I am obviously disappointed that Andrea has taken the decision to withdraw from the Conservative leadership race. Her reasons for doing so, in putting the interests of our country and our party first, are entirely in keeping with the high standards of integrity, generosity and loyalty that have shaped the very special person I have known for the last 35 years. I am convinced she would have made a great Prime Minister, and I have no doubt that she will continue to make a major contribution in the service of our country. As more people around the United Kingdom come to know Andrea better they too will appreciate her many qualities and talents that we so desperately need in British politics.
I am proud to have led an exceptional group of colleagues in Team Andrea who in the space of just 7 days ran a campaign that went from a standing start to putting our candidate on the final ticket. It is a mark of how far the Conservative Party has come that we were able to present the Party membership with a choice of 2 strong leaders, who just happened to be state educated women, and I am glad that we were able to contribute to that.
Throughout our short campaign we have made it clear that we should be relentlessly focussed on the positive case for electing Andrea as Leader without the need to undermine the qualities of her opponents. Despite an onslaught of often very personal attacks from colleagues and journalists we have never deviated from that goal. Colleagues who have chosen to further their own ends by putting smear above respect will no doubt account for their motivations but it is genuinely puzzling to understand who they think they are helping. It is certainly not our Party or our constituents.
It is absolutely not the job of media commentators to ‘big up’ politicians whether in this leadership contest or elsewhere in politics. But neither should it be their compulsion constantly to try to trip them up. Using spin and underhand tactics against decent people whose prime motivation is to serve has for too long undermined the confidence of the public in our politics. This need not be inevitable. It is this much needed fresh start to how we do our politics that was to be the centre piece of Andrea’s campaign and which we must together progress whatever her role in the future.
Through Andrea’s selfless decision we can now move swiftly to restoring stability and certainty to our country with the advent of a Theresa May premiership without further delay. As someone who has known Theresa for longer than Andrea, as we came into Parliament together in 1997, I have experienced at first hand the strengths and character that will make her an excellent leader. Together with the whole Team Andrea we wish Theresa well and look forward to supporting her in whatever way required in the challenging times ahead when the whole Party and country needs to be united.