CP's Nabil Najjar and Luke Springthorpe spell out what they're looking for from the next leader of the Conservative Party
In a few weeks time, Conservative Party members will be asked to vote for their preferred candidate to be the next leader of the Conservative & Unionist party.
This will follow a process of elimination by their Parliamentary colleagues in Westminster. With a choice of thirteen candidates having already put themselves forward seeking the coveted prize, MPs can hardly claim to be bereft of choice. Meanwhile, on June 22nd we will be hosting an event with six of the declared candidates, giving you a chance to hear their pitch and quiz them on their vision. We've been asked if we'll back a candidate and if so, who. The honest answer is that although we haven't ruled out formally endorsing a candidate, we're still waiting to hear more from the declared candidates before deciding who we may endorse. So, what are the key areas we're assessing candidates against? 1) A proven ability to lead: It should go without saying that selecting someone to be Prime Minister the day after they are elected is very different to selecting someone to serve as leader of the Opposition. The victor will have an array of potential crises piling up on their desk from day one, and will be need to well versed in the art of knowing how to distinguish sage advice from the noise of contenting factions. They'll need a battle hardened team around them to help keep on top of the agenda as well as the nous to think one step ahead in order to come out on top at decisive moments in Parliament, despite only commanding a wafer thin majority. 2) Their credible plan to deliver Brexit: We cannot underestimate the magnitude of the challenge here. Brexit has toppled two Conservative Prime MInisters in the space of three years, and the damage of another leader failing to deliver it before facing the electorate would be catastrophic. It's not enough to simply propose superficial changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, given that it hasn't come close to obtaining Parliamentary approval despite having been put to the vote three times. The EU have emphatically said that the Withdrawal Agreement isn't up for discussion and the most contentious element - the backstop - isn't going anywhere. What's more, Parliament appears prepared to go as far as countenancing a vote of no confidence in the government in order to avoid no deal. The candidates therefore need to clearly spell out a credible path forward for delivering Brexit rather than simply presenting broad, overly optimistic platitudes. 3) Their commitment to reviving the party: It is apparent that the Conservative Party membership offering is now a weak one when compared to that of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The annual party conference should provide an opportunity for members to debate and vote on motions, the party chairman should be an elected position and members should get more of a say over the choice of their Parliamentary candidate. This will both make membership a more attractive proposition whilst ensuring the party remains close and in touch with its supporter base.
4) Their ability to sell conservatism: It's easy for a governing party to get trapped in a day to day routine of fire fighting and becoming managerial. The next leader will have the task of escaping this straight jacket and articulating a renewed sense of purpose and convince the electorate that conservatism remains the best path to prosperity and opportunity. Simply offering a blend of 'managerial socialism' won't cut it this time.