theresa May stepping down we are not choosing just a party leader. Nor are we choosing a leader of the opposition. Conservative MPs – and then ordinary members up and down the country - will be choosing a Prime Minister at a time of huge national importance.
The Prime Minister was unable to persuade colleagues of her proposals. The United Kingdom needs a leader, not a manager. It needs someone who can chart a course, stick to it and get people to follow them. After much contemplation and discussions with constituents and activists I have reached the conclusion that only Boris Johnson can do that.
My reasoning is threefold but primarily and most importantly: we need someone who voted to Leave the EU, trusts the decision of the British people and is committed to delivering it. Weakness and indecision kicked back the 29th March Brexit date. We need a strong leader who is clear that, come what may, Britain will leave the EU on 31st October – ‘Deal or No Deal.’ A difficult choice, but one that is necessary.
The reason it is necessary is because something incredibly precious is at stake. The arguments about Brexit right/wrong are as nothing compared to the debate that is emerging about whether Britain is a democracy at all. The saying goes that “Democracy only works when those who lose accept the result.” It is time for politicians of all stripes to unite behind whoever is the new Prime Minister on that principle.
Secondly, we need someone with the ability to inspire, to give us confidence in ourselves, to motivate us and to demonstrate that Britain’s greatest days lie ahead. We need a leader who will allow us to lift our eyes to the horizon, to look forward to what we can become, rather than timidly gazing backwards to what we were.
Finally, our country needs a leader who is courageous enough to articulate a clear vision for a better Britain, a global Britain, outside the EU. Someone who will set out a clear direction for our country, for our society, where no one is left behind; who can unite us and most importantly, after the last three years, make us believe in ourselves again and in what we can achieve together.
I’ve met the candidates and worked with them over the last two years: only Boris can do that.
There is a political narrative that’s being perpetuated in Scotland by the twitterati and the chattering classes that Boris isn’t quite right in Scotland or is just plain unpopular. It’s nonsense. Much like the mythical Loch Ness monster – heard about often but wanting in hard evidence. The same people said the same thing when he ran for Mayor of London “a Labour city”. The same people said the Conservative and Unionist Party would never recover in Scotland (Pandas come to mind) – ask Alec Salmond how that went. Or that along the Clyde you weighed the Labour vote. The same people told me Aberdeen South never would elect a gay MP and that the Conservative and Unionist Party in Scotland would never back a working-class lesbian. They were wrong. And their lazy opinions, based on nothing but their own biases and those of the Scottish Political Bubble are wrong now on Boris.
Recently I welcomed Boris to Aberdeen. He spoke with oil workers, business people and yes, even a hen party. He has an edge that I have seen no other politician possess. The clamour for selfies and people just wanting to meet him showed just how broad Boris’s appeal is. The comments that he is: loathed, as an interloper in hostile territory, were just false.
When you drill down it’s clear that Scots like characters as their politicians: Brown, Salmond, Davidson are all unique. Scots also like straight talking politics, Aberdonians especially, and Boris can provide that in bucket loads. At a time when so much faith and passion in our politics has been lost, Boris is the leader to restore it.
The other lazy narrative is that Boris’s values are different to the values of mainstream Scottish opinion. In 2004 Boris voted against the majority of his Conservative colleagues to back Civil Partnerships and again against the majority of his colleagues, he supported equal Marriage. He was ahead of his time, ahead of the curve and on the right side of history. As Mayor of London Boris built vastly more homes annually than the current mayor, provided free travel for our veterans, reduced rough sleeping by two thirds, backed electric cars with free access and charging, reduced knife crime by 30% and neighbourhood crime by 20% and delivered the Olympics on time and in doing so enhanced London and Britain’s global reputation.
The SNP are going to get a shock when Boris works closely with Scottish Conservative and Unionists to outflank them (as are Labour and the Liberals too). He is fair, tolerant, compassionate and after serving two very successful terms as London Mayor he has proven that he knows how to govern and to govern well – if only we could say the same about the SNP Government in Holyrood.
We all know that Nicola sturgeon will weaponise anything and anyone to make her argument for Independence. It’s no surprise that she has said that Boris Johnson would be yet another justification. Maybe, this says more about Boris’s ability to appeal to the voters in Scotland whilst her own appeal continues to decline and diminish as the SNP’s record shows them for what they are. Naturally the idea of a strong, decisive, unifying and direct character in Downing Street must terrify her and her pals in the SNP.
Boris’s passionate belief in our United Kingdom, in our greatness and our success together will resonate with a majority of Scottish voters. His commitment that a second independence referendum would be nothing less than a flagrant breach of the promise to the people of Scotland in 2014 that their verdict in ‘would be respected for a generation.’
In 2017 we had 13 MPs elected to Westminster. This isn’t a ceiling; it should be a floor. With Boris’s commitment to our Union, to freeing us from the dreaded CAP and CFP, to promoting our iconic whisky industry, to ensuring that we are able to attract workers we need, to taking on the SNP head on and ruling out another independence referendum - I genuinely believe that with Boris in Downing Street we can get Ruth Davidson into Bute House and increase the number MPs at the next election.
It’s time for all Scottish Conservative and Unionist MPs to back Boris, allow him to lead us so that we can deliver for the people of Scotland and the whole United Kingdom.