On Thursday this week the Conservative Party will start the process of electing its next leader and our new Prime Minister. I believe that person must be someone with the drive, personality and intelligence to solve the greatest political crisis Britain has faced in decades. One that has seen the Brexit deadlock shake our public institutions to their foundations. For me, the candidate best placed to succeed in this mighty task is Boris Johnson.
We need a leader who can get this country moving again; starting with fixing Brexit. Boris is right to say that the UK should not seek an extension to the Brexit deadline, and that we must leave the EU at the end of October, whatever it takes. Constantly trying to bring forward a withdrawal agreement that has been rejected time and again by parliament will only prolong our national nightmare. The collective failure of the government and parliament to deliver on the result of the 2016 referendum, is about more than policy and process. It has rather caused people to question our entire political system, and the motivation of the people chosen to serve within it. This crisis of confidence is being ruthlessly exploited by extremist voices and other malign forces, whose purpose is to sow hatred and division, and left unchecked will become a real danger to the entire democratic health of the nation. When extremist voices have risen in the past, one of the biggest failures of the established political parties has been to continue their internal squabbles, rather than recognising where the real threat lies. Despite the past differences people may have had during the referendum, to allow that campaign to define us, and for the labels ‘Remainer’ or ‘Brexiteer’ to be continued to be used as terms of abuse undermines us all. We have to work together to deliver Brexit and the leadership the country needs beyond that point.
As a former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson understands how local and regional government can be a catalyst for economic development. He knows that the combination of infrastructure investment and lower taxes for businesses drives up investment and creates jobs. We need a radical plan to accelerate investment in parts of our country that over recent decades have felt increasingly left behind. Boris has also highlighted the need to tackle the housing crisis; the failure to build enough affordable properties is putting not just home ownership, but the opportunity to rent somewhere decent to live, out of reach for many families and working people. As Conservatives, we also believe that aspiration starts with education, and Boris is right to pledge that one of his priorities will be increasing the funding per pupil for schools. I support his commitment as well to prioritising action against the county lines drug gangs that are fuelling crime and violence in some of our most deprived communities and exploiting vulnerable young people in the process.
Last Friday I was delighted to visit Mundella Primary School in Folkestone, to join the students for a ‘Be Internet Legends’ assembly given by a team from Google. The children were told about the importance of protecting their personal information and checking for bogus websites. Digital literacy is an important life skill and should be part of everyone’s education.