Theresa May is known to work on her red boxes until 3am, she studies every secret surveillance warrant that crosses her desk by M15 and takes as long as she feels necessary over policy decisions. She is not driven by a 24-hour media cycle to come to her decisions. Nor in gimmicks, focus groups or conjuring policies out of a hat. Her assessments are well thought through and she does not shy away from confrontation in defending them.
I was Theresa’s Parliamentary Private Secretary in the early days but I cant say I know her well. Like many who have worked for or with her, she is slightly detached but greatly respected. She comes with no chumocracy which as we have seen can collapse into all types of vicious animosity. In essence she is a monochrome politician in an era of technicolour ones. But that of course is essentially her strength.
The country is now crying out for that sort of steadying influence to calm the fever and heal the divisions of post-referendum Britain. I believe she is the only candidate vying to succeed David Cameron that has the right qualities, the stature and the experience to unite both party and country and possibly to usher in a new type of politics.
So who is she? And what makes her tick? Theresa is a vicar’s daughter; she was not born into privilege and made her own way in the world after being educated at both state primary and grammar schools. In the past she has championed selective secondary schooling probably because she believed it helped people like her who were blessed with brains to have a leg up.
She is not in any way divisive and she is not an ideology driven right-winger. In a similar way to David Cameron she is what we term a pragmatic politician. She has strong one-nation credentials and worked hard on the Modern Slavery Act, which clamped down on the terrible trade in human beings. I worked with her on that. She is liberal when she needs to be, ending counter-productive stop-and-search procedures, which only wasted police time and caused resentment in minority communities. She also voted for same sex marriage, an issue that nearly tore the Tory party apart.
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 capability and skill throughout her time there. At a time of austerity, she has presided over falling crime. She showed guts and boldness 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 has shown she is tough, tenacious and efficient.
Certainly, her record on controlling immigration has for some been disappointing. But then she has been frustrated at every turn – not only by EU rules on freedom of movement but also by two previous administrations that have encouraged a low wage labour intensive economy. The history books are yet to tell us whether this was ultimately good for the country or bad. That debate will continue to rage in the years ahead.
So how will she pull the party together? Simple. She needs to pull in both factions and unite them for the good of the country. She has confirmed that “Brexit means Brexit” which rightly means she has no intention of reversing the decision made by the British electorate. And I believe she is a woman of her word. She has also said she will set up a ministry with Brexiteers taking lead roles in the negotiations. This is the right thing to do. Apparently she wants to 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.
And we must also take into consideration that withdrawal from the EU will not be the only task awaiting a new 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.
Envisage 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, possibly Trump, 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 ambition.
Last and by no means least the question that arises is should she call an early election? Possibly, if this contest was taking place in different times. But we are living in extraordinary times. Frankly, the last thing voter’s need now is more political excitement and uncertainty. Besides when voters go to the polls they go to select a party not a leader. They vote on a manifesto not a personality. We were elected a year ago to deliver a programme and that is what we intend to do.
I believe for the sake of our Party that is at risk of imploding and an opposition that is in chaos, the nation should unite behind Mrs. May as soon as possible so she can get on with the job of getting Britain off its knees and back onto its feet.