The last month has been a month in which history sped up to a dizzying pace. We have voted to leave the European Union, had a leadership contest and installed a new leader – all in the space of a little over four weeks.
There have been events that few would claim to have predicted in full, and that many would not have predicted at all. But I want to concentrate on one prediction that was allowed to be made with confidence and almost without challenge before the referendum, a prediction that was often treated as an obvious fact – the claim that the Conservatives would not be able to reunite after the referendum campaign.
This has already been proven to be totally and utterly unfounded. Theresa May has come to power swiftly and brought stability, after Andrea Leadsom honourably decided that now was a time for a new Prime Minister to be installed as quickly as possible. The Conservatives have always been a mature and pragmatic party that understands that politics, ideologies and policies must be rooted in reality, and the current reality we face is that internal bickering must come second to the serious business of government. I’m delighted that May has already impressed with her ability to unite and get on with the job at hand. The signs for the future are very good indeed.
You only need to glance at the Government that the Prime Minister has assembled to see how adeptly she has brought all sections of our party together. She has made impressively clear her commitment to securing our exit from the EU not just in words, but in deeds. The most high profile and headline-catching appointment was the installation of the face of Brexit, Boris Johnson, in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. But the creation of two new departments, one focused on exiting the European Union headed up by David Davis, and the other on seizing trade opportunities led by Liam Fox, must surely calm the fears of even the most committed Leaver who initially found it difficult to place their trust in a Prime Minister who had advocated Remain.
The other aspect of our new reality is that is that although a majority voted to leave the European Union, much must be done to reassure the millions who did not that we will govern in everyone’s interests. The alliance at the heart of this Government of Remainers and Leavers, the recognition of the need to move past referendum labels and the willingness to do so is key. The referendum was not a general election and leavers do not have a right to have every lever of Government. It was important to have a post-Brexit coalition of ideas to forge the brightest possible future for our country, and again Theresa May has delivered the team that can do this. Appointments such as Liz Truss, Justine Greening and Sajid Javid were wise placements of talent at the head of departments where they can make a real difference, while putting Rory Stewart at DFID, Ben Gummer in the Cabinet Office and the long overdue promotion of Jesse Norman into the new, powerful and dynamic BEIS department were all inspired choices. The preservation of other ministers in their current positions such as Nick Gibb, Tobias Ellwood and George Eustice to continue their excellent work were reasoned and intelligent moves too.
Theresa May’s work has undoubtedly been impressive, and the new Government has received a warm welcome back in my constituency of Stratford on Avon. The business response in particular, from both small and large businesses has been overwhelmingly positive. The local representative from Lloyds Bank in charge of small business lending told me that he has had the best month ever, lending £10 million to small businesses locally. These local investment decisions are a real vote of confidence in our new Government, as well as being a much better indicator of economic health than the PMI.
This all stands in stark contrast to the current state of the Labour Party. I do not envy those who had to make a decision of either leaving in place a leader who has been spectacularly unsuccessful in providing any sort of opposition to the Government, and only succeeds in claiming the achievements of others, whether Conservative backbenchers or members of his party outside of his control, or challenging him and being consumed with what could look to outside observers as self-involved internal squabbling.
They have made their decision, and now face a leadership contest that appears likely to reaffirm Jeremy Corbyn’s position as leader, at which point the decisions only get harder for my Labour colleagues in Parliament. Despite the overconfident warnings of disastrous consequences for the Conservatives, we now have a united party, a talented Government and a strong leader. Labour look a lot further away from that goal.