As the Conservative leadership contest draws to its close, we will shortly know who is to be the next Prime Minister. The current betting seems to suggest a clear front runner in Boris Johnson. I know Boris. He is a friend of mine. For many years he was my neighbouring MP and I admire the way he won the mayoral campaign in London on two occasions in what is a traditionally left-of-centre city. As Mayor he did many good things for London. He proved himself to be at heart a socially liberal One Nation Conservative. He built many new affordable homes, reduced knife crime and raised many boroughs out of poverty. His opponent is another friend of mine, Jeremy Hunt. Jeremy is a less flamboyant character but a thoroughly competent Minister and somebody who has proved himself in the white heat of running the 2012 Olympics and overseeing the Department of Health and our National Health Service. He and I arrived in Parliament on the same day and I have huge admiration for his abilities.
The decision that members of the Conservative Party are taking in this election will dictate the direction of travel of this Government and the country as we navigate the last tortuous process of reflecting the result of the 2016 referendum. Members of West Berkshire Conservative Association will vote as they see fit and I will respect them whatever decision they take. I will be supporting Jeremy Hunt.
Whoever wins, the new Prime Minister deserves the chance to achieve what both candidates state as their primary Brexit aim: to leave with a deal. For that to happen, they will have to reach out across the House of Commons and gain support from parts of the House that have hitherto proved unwilling to support the Prime Minister’s deal. I remain of the view that leaving without a deal would be very bad for West Berkshire and the country. Furthermore, I am resolutely opposed to the idea of suspending Parliament in order to leave by default without a deal on October 31. To me that would be unconstitutional and morally questionable. I yearn for the day when this matter is put to bed and we can get on with an exciting and dynamic domestic programme and tackling long-term challenges such as climate change and global instability.