Brandon Lewis is Chairman of the Conservative Party, and is MP for Great Yarmouth.
Yesterday evening we held the last hustings of the leadership contest, with the BBC noting something over 4,500 members packing out the event in London.
This final hustings brings the race to be leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, and the UK’s next Prime Minister, to a close. Our members will now make their choice and cast their vote.
Over the course of the last four weeks we have hosted hustings in 16 towns and cities right across the UK, in every nation. We have welcomed thousands of members to hear directly from our leadership candidates, and also held a first ever hustings online for members and the public, which has been viewed over 100,000 times. Alongside television debates and interviews, these events have provided people with the chance to put both candidates through their paces.
Conservative Party members understand the importance of the role they have in voting for not only our next leader, but also our country’s next Prime Minister, and they have been fantastic in their recognition of that. From Carlisle to Colchester, Conservatives have put each candidate to the test with questions rivalling those of seasoned journalists. Iain Dale, Hannah Vaughan Jones, and Colin MacKay have facilitated this rigorous process and have done an excellent job interviewing the candidates and putting questions to them. This has allowed people to fully and fairly scrutinise what was said and decide who is the best person for the job.
The Conservative Party has a long and proud history as the party of opportunity. The modern, compassionate Conservatism I believe in is driven by a determination to build a society that works for everyone. Which is why I’m incredibly proud of the Conservatives I have seen at the hustings over the past few weeks. It has been the finest example of the Party I know and love – one that appeals to anyone who shares the values of hard work, family and community.
Since the start of this process many assumptions have been made about the more than 160,000 members eligible to vote in this election. Indeed, there have also been reports apparently representing the views of our Party membership over the last few weeks, based on polls of a very small sample of alleged members.
However, those assumptions do not reflect the Party I recognise or those we have seen attending and asking questions at our hustings, where thousands of members from all walks of life have packed out venues across every region and nation of the UK. Such a strong turnout has been fantastic, demonstrating what a broad church we are and showcasing the sense of responsibility people feel in making this momentous decision.
Since becoming Chairman last year, building and broadening our membership has been one of my core priorities. I am particularly proud of the steady growth we have seen over the last year. and especially the fact that it has not always come from the places many would consider to be traditionally Conservative. The number of new people who have joined us has been highest in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland rather than in England – and in England, the largest growth has been seen in the East Midlands and the North East.
I’m also delighted that our youth membership has more than doubled since I launched Young Conservatives at our Spring Forum in 2018. We now have over 100 branches across the country. We also held our Youth Conference in Nottingham two weeks ago, which allowed our young members to hear from both leadership candidates and MPs from across the Party, debating the policies and issues that matter to them.
The team behind the scenes have been working tirelessly to make sure this process runs smoothly, and it is now time for members to consider what they have seen and heard, as they vote for our next leader. The deadline for completed ballots to be returned is Monday 22nd July at 5pm, so I encourage all those who have not yet voted to do so as soon as possible to make sure their vote gets in in good time.
When the votes have been cast and counted, whatever the result, it is paramount that we then come together and unite – both as a party and as a country – to deliver in the national interest. We must continue to build on our record of success in government: delivering nine years of economic growth, the strongest wage growth for a decade, and providing the biggest cash boost for the NHS in its history. It will be the time to put our differences aside and work together to move forward towards a brighter future for all. We are one Conservative family and we win by working together.