ConservativeHome put 15 questions – some from the editorial team and some from ConservativeHome readers, submitted in our recent appeal – to each candidate for the Party leadership. The first 14 questions were put to every hopeful, and the final one varied for each candidate.
Here are Andrea Leadsom’s answers to ConservativeHome’s 15 questions:
1. Theresa May suggested there should be “an end to austerity”. Was she right or wrong – and why in either case?
Yes she was right. In 2010 we came to power and inherited from Labour an economy on life support. We were spending £165 billion a year more than we collected in taxes, so reducing that deficit had to be a key priority. However, we’re now at a stage where then economy is fundamentally strong; the deficit is now manageable, employment is at a record-high, and real wages are growing. It is time to speed up our investment in education and policing, but we will need to balance increased spending with reducing our debts, in order not to leave them for the next generation to sort out.
2. “The UK should set a zero carbon target for 2050.” Do you agree and if so why?
Yes we absolutely should and this is a key priority for me. We only get one planet and we have to act to safeguard its future. The climate emergency poses one of the greatest threats to our world. We’ve just gone the longest period since the Industrial Revolution without burning any coal to produce electricity. Much more progress needs to be made. Too many of our towns & cities have areas where the air is toxic; harming young and old alike. As Energy Minister I led our efforts to cut carbon emissions and invest significantly in renewables. I would legislate for net zero emissions in the UK, provide incentives to businesses who undertake climate research, use part of our international development budget to fight the climate crisis abroad, and bid to host the UN climate conference (COP26) here in 2020 so that we can show global leadership on this issue.
3. What would you do to strengthen the Union?
I am a passionate unionist. I would forge closer working links with the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. I would introduce an office for Strengthening the Union, have a minister in each department with responsibility for protecting our Union and I would hold annual Cabinet away days in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff – closer to the people we represent.
4. From reader Penny_Change: Will you commit to cancelling HS2?
I would commit to an urgent review into whether HS2 offers value for taxpayers’ money. I have always had reservations about whether this was the way right way to unlock capacity & grow our economy, particularly when it will take longer to commute between neighbouring towns in the north of England (on rolling stock which is over 30 years old) than it will to travel from the Midlands to London. Given a substantial amount of money has been spent on HS2 already, it is right we review this urgently and take a decision based on the facts. If HS2 doesn’t go ahead, the money would be spent on improving rail and road connections in the North of England, as well as on ‘get to school/work’ schemes around the UK.
5. What is the right level of immigration for Britain?
We shouldn’t put in place arbitrary caps for political expediency; we should be guided by the evidence. Where we have skills gaps and where experts from around the world can inform & inspire the next generation, we should welcome that talent. Manageable immigration for an outward-looking nation is the right way forward.
6. Is the internet a threat to be contained or an opportunity to be unleashed?
With correct checks in place, the internet has the potential to unlock huge great opportunities in our economy. However, we must do more to tackle the scourge of trolling and cyber-bullying, which particularly affects so many young people, and I would work with the social media companies to ramp up the work they do in this area. But we have already seen the amazing force for good the internet can be and as we enter a period of extraordinary technical advances, the internet can power.
7. Do you agree that the NHS is an expression of British values?
The NHS is the pride of the nation. It doesn’t judge who you are or what your background is. It provides high quality compassionate care, free at the point of use, and under my leadership that will not change and it will be a priority of mine for it to be strengthened, and for parity of esteem between mental and physical health to become a reality.
8. Would you be prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal at the end of October if necessary?
Yes. There will be no extension of Article 50, no revocation of Article 50, and no second referendum.
The UK will leave the EU on 31 October 2019. My three steps to a Managed Exit are:
Read more at https://teamleadsom.com/three-step-plan-for-brexit/
9. Please complete the following sentence in no more than 30 words: “Conservatism is…”
Conservatism is: A force for good in the world, upholding human rights and forming strong alliances. At home it promotes opportunity and choice, sound finances and safe communities.
10. From reader Graham, in Bristol: Why should I rejoin the Conservatives [under your leadership] from The Brexit Party?
Under my decisive and compassionate leadership, we will deliver Brexit by the end of October and seize the opportunities leaving the EU offer us as a country. Our party has thrived in the past, when it has governed as a champion of the people, providing freedom of choice and opportunity, a strong economy and global leadership. As Prime Minister, I will revitalise our party so that members and voters alike are proud to support us once again. We need a positive vision for our future and a firm belief in the opportunities that lie ahead. I passionately believe our country can step up to its potential as a world leader, giving everyone the chance to fulfil their aspirations and to be the best that they can be.
11. Pick one: No Brexit, a 2019 general election, or a second referendum this year.
I don’t want any of them, but if forced I’d take delivering Brexit before the end of October and then winning a majority in an election. That would allow me to quickly deliver my manifesto which: guarantees low taxes, incentives for enterprise and strong employment opportunities; tackles the climate change emergency; invests more in our schools, NHS and police; delivers a long-term solution to the issue of social care; offers parents greater flexibility with childcare; expands early years support; and secures a major expansion in housebuilding,benefiting young people looking to get on to the housing ladder.
12. Should the Party Chairman be elected?
If we want members to have a greater stake in our party, I think there is merit to overhauling the way it is governed; including the role of the Party Chairman. I think we should not only look at giving our members a larger say, we should ensure the national party does more to engage at a local level with members. We have so many talented members of the voluntary party who sadly do not get a look in when it comes to shaping the direction of our party, and under my leadership that would change.
13. From reader LieBertArian: What will you do to root out Islamophobia in the Tory party?
Islamophobia has no place in our party. As a party we have fought to ensure our nation is open, diverse and outward-looking. This must not be hijacked by an ill-informed minority who do not share our values. I would ask the independent experts, TellMAMA, to help us design a new online complaints procedure which allows anyone to submit evidence anonymously and commit to investigating all complaints within one calendar month of being received. Anyone found to have been demonstrating Islamophobia would be banned from the party.
14. From reader hertscommuter: What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
It was probably the time I told my mum I was taking the coach from Kent to Cornwall for a holiday with my friends at the age of 16, but instead I hopped on the back of a Honda motorbike for the journey down instead.
15. Do you feel responsible for making Theresa May’s premiership possible?
No. In 2016 it was clear a significant majority of Conservative Party MPs backed Theresa May and I didn’t believe it was in the national interest for us to embark on a protracted party election when the country needed the certainty following the Brexit vote. Further delay would have risked a recession and I will always act in the country’s best interests. We also shouldn’t forget our achievements as a party. Under Theresa May we’ve seen employment at an all-time high, taxes cut, the deficit fall, record investment in our public services, and action on issues like climate change, mental health, tenants’ fees and energy bills.
>To read the answers of the other candidates, click here.