Home Secretary and Maidenhead MP Theresa May took time out from her campaign to become the next Prime Minister to speak to the Advertiser about a historic week in politics.
Mrs May says she began her bid for the Conservative Party leadership from a standing start as there had been ‘no vacancy’ until David Cameron’s shock resignation following the vote to the leave the EU.
“I hadn’t expected to be in this position. I campaigned for remain and recognise the Brexit vote but had not expected David to stand down as quickly as he did.
“I had no set plan, so unlike some people who had been thinking about it and made preparations, I hadn’t.”
Setting out why she threw her hat into the ring, she continued: “I think there are huge challenges ahead and there is obviously the need to negotiate the best possible deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations. But it’s also important that government carries on. We have a manifesto to deliver. We were elected on that last year and there’s a need to unite the party.
“I think I’ve got the proven leadership and the ability to unite the party - but also a vision for the future which is about a government that is there for all people and for all parts of the country.”
The process of choosing a new Conservative party leader will involve a series of votes among Tory MPs to whittle the number of candidates down from five to two. The whole party membership will then choose the leader from the remaining two.
Mrs May said: “What you do immediately is start talking to people, canvassing their opinion as to whether they would support you as leader.”
But she stressed she has not been promising jobs in the cabinet in return for support.
“People have made mistakes in the past by offering people posts and there are stories about different people being offered the same posts. You can’t do that – you’ve got to take a look at the whole and build a team. So, I’ve been very clear with everybody that I’m not putting names on any jobs.”
She continued: “The way I’ve always approached my politics is that I’ve just got on with what I’m doing. I was still seeing colleagues yesterday and I gave my launch speech setting out the reasons why I would be good for the job and the direction of travel of the government I would want to lead.”
Even though she is the front runner, Mrs May was not complacent.
She said: “I try not to predict results for any election. You must just go out there and campaign hard. I’ve been talking to people and I’m pleased by the support I’m getting. But there are five candidates.”
Even though she campaigned for the UK to remain in the EU and the majority of her constituents voted to stay, Mrs May says the referendum result has to be respected.
“The people have voted,” she said. “We said all along that whatever the result we would accept it. It’s important we do that. There should be no attempt to weasel out of it. That would destroy trust in politicians. There is a problem with a lack of trust in politicians at the moment so it’s very important we respect it.
“Yes, I was on the other side of the campaign but the job now is to get the best possible deal for the UK in the negotiations. The job of PM isn’t just about the Brexit negotiations, it’s about the all the other things that Government does.”
The Conservative Party leadership battle will be decided in September.
See next week’s Advertiser for the full interview with Mrs May.
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