Britain’s next Prime Minister is going to one of two women — Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom — and one week before the final results of the ruling Conservative party’s leadership race came in on Thursday, I put money on the latter to win.
Now, to be clear, I bet £20 ($25.80) on Leadsom to become the next leader of the Tories only because I think she will win — not because I necessarily agree with her stance on a variety of issues, nor because I am personally backing her as the leader. If I win, I will get £110.
There are a raft of reasons as to why I think Leadsom will win and they are all pretty simple.
1. She was the most effective Brexit campaigner
During the last leg of the campaign season in the run-up to the EU referendum on June 23, Leadsom was the Leave campaign’s jewel in the crown.
On the front line of most of the debates, she not only presented each point in a measured, unflustered way, she also (somehow) managed to limit damage from the proven untruths, such as the Vote Leave’s bus campaign which suggested Britain spends £350 million a week to Brussels that could be better-spent on the NHS.
She also tore down her Remain opponents in a similarly measured fashion, gathering support along the way. For example, in an ITV debate on the EU referendum, she effectively killed off any credence the Scottish National Party’s leader Nicola Sturgeon had by appealing to anti-established eurosceptics, saying:
“We’re hearing from Nicola Sturgeon, ‘We should remain in the European Union because as this country elected a Conservative government we need to stay in the EU so that it can overrule a democratically elected government and then do what she wants it to do – that is absolutely outrageous.”
2. She is a eurosceptic from beginning to end
At the end of the day, 51.9% voted to leave the EU.
In the end, that was proven in the final result on June 23:
Britain voted for a Brexit. A majority of Tory party members voted for a Brexit. There has to be a Brexit.
May knows this and pledged to do her best to lead the country’s Brexit negotiations. She even went even further than her Leave opponents on the issue of immigration by refusing to rule out that EU migrants that already reside in the UK would be protected from changes to migration laws.
Leadsom on the other hand seemed more liberal on immigration law changes in comparsion.
But this is the issue for May. She was a Remainer and lost. She may be promising to fulfil wishes of the referendum voters to lead Brexit negotiations but this is only after her campaign for Remain lost. Everyone knows her stance as she campaigned vehemently for Britain to stay within the EU.
Therefore there is a lack of certainty that she will fulfil the wishes of the winning eurosceptics, or argue the best deal that does not seem too Brexit-lite.
3. Don’t dismiss the ‘shy’ eurosceptic vote
Now, if this was a race to become Britain’s next Prime Minister under a general election, my gauge on the odds of Leadsom ruling the party would be very different.
After all, she is relatively inexperienced in politics compared to May. She hasn’t served in the front cabinet and is only a junior minister in the Department for Energy and Climate Change. She also has non-progressive views on issues like gay marriage, and focus over her allegedly massaging the truth over her CV as well as her tax situation are all pretty detrimental for a wholly public fight for power.
However, only Conservative party members will be voting on whether she or May will lead the Tories and thereby become Britain’s next Prime Minister.
The reason why I bet the figure of £20 on her is because that’s the amount I won when I put on a tiny bet in the 2015 general election that the Tories would win by a majority.
Look at the vitirol launched in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum result and look at the auto-assumption insults that all Leave voters must be racist bigots.
People forget that this is why these attitudes drive the Eurosceptics, Tory supporters or even more far-right and terrifying populist party supporters underground and therefore why it seems shocking or out of the blue that the Conservatives would win a general election – or why Britain voted for a Brexit.
4. Tory party members might think differently to the whole UK
As detailed above, there are some issues around Leadsom’s career path declarations as well as her failure to publish her tax returns.
Rich politicians, and whether they shelter cash or assets in offshore accounts, has been the gripe du jour for a while now in Britain. Leadsom’s refusal to publish her tax returns would be a hammer blow for someone wanting to lead a party that is vying against other political parties for power.
But, again, not everyone gets a vote — only Conservative party members. Tory party members don’t see wealth or clever accounting as an issue, as a lot of the electorate either have or aspire to be rich through capitalist means.
Now that the latest round in the leadership contest has whittled the candidates down to just two people, ballot papers will be sent to people who have been members of the Tory party for 3 months or more. Then, come September we will get the result, and I will be potentially just under £100 better off.
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