The resolute approach: the case for Dominic Raab │ Daniel Cremin

Few should be under any illusions about the seriousness of the position the Conservative Party has placed itself in as a consequence of May’s reign of error. The achievement of a form of Brexit that is bona fide in the eyes of voters who could conceivably vote for us at the next General is the sine qua non for our survival.

If we fail this test – yet again – then we have no chance of fending off the onslaught of The Brexit Party, let alone keeping Corbyn out of Number 10.

Do not mistake my point here. We are not a single-issue party, nor should we ever be. It is of course true that Brexit is not the only great challenge facing this country and our party.

To get the UK back on the rise we will need to be resilient in the face of very adverse political weather conditions. We will need to confound expectations, rekindle flagging spirits, and inspire the country through action.

In short, we will need to recapture the same spirit or ethos Mrs Thatcher made the central theme of her critical party conference in 1982, when her enemies were circling within and beyond the party with greater boldness. The ethos of the ‘resolute approach’. This means not standing in the middle of the road, hoping not to get hit. Not following the path of least resistance. Not ducking the big challenges or meekly aping our opponents.

To have any chance of survival, we must be clear about what we stand for and what we intend to do about it. For example:

 

  • How do we regain the political initiative to build a freer yet more responsible society?
  • What will we strive to conserve in the cross hairs of the culture wars and resurgent nanny statism in the West? What freedoms should we restore? What norms and institutions must we staunchly defend?
  • What we want to change to strengthen the country and make it more opportunity-rich? How can we build a consensus around meritocracy that places a stronger emphasis on work ethic and individual responsibility than the current political debate and policy agenda reflects?
  • What role do we want to play in the world at a time of intensifying protectionism and mistrust? How do we bolster our economic competitiveness and our national security?

 

But as much as the party needs a Prime Minister – and a refreshed, politically hungry, top-tier leadership team – to drive a new agenda, none of that matters if we fail to leave the EU by 31 October. We will not get a hearing if we yet again kick the proverbial can of Brexit down the road. Instead, we are more likely to be kicked, unceremoniously, to the curb in short order.

This should be a serious contest, with viable candidates, not a de facto coronation

The task before the MPs and members is a solemn one. The party is choosing a leader who will either lead us out of the abyss or – at worst in the spectrum of conceivable scenarios – cement an unfavourable place in history as the last Conservative Party Prime Minister.

Some believe talk of an existential crisis is over-blown. It is not. The May era has been disastrous on many fronts – it has been deleterious to the intellectual vitality and self-respect of the Conservative Party. Many members, and some MPs, are on their last nerve as it is.

The party needs this contest, and, frankly, our voters need it, however infuriating they may find the present situation. As such, MPs need to give members a realistic choice of two candidates that a critical mass of voters who could conceivably vote for us would respect and trust enough to at least give a hearing to.

It seems highly unlikely that the Conservative Party membership would countenance voting for a candidate who backed Remain in 2016, or for a member of the current Cabinet were they to reach the final two for the member ballot. Many Conservative voters feel similarly.

Some of our MPs have not covered themselves in glory in recent years, but the 1922 Committee would earn real gratitude if they gave our members a genuine contest between Dominic Raab and the frontrunner Boris Johnson, rather than a foregone conclusion of Boris vs a candidate that, however fairly or unfairly, is seen to be part of the continuity Remain establishment.

 

Reasons for Raab

In my view, the best choice on offer in this contest is Dominic Raab. He is by no means the only choice – there are a number of highly capable candidates running. Nor is he the finished product – every successful political leader, including Churchill and Thatcher, grew in the role as events and experiences tested their judgment and skills. But he is the right choice for serious times.

There is a steely toughness to Raab’s character. A dispirited audience member in a recent edition of Question Time explained that he’d switched his lifelong vote for the Conservatives to the Brexit Party because the “strength” he associated with Conservative Party had been replaced by a softness and an unwillingness to be bold.

He is right. We have become placid, risk averse and desperate to please. We’ve allowed our fear of Jeremy Corbyn and criticism by Newsnight to drive a political strategy has ceded the intellectual initiative to the left in politics.

Raab would break this trend. Raab is ready to lead and brings with him not only a strong pedigree in terms of his skillset and experience, but an authentically Conservative ethos and an imaginative vision for the country.

Raab is an effective, incisive communicator and – just as importantly – he is a deep thinker with clear ideological convictions who has thought carefully about the future direction his country and party should take, setting out his ideas across a number of books and pamphlets over the years .

Raab will not have to ‘buy in’ his policies and his narrative from Onward or the One Nation Group. He knows his own mind and has a clear sense of what he would like to do to help this country reach new heights.

His big pluses in a nutshell:

  • He has a strong belief that Brexit is a rich opportunity for economic, social and constitutional revitalisation and for a more pro-active role for Britain on the world stage.
  • He is Thatcherite in his convictions in relation to the importance of individuality, liberty and the rule of law. He recognises the need to reverse the drift towards a more intrusive and interventionist state we have seen in recent years.
  • He is optimistic about human potential but realistic about human nature and the need to address the structural and cultural barriers that impede a meritocracy from thriving. His conception of fairness is nuanced and attuned to that of the British people. He associates fairness not with an egalitarian concept of treating everyone the same, but instead the more meaningful idea of people getting what they deserve for what they put into life.
  • He recognises that opportunities must be taken and that a strong work ethic and individual responsibility must be fostered in the social contract. He believes in the power of community organisations to turn lives around and that the best help is often self-help.
  • He is the best kind of Conservative when it comes to law and order. He seeks to actively challenge crime and anti-social behaviour, but in doing so provide the resources for rehabilitative and restorative justice to reduce reoffending and make communities safer.
  • He is determined to challenge unhealthy practices and producer interests in education, health and criminal justice to improve outcomes. He is a passionate proponent of greater choice, voice, accountability, innovation, and contestability in the arena of public services.
  • He is a proponent of free enterprise and a dynamic market-based economic framework where consumers and shareholders are empowered with fair rights and information to make informed decisions and exercise clout.
  • He wants to cut the tax burden and also reduce inefficiency and over-load in Whitehall through machinery of government changes to create a sleeker state that spends money more carefully.

We need May’s successor to be someone who can restore discipline and offer direction to a flailing government and a dispirited party. A Leader who can make difficult but necessary decisions. A Leader who is not gripped by a fierce need to be loved by voters or the media, but instead who inspires trust and respect for the serious times we live in through grit and clarity.

The election of Dominic Raab as Leader offers the prospect of a resolute approach to build a freer, fairer, more opportunity rich future for the UK outside of the EU. Instead of repeating the errors of the May era, he would seek to advance authentically Conservative ideas and ideals.

Raab is a highly competent Conservative with authentic convictions who would seek to be transformative in Number 10, rather than a timeserver. He knows where he wants to take the country and has the skillset and agenda to back it up. Now more than ever we need resolve, competence and creativity at the top of our government. Raab is ready and is the right choice.

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