The next prime minister has one task beyond all others, unity. unity in the conservative party, unity in parliament and most importantly, unity in the country. i am not naive enough to believe we can get everyone on the same page but somehow we need to get to a position where the majority of the british public feel the government listens, acknowledges their concerns and includes them in the solutions that will reunite our country.
Most people talk of unity but broadly on their own terms. As long as everyone refuses to budge, then unity in the country will remain as elusive as it is now.
The Conservative Party bore the brunt of the disastrous European election results last month. Not because our party’s Brexit position is less coherent than Labour’s (goodness knows what they stand for these days) but because the Conservative Party is the party of government. Therefore, we are responsible for sorting out this mess.
A Brexit that will please everyone is just not possible. My Southampton Itchen constituents are no different from people up and down the country. While we can’t expect to find a solution that pleases everyone, the current situation pleases no one.
My constituents tell me, over and over again, they just want Brexit sorted. What they mean is they want it sorted but in the way that meets with their approval.
Of all the persuasive pitches I have heard about Brexit in the last few weeks only one has been close to deliverable. The Malthouse compromise is a compelling solution to deliver Brexit.
It is the only proposal so far that managed to bring both wings of the Conservative Party together: the only proposal that secured a majority in parliament and the only proposal that both the UK and EU could be content with.
But Brexit is not the only area where we will need compromise to rebuild national unity. While Brexit takes the spotlight, many challenging social issues need to be addressed.
My constituents enjoy high levels of employment but not high levels of pay. Many of them have little, if any, job security and career prospects are all but non-existent in many cases. They struggle to get on the housing ladder and the level of educational attainment in Southampton, like so many other things, is below the national average.
Like everyone else, my constituents want a chance, a chance for a good education, a chance to get a good job and a chance to own a home of their own.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. Give people the opportunities they need, a first-class education, the ability to get on the housing ladder and a rewarding job that pays well. Not everyone wants the state to do everything for them. If we give them the tools to succeed, they will.
The Conservative Party will need to find a leader and prime minister who can command respect, restore discipline in the party and find a compromise for the country. Mere words won’t unify our country. Solutions that deal with the inequalities that still exist and create opportunities for all our citizens will. In a field of exceptionally talented candidates, one stands out above the rest.
Jeremy Hunt has the experience, the temperament and the energy to lead our country in the long term, not just through an election. That is why I will support Mr Hunt to be the next prime minister.