Sunday, August 7, 2022

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak need to stop ‘damaging’ Tory record, says Andrea Leadsom

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The former business secretary, who led Penny Mordaunt’s campaign, says she has pulled out of her leadership fight against Theresa May to spare the country further upheaval

Andrea Leadsom, who served as Penny Mordaunt’s campaign manager, says it is “absolutely vital” that the party go to the next election “with everyone on the same team”.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are being urged to back off from destroying the Tories’ record and their personal attacks in their increasingly ambiguous struggle for party leadership.

The former business secretary says she is still deciding who to support, but says she is concerned the competition is making it harder than ever to win a fifth Conservative term.

“It’s important that we keep the Conservative Party together,” she says I when asked what they think voters think of the Tory leadership race.

“It will be absolutely crucial that we go to the next general election as a united party with everyone on the same team. I think leadership candidates need to be very careful not to do too much harm to our own balance sheet, nor to do too much harm to other colleagues.”

Ms Mordaunt’s own campaign has been “absolutely positive,” she stresses. It recalled “that we are a team and that we must reunite the party and get the country behind an agenda and program that will move us forward, deliver the Brexit dividend and get the economy back on track [and] Coping with the cost-of-living crisis”.

Ms Leadsom’s intervention has added weight since she pulled out of the last two in a leadership race with Theresa May in 2016, partly she says to spare the country additional upheaval and economic disruption in the wake of the tumultuous Brexit vote.

In her newly published memoirs snakes and laddersShe explains the background to this decision, among other things, in an interview in which she said that “as a mother” she had special insights.

She insists six years later that she was grossly misrepresented, but is open about her naivety in allowing the impression that she contrasts with the childless Mai.

Writing the book is “therapeutic,” she says. “The first iteration was more angry than later iterations, which I kind of stuck to my own brief of making it something that politics students would enjoy because it gave them real insight.”

The book’s title implies that the most powerful force in politics is often a fool – “Them’s the breaks,” as Boris Johnson said when he was ousted from Number 10. Does she think Johnson has a ‘third act’?

“I am sure that Boris will continue to contribute. And you know, he’s someone who has big, strong communication skills. He has a very positive approach, which I really enjoyed [about] work with him.

“I think if recent shenanigans fade and darken in people’s memories then his strong track record in things like delivering Brexit, winning a large majority, sourcing the coronavirus vaccine, saving millions of jobs and Businesses during Covid – people will start thinking about these things.”

She insists she is “not at all afraid” of Brexit, that she is resolutely positive and confident the benefits have been worthwhile, but says they don’t think they’re being sufficiently promoted.

Interestingly, she doesn’t blame Covid but says the pandemic has helped some businesses become more dynamic, forcing companies to reconsider both their supply chains and their sales opportunities.

She is less optimistic about the overhaul of Parliament’s anti-bullying and sexual harassment regime, which she pushed through as leader of the House of Commons.

Some of the main opponents came from John Bercow, the spokesman at the time, who himself was later officially reprimanded for his treatment of employees. She gives generous credit to the cross-party effort, but makes it clear that she believes more work is needed.

The new complaints procedure should change the culture of Parliament. “Obviously we’ve seen horrific examples lately that don’t indicate that’s what happened,” she says.

“I’m afraid the situation with this independent complaints system is that it’s too slow. First, it’s too slow, and the old adage “justice delayed is justice denied” has caused people to distrust it. Number two, I think it’s too bogged down with a lot of workplace complaints-style complaints.”

She says she is always ready to serve in government, but suspects her most important legacy will be her work on what is known as the “early years” – the first 1,000 days of a human life that decide so much about a person’s fate .

Ms Leadsom’s uncompromising focus on improvement these days has become the stuff of Whitehall legend. However, should the next Tory leader and Prime Minister want to put her in Cabinet, she is in. “One more roll of the dice!”

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