Cast your mind back to the 11th July 2016. The day the last Tory leadership contest ended. The day when Andrea Leadsom announced her intention to withdraw from the contest before the proposed nine-week leadership contest.
This series of events of course paved the way for Theresa May to become Prime Minister without having to secure the support of the Tory membership. Now a lot has happened since then. And not all of it has been particularly successful. But one lesson which appeared to have been widely accepted from the last leadership contest was that when the next contest arose there should be a proper debate ending with a member vote.
However this position now appears to be under threat. A report in the Daily Telegraph suggests plans are under way to examine whether Boris Johnson’s name alone might be put forward to a confirmatory vote of the Tory membership. Rightly this has drawn criticism from senior Conservative MPs.
So what would the main problems be with this concept? Well, this country is at a crossroads and potentially in the midst of a major constitutional crisis. The new Prime Minister will have no honeymoon period and will have important decisions to make immediately. Therefore it is of fundamental importance that these candidates’ ideas and positions are thoroughly tested before they inherit this position. The best way to achieve this is through a full leadership contest where the candidates explain and defend their positions to the membership.
The dangers of not adopting this route were pretty clear from the last contest. Theresa May’s policies and ideas were never tested or scrutinised. Although the Brexit means Brexit line was repeated ad nauseum, no-one really knew what Theresa May meant. Which of the many Brexit positions was she going to adopt? And how was she going to achieve this? And would the membership give her the mandate to do this? Questions that were never answered and ultimately haunted Theresa May and her stuttering premiership.
The Tories should learn their lessons from this contest. And regardless of how far one candidate may be ahead with the MPs the contest must still go to the membership. The Conservative Party and the country deserves a proper debate. Anything else will simply be unacceptable. Let’s just hope they are listening.