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Gloucestershire Business News

Who will our Gloucester MP vote for in the upcoming election for the next Prime Minister?

By Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester

By the end of next weekend around 170,000 Conservative Party members will have cast their votes for either Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson as new Conservative leader and Prime Minister.

I've known both candidates well over the last decade: so who do I think should now be Prime Minister and why?

Jeremy Hunt twice visited Gloucester as Health Secretary at my invitation. He focused on how the Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust turned round its performance, and was well received speaking to a couple of hundred NHS professionals about his particular cause - patient safety. A lot of improvement led by Jeremy with the NHS has been made here, especially on the quality of weekend treatment.

Since he became Foreign Secretary I've also seen close up Jeremy's sure touch for speaking up on human rights, freedom of the media, Nazanin Ratcliffe, the protests in Hong Kong against a proposed Extradition Bill and peace talks on Yemen. He also commissioned the Bishop of Truro's excellent report on threats to christians around the world. Jeremy wants Britain to walk tall in the world, and he is already doing this successfully.

Boris Johnson (whose office is next to mine in the House of Commons) when Foreign Secretary supported the case I made for doing more in and with SE Asia and appointed me Chair of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. He made a popular visit to Kingsholm and the city centre before the Rugby World Cup here in 2015, reaching parts other politicians don't reach, to misquote the Heineken ad.

But reliability is not his brand. Will he lie down in front of the bulldozers at Heathrow Airport to prevent any third runway?

Nor do I have much faith in his 'a million to one against' a No Deal outcome on how we leave the EU. Guaranteeing that we leave by the end of October increases the likelihood of No Deal at the same time as Parliament has consistently rejected it. There is a real risk with Boris of a General Election before we leave the EU.

Above all Boris's failure not to rule out suspending Parliament is to me extraordinary. The Leave EU Campaign in the Referendum hinged on Bringing Back Control to our own sovereign Parliament. Now Team Boris flirts with dismissing Parliament if it does not agree with the new Leader. We've been here before, readers, in the 1630s and it didn't end well. So no echo of a Civil War and no dictators in my name: he should rule such an idea out now.

Both candidates recognise the three critical tasks for a new leader are to take us out of the EU: unite our Party and country; and defeat Jeremy Corbyn in the next General Election.

In three successive recent independent polls the public has shown it prefers Jeremy Hunt as Prime Minister, thinks him most likely to defeat Jeremy Corbyn in a General Election and better at unifying the country. His experience and honesty are a big part of the reason for this.

The third question is then Brexit. The candidates aim for similar solutions in leaving the EU but have a different style, and Jeremy has more negotiation credibility. But Boris oozes a blustery self confidence that is popular with many who just want out of the EU, and are fed up with waiting.

Jeremy knows the details are crucial and wants to get the right Deal - real jobs are at stake, as my inbox of messages from local businesses confirms.

Beyond Brexit there are important political choices. I am strongly backing Jeremy's policies to reduce business tax, get the economy steaming ahead, provide more tax to find public services and above all social care and greater literacy at primary schools. Yes to HS2 and yes to net zero carbon by 2050. These are good causes at the heart of Jeremy Hunt's economic and social mission

So this is a classic dilemma for Conservative members, involving head and heart. Ultimately I believe politics is about Trust: I vote for whom I think most likely to deliver what he says and tells me not what I want to hear, but what I need to hear.

Being Prime Minister is a job of massive responsibility and I vote for Jeremy Hunt. As do the Mayor and Sheriff of Gloucester, the President of Gloucester Conservatives and many others, but certainly not all: Boris remains the favourite. Local members have the chance to see both cross examined at the Gloucestershire hustings this Friday.

There is one thing to add. Political parties only thrive with a sense of loyalty and unity once a leader has been elected. The wider public wants the party of government to deliver good government and hates squabbling or disunity. So whomever wins will have my loyalty - within the boundary of not trying to overrule Parliament through suspension.

I've now voted three times to leave the EU and I hope that next time will see Parliament pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, so that businesses across county and country can have certainty about what comes next, and prepare accordingly.

We'll know the leadership result on July 22nd and after a quick vote in Parliament the new government sets to work. There is plenty to be done..

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