Who's good? Who's bad? Who's Stephen Crabb? Voice4Change examines the Tory Leadership contenders

Just when we thought British politics couldn’t get more barmy.

In a twist which stunned the country, Boris Johnson has declared that he will not be running to be Conservative leader after all. This came hours after Michael Gove, his Leave Campaign ally, withdrew support for Boris, and launched his own leadership campaign instead. Everywhere you look there seems to be more backstabbing.

With the final nominations finalized today, we can now have a good look at the five contenders for the Conservative Party leadership, and see what they stand for. 

 

1)      Theresa May (The Favourite)

Summary: With Boris dropping out of the race, Theresa May has become the bookies favourite for the job. She was in the Remain camp, but maintained a low profile and wasn’t charged with pushing “Project Fear” like Cameron and Osborne were. Clever manoeuvring perhaps. There will be many in the party who think that someone from the Leave Campaign should orchestrate Brexit, but May could just have done enough to position herself as the much sought-after “unifying candidate”.  If there is one rule in Tory leadership battles though, it’s that the frontrunner doesn’t win. May will have to hope that this curse applies to the collapse of Boris’ leadership ambitions, and not to hers.

Ideology: May infamously described the Tories as “The Nasty Party” while serving as the Chairwoman of the party in 2003, and spoke out against a lack of diversity in the Conservative Party. She was focussed on making the party more palatable to common people during their long spell in opposition. Now May is more widely known as one of the most long standing Home Secretary’s in UK history, where a hard line stance on immigration and a desire to amend the Human Rights Act were some of the defining policies of her tenure.

BME issues: May reformed stop and search laws in 2014, hoping that increased accountability would lead to a significant reduction in its use. She claims that stop and search is often “unfair, especially to young black men”. But many BME people were less impressed with her decision to only allow non-EU migrants to settle in the country if they were earning over £35,000 a year.

Charities: May has said little about her policies on the charity sector, but she is the patron of many local charities in her constituency in Maidenhead.

 

2)      Michael Gove (The Latecomer)

Summary: No one was expecting Gove to join the race to become Prime Minister, not least because of how many times he’s said that he doesn’t want the job. “I’m constitutionally incapable of it,” he said, “I’m not equipped to be Prime Minister.” “If anyone wants me to sign a piece of parchment in my own blood saying that I don’t want to be Prime Minister then I am perfectly happy to do that.” And yet here we are, with Gove throwing Boris under the bus to launch his own campaign. As the most senior contender from the Leave Campaign he must have a fighting chance. But many will remember the votes of no confidence he received from teachers unions while serving as the Education Secretary, and fear that he’s a little too controversial.

Ideology: Gove was an author and columnist for The Times before entering party politics. He is seen as something of an ideologue, and reportedly has a very high IQ. Gove is a neoconservative, and longstanding Eurosceptic. He has previously written in favour of bringing back capital punishment, and of reforming the NHS so that it is no longer free at the point of use. He is more liberal on social issues though, such as same-sex marriage, which he voted in favour of.

BME issues: Gove worked hard to distance himself from the nastiest elements of the Leave Campaign’s anti-immigration tactics, and claims to have “shuddered” when he saw Nigel Farage’s infamous “breaking point” poster. While he was the Education Secretary Gove said that getting children from BME backgrounds an equal education was “the civil rights struggle of our time” and called education equality his top priority.

Charities: Gove got into a dispute with children’s charities such as the NSPCC after they warned teachers never to touch students in class. And the Children’s Charity ERIC once branded him “the toilet snatcher” after claiming that Gove wanted to scrap the “1 loo per 20 children” rule in schools. It was a rocky ride between Gove at the charity sector while he was in charge of education.

 

3)      Stephen Crabb (The Dark Horse)

Summary: Stephen Crabb is far less of a big beast than Theresa May or Michael Gove, but that could work in his favour. An MP since 2005, Crabb took over as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after Ian Duncan Smith’s resignation last March. Growing up on a council estate in Wales, he may appeal to voters who don’t traditionally vote Tory. Sajid Javid announced early on in the process that he will be supporting him. The two have been dubbed as the “Blue Collar ticket” because of their working class roots.

Ideology: Crabb is a traditional Christian who believes in the power of prayer. He voted against gay marriage and has been criticized for links to a “gay cure” organisation. Because of these links, Crabb had to come out today to deny that he is a homophobe, something it's nice to not have to do. He is a member of ‘Conservatives for Israel’ and has drawn parallels between Israel and his homeland of Wales. Crabb and his ally Javid were both in the Remain campaign for the EU Referendum.
 
BME issues: Crabb hasn’t had much to say about BME people in the past, but the fact that Sajid Javid is at his side makes him the closest thing to a BME candidate in this election. Javid is of Pakistani descent.

Charities: Crabb is a patron of Mencap in Pembrokeshire, a charity who help children with learning disabilities. But a campaign calling for him to resign from this position got tens of thousands of signatures last March after he voted to cut £30 per week from the Employment Support Allowance for the disabled.

 

4)      Liam Fox (If at first you don’t succeed…)

Summary: Fox has been a Conservative MP since 1992, and has held many senior roles in the party. He had to resign from his position as the Defence Secretary in 2011 after allegations that he’d given a close friend and lobbyist access to the Ministry of Defence. Not an ideal scandal for his repitoire, but nothing will put off Fox. He ran for the Tory leadership in 2005 but failed to make it onto the final ballot, finishing third behind David Davis and David Cameron. He is an outsider in this race, but may prove a less divisive member of the Leave Campaign than Michal Gove. Like Crabb, Fox grew up on a Council Estate which will help him identify with working class voters.

Ideology: When Fox ran for the leadership in 2005 he said that the Conservatives needed to fix Britain’s “broken society” by focussing on family values and welfare reform. During his time as Defence Secretary, Fox opposed Government plans to increase the Foreign Aid Budget, while refusing to back any substantial reduction in the armed forces. Fox voted against same sex marriage and is a member of ‘Conservative friends of Israel’.

BME issues: “What do you call three dogs and a black bird?” Asked Fox, “the Spice Girls.” He was heavily criticized for telling such a sexist and racist joke at a Christmas Party and the controversy could all be dug up again if his leadership bid gathers some steam. The comment was made 16 years ago though, and he has since apologized. 

On Charities: Liam Fox launched the charity “Give Us Time” in 2012, which provides holiday homes for families of those in the armed service. It aims to help the loved ones of those recovering from trauma to adjust in a relaxed environment.

 

5)      Andrea Leadsom (The Positive Brexiter)

Summary: Few people had heard of Andrea Leadsom before the EU Referendum campaign, but she made a name for herself while arguing for Brexit in a series of televised debates. Many remarked that she outperformed Boris at times, and came across as much more positive than some of her fellows in the Leave Campaign. Leadsom has only been an MP since 2010 and was first made a minister in 2014. If she does become Prime Minister this year, it will be a truly remarkable rise.

Ideology: Because she is so new on the scene nobody knows very much about Leadsom’s ideology. Her background is in the financial sector, and unlike her other Brexiters, Leadsom spoke a lot about the economic benefits of leaving the EU. Despite serving as the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, she has voiced her opposition to wind farms and European renewable energy targets.

BME issues: Leadsom has said little about the BME community, and has avoided Liam Fox style gaffes. Like all parts of the Leave Campaign though, she is vulnerable to criticism about her rhetoric on migration.

On Charities: Leadsom founded the Parent Infant Partnership in 2012, a charity which gives support to babies who are struggling to form a bond with their primary caregiver. She believes that these services can offer a real difference to newborn babies and their parents.

 

We have no Boris, we have no Osborne and we have no stand out favourite. This leadership contest could certainly get messy. Who's up for some more backstabbing? 

 

Ben Andrew