In just one month the Conservative Party have elected a new Leader and have a completely new team at the top. It has all happened with astonishing speed and with ruthless efficiency and a competency that I know many Labour MP’s quietly admire. The decisiveness shown by the Conservatives is in stark contrast to the current Labour Party leadership crisis. For a start it is less than a year since Labour elected a new Leader. Now that very same Leader has by a huge margin lost a vote of no confidence held by the Parliamentary Labour Party and a challenger has appeared who I suspect very few people in the Country have ever heard of. One of the themes of the last election was Conservative competence contrasted against chaos under Labour. Even with Labour in opposition that contrast is being proved to be right.
In yet another extraordinary day at Westminster Andrea Leadsom one of the two candidates left in the contest to become the next Conservative Party Leader withdrew and left the way open for Theresa May to become Party Leader and the UK’s next Prime Minister. I first discovered the news as I was on the train travelling down to London. Andrea Leadsom took a generous decision recognising the fact that well over half of the Parliamentary Party had voted for Theresa.
After confirming the details of the outcome with the Party Board a Special Meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MP’s was called for 5pm and the Chairman Graham Brady made the official announcement that Theresa May had ben elected the new Leader. The Prime Minister announced he would go to the Palace after Prime Minister Questions tomorrow and hand in his resignation to the Queen. Shortly after Theresa May will go to see the Queen and be confirmed as Prime Minister and asked to form a new Government.
All the speculation at Westminster now is on who will be in that new Government.
So after the last ballot of MP’s we now know the final two candidates for the Leadership of the Conservative Party. It will be either the Home Secretary Theresa May or the Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom who is to be our new Prime Minister. For the Second time the Conservatives will have elected a woman as Leader without giving the women artificial help such as excluding men from the competition.
Yesterday, after asking a couple of questions in the Chamber and then chairing a Delegated Legislation Committee I returned to Bury and attended the Tottington High School Awards Evening for years 7 to 10. With the Mayor and his consort in attendance the guest speaker was the school’s former Headteacher Alan Scott.
Less than two weeks after David Cameron announced that he would step down as Prime Minister Conservatives MP’s will vote today to decide which two candidates will go forward for the Party Membership to choose between. It has been a swift process and in two months time the outcome of the members ballot will be known.
Last night we heard again from all three candidates. each one could undoubtedly do a good job bringing their own particular strengths to the role. My own view is that the fresh leadership offered by Andrea Leadsom MP is the best way forward and I will be voting for her in the ballot today.
The main business in the chamber today after questions to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs department will be debates scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee on internet abuse and support for the creative industries.
The Conservative Leadership ballot was reduced from five to three yesterday after a ballot of all Conservative MP’s.
The full votes in order were Theresa May 165 Andrea Leadsom 66 Michael Gove 48 Stephen Crabb 34 and Dr Liam Fox 16. Liam Fox was eliminated as having the lowest number of votes and Stephen Crabb also withdrew. I will be supporting Andrea Leadsom in the next round tomorrow. I think the membership would be happy with a choice between Theresa and Andrea.
The big news today will be the publication of the long awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq War. It will no doubt dominate the news bulletins as the events of over a decade ago are examined in detail to see what lessons can be learned.
By early evening today we will know which of the five candidates running for the Leadership of the Conservative Party is to drop out. Voting for Conservative MP’s starts at 11am and continues until 6pm. The votes will then be counted and the result of the first ballot as soon as possible.
Yesterday, we all heard from each of the five candidates in a Committee Room in the House of Commons. We were meeting just four doors down in Committee room 10 from where the Parliamentary Labour Party were holding their weekly meeting in Committee Room 14. The journalists had never had it so good. I thought all the candidates performed well. It was clear any of them would be capable of taking over as Party Leader and Prime Minister although they each have their own style and their particular strengths.
Before I went to the meeting with the candidates I was delighted to be able to meet with a group of students from Holy Cross who were down on a tour of Parliament with their teachers. I enjoyed answering their questions on a range of subjects.
Today in Parliament there is the Committee stage of the Wales Bill which devolves more power to the Welsh Assembly which will be dealt with by the whole House as it is a constitutional Bill.
The very short window for any would be Prime Minister to declare their intention to seek the Leadership of the Conservative Party opens after the meeting of the 1922 Committee this afternoon. As readers will guess there is much manoeuvring going on as people try and work our what is best for the Party and the Country. Of course , it also the reality that some will base their support on how their own career will be advanced. As I have always made it clear I am not concerned in seeking Ministerial office I can take a genuinely objective view. Ultimately it will be Party members who decide the outcome.
An update to the timetable I referred to yesterday. The timetable has to be agreed by the main Board of the Party and it appears they are concerned that as the period for consultation with members and voting is during the school holiday month of August it should be extended. Consequently, I understand the date of the announcement could be put back a week to 9th September but no doubt this will be clarified during the day.