Jeremy Hunt and I were elected at the same time, are near parliamentary neighbours, and became firm friends. I first met him nearly 20 years ago when I was setting up the ‘No’ campaign against joining the euro and he was a strong supporter. I soon realised that he was a future star who might one day lead our country. Observing his meteoric rise ever since, and watching his statesman-like campaign launch this week, I feel ever more sure that he is the right choice to lead the Conservative Party and the country.
It was only when I worked with David Cameron in his last six months as Prime Minister that I fully appreciated the exceptional demands of the job. It requires extraordinary ability but also a remarkable temperament. The Prime Minister has to absorb immense amounts of information, take big decisions quickly, and deal with the unique pressures of the office. He or she has to be able to empathise and communicate skilfully, especially in today’s media, but must also have strong intellect, sound judgement and an inner steel.
I am certain that Jeremy has these qualities. He proved himself under fire during the Leveson Inquiry and was praised for his leadership in delivering a successful Olympics. He held one of the most challenging domestic briefs, at health, becoming the longest serving Secretary of State, facing down a fierce union attack, resolutely insisting on better patient safety and winning extra resources for the NHS.
He has looked the part on the international stage in one of the great offices of state. He has held high office for longer than any of the other candidates. He’s the real deal.
As a successful entrepreneur Jeremy understands what business needs to generate wealth and jobs. His plan to energise the economy through pro-enterprise policies, including big corporation tax reductions and increased investment allowances, is exactly what the country requires. He has a vision for our country as a hub of innovation, founded on our world-class universities, our creativity and inventiveness. And his record shows that he wouldn’t just talk about economic renewal: he would make it happen.
He’s always believed in prosperity for a purpose, but with typical modesty talks less about his own philanthropy. His Hotcourses Foundation has quietly supported an AIDS orphanage in Kenya for years. He is a compassionate Conservative with a genuine concern for improving the life chances of the poorest in society. He speaks convincingly about Britain as a force for good, restoring our global vocation and walking tall in the world.
Inevitably the leadership election is focusing on who can best deliver Brexit. Jeremy has been honest in spelling out the real choices which the next Prime Minister will face. Warning about the dangers of driving towards a ‘no-deal’ exit which Parliament will reject, so precipitating a general election, may not be what many in the Party want to hear.
But it is true nevertheless, and a statesman must lead. Brexit will not be secured by parroting patriotic platitudes about ‘believing in Britain’ or through irresponsible ideas such as suspending parliament. We need a credible plan, a skilled negotiator and a serious leader to steer us through. Jeremy has by far the best credentials for the task.
As MPs we see the occupants of high office at close quarters and watch as they are tested in the furnace of the Commons and under the harsh glare of the media. I know about Jeremy’s fundamental decency, his good humour and his loyalty. But I also see the qualities of leadership which this country needs right now. Becoming Prime Minister of a great nation can never be an easy task, but the Brexit impasse and a hung Parliament make it an exceptional challenge today.
Other candidates are showing that they have great strengths and ideas to offer, and I’m encouraged that they will have a big part to play in any new Conservative team. But the standout leader amongst them is Jeremy Hunt, and that’s why I’m so convinced that he should be our next Prime Minister.
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