ConservativeHome put 15 questions – some from the editorial team and some from ConservativeHome readers – to each candidate for the Party leadership.
The first 14 questions were put to every hopeful, and the final one varied for each candidate.
We originally published the answers in early Jun, and are republishing them as the distribution of ballot papers approaches – and with it the final stage of this contest.
1. Theresa May suggested there should be “an end to austerity”. Was she right or wrong – and why in either case?
She was right. But we must never lose our reputation for economic competence. We must live within our means, but thanks to the tough choices we’ve made over the last few years we have more headroom than we did before. This means we can now cut taxes that stimulate growth and boost productivity – what Conservatives call ‘growing the size of the cake’, and invest more in public services like health, education and defence. This is the key battle with Labour – I will back the entrepreneurs and business people that fund our public services because I’m one of them. Corbyn, on the other hand, will destroy them with the politics of envy.
2. ”The UK should set a zero carbon target for 2050.” Do you agree and if so why?
I agree. Conserving the environment for future generations should be a key part of any Conservative philosophy and a zero carbon target is an important part of doing just that. But we need to broaden the appeal of environmental issues so people can see progress making a difference to their daily lives less pollution affecting children as they travel to and from school, more pleasant urban environments and less plastic waste on our beaches and in our seas. Government should provide support along the way through sensible tax incentives, rolling out the infrastructure required for electric cars, and taking urgent action to reduce city pollution.
3. What would you do to strengthen the Union?
I have Welsh and Irish blood and spend part of my childhood in Scotland. I care deeply about the Union and worry that over the last few years it has felt more like a dis-united kingdom rather than a united one. At our best we are four proud nations in one great union. In some ways we have been guilty of not thinking enough about how we fight to maintain, preserve and protect this amazing country. I look back on the London Olympics and remember how that brought everyone together in an incredible way – but in some ways almost by accident not design, and we need more conscious thinking about how to protect and preserve a United Kingdom. Most importantly, we need to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole country and not just the 52% who voted to leave. I believe I can unite our party and protect the United Kingdom from those who wish to break it up.
4. From reader Penny_Change: Will you commit to cancelling HS2?
No. If we are to be the best place in the world to do business we need to have world class infrastructure, and HS2 is a key part of it. We also know that the most prosperous economies are those where wealth is spread across the country. To cancel a priority investment in regional growth would put back this cause.
5. What is the right level of immigration for Britain?
Immigration policy must support the dynamic, entrepreneurial, high growth economy that can generate the tax revenues to invest in key public services like defence, education and health. We must recognise the public desire to bring down immigration levels but also address the root causes of those concerns, namely a failure to improve the life chances of cohorts of children who do not leave the education system with the rigourous qualifications necessary to get a decently-paid job,
6. Is the internet a threat to be contained or an opportunity to be unleashed?
My business success came about because we switched from traditional publishing to online sooner than our competitors, so I’m always going to think of the internet as a massive opportunity. I want the UK to be the best place in the world for tech companies to start up, scale up, and dominate globally. The foundations of our prosperity were laid when we beat other countries to the first industrial revolution. We now have to win the race to what’s been termed the fourth industrial revolution, enabled by the internet. But I don’t believe it should be the wild west, without regulation and boundaries. As Health Secretary I championed reforms to protect children from the potential harms of social media. As Foreign Secretary I know only too well how autocratic nations and our international rivals use the internet for nefarious ends.
7. Do you agree that the NHS is an expression of British values?
Yes. The NHS represents the best of British. I’m incredibly proud to have been the UK’s longest serving Health Secretary, and proud that 2.7million more patients used good or outstanding hospitals at the end of my tenure compared to the start. As Conservatives we know that funding matters – and we have delivered the biggest increase in funding ever – but only if the money is used wisely to raise standards.
8. Would you be prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal at the end of October if necessary?
I have always said that if the only way to deliver Brexit was via no-deal then I would do so because the democratic damage of ignoring the referendum result would outweigh the economic risks of a no-deal exit. We must deliver on the instruction we were given and get Brexit done.However, parliament will block a no-deal exit so the question is how you avoid us being presented with the same stalemate at the end of October as we have now, and I believe I have the best chance out of all the candidates of getting a better deal.
9. Please complete the following sentence in no more than 30 words: “Conservatism is…”
…creating opportunities for everyone, no matter their background, by building a strong economy at home and Britain that walks tall abroad.
10. From reader Graham, in Bristol: Why should I rejoin the Conservatives [under your leadership] from The Brexit Party?
Because under my leadership the Conservative Party will not only be the only party that can actually take us out of the European Union but in doing so it will reboot the UK’s economy, making us the most pro-business country in the world, one that walks tall in the world, confident of its role internationally and fully able to defend its national interests.
11. Pick one: No Brexit, a 2019 general election, or a second referendum this year.
None of the above: and if we choose our next leader wisely we can avoid those unpalatable options. I believe there’s a better deal to be done with the EU but it will need a lot of work to get there.
12. Should the Party Chairman be elected?
We have a fantastic party chairman in Brandon Lewis but I’m keen to look at a number of options to expand the role that party members and activists play.
13. From reader LieBertArian: What will you do to root out Islamophobia in the Tory party?
I’ll take a zero tolerance approach: we can’t close our ears to complaints about this.
14. From reader hertscommuter: What is the naughtiest thing you have ever done?
Drinking a cannabis lassi when I went backpacking through India.
15. Do you believe voters have moved on from the controversy of your time as Health Secretary?
Ultimately I think people respect you for taking tough decisions that are in the long term interests of patients. I left the health service with record outcomes for those with every major disease – which is why Labour failed to turn two elections in a row into a referendum on the NHS.
>To read the answers of the other candidates, click here.