Theresa May has launched her Conservative leadership bid this morning. Her scheduled announcement came just moments after Michael Gove announced that he was also entering the race in a surprise move, having broken ranks with Boris Johnson’s own campaign. In her speech, which you can read in full here, the Home Secretary said:
‘My pitch is very simple. I’m Theresa May and I think I’m the best person to be Prime Minister of this country’
May spoke at length of her reasoning for wanting the top job during her 16-minute speech. On Brexit, she said the country had emerged from a ‘bruising and divisive campaign’. Admitting she called for Britain to ‘Remain’, she also tried her best to make it clear she had, too, insisted the sky would not ‘fall in’ in the event of Brexit – putting space between her and the ‘Project Fear’ narrative of much of the ‘Remain’ campaign which had riled so many. May went on to say that the job now is about uniting the country and party – deftly trying to move the question of her candidacy away from merely being about Brexit. She also insisted that ‘Brexit meant Brexit’ and there was no going back. So what were her other main points? May said:
- Article 50 should not be invoked until the end of the year.
- May said that for the ‘foreseeable future’ trade agreements with the EU would not change.
- There would be no General Election until 2020.
- No plans for an emergency budget. She said her priority would be to stop future tax rises.
- There is no mandate for free movement as it is. In a dig at Boris Johnson, she said that ‘any attempt to wriggle out of (this) would be unacceptable to the public’.
May was at her strongest when she made it clear her candidacy was about uniting the party and country. She pointed out that her supporters came from both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ campaigns. And she also spoke to those outside Britain, saying: ‘We are the same outward-looking and big thinking country we have always been. We are open for business.’ Her ability to unify – particularly given Michael Gove’s decision to jump ship from Boris’ campaign – will be May’s strongest asset. And the Home Secretary made an impressive demonstration of how she might go about achieving that during her leadership pitch this morning. Whether a more reserved candidate like May can be heard above what looks set to be a noisy and vicious Tory leadership battle though, only the next few weeks will show.