The article, authored by David Jones, originally appeared in the Telegraph.
The Attorney General has the courage, skills and legal knowledge needed to make the right decisions as the next prime minister
Our Conservative Party is at a crossroads. As MPs we are given the weighty responsibility of deciding which two candidates should be put to the Party membership.
The stakes are high. There will be no second chances – because if we get it wrong the public will rightly judge we don’t deserve one. We have to choose the right person.
How do we make decisions about leaders? We look to their courage, their skills, their experience. The job of prime minister is demanding and unpredictable. So we need to predict how a person will behave in that role. To do that, we must look at what they do, rather than what they say. There is another element of prediction here – how will they fare before party members?
Courage is, I suppose, shorthand for all sorts of qualities. What are a person’s beliefs, and how deeply held are they? Under pressure, will they stand firm? Are they made of the right stuff?
Past behaviour is the best guide. Suella Braverman backed Brexit. But voting Brexit in the referendum was comparatively easy. It took courage to withstand the pressure of the Remainer Parliament. Suella did that. Not one of the other candidates did. I was proud to stand alongside Suella in the division lobby as she called out Theresa May’s deal for what it was: a betrayal of the British people and their vote for Brexit.
Details matter – especially when it comes to the law. Easy assertions will not cut it. As parliamentarians, the strongest and most powerful tool we have is our ability to make laws.
Parliamentary sovereignty is the great and defining strength of our constitution. We can’t afford to make mistakes – for the things we want to do, we’ll only get one shot. As Attorney General, Suella has the knowledge and professional expertise to understand this better than most.
Unfortunately, the Government has fallen into the trap of over-promising and under-delivering.
While the British Bill of Rights and the Nationality and Borders Act are a step forward, they will not solve the problem of illegal migration. As Suella correctly points out, we will have to leave the ECHR to do that.
Other prime ministers have similarly failed because of a lack of legal understanding. Theresa May (while Home Secretary) had the Modern Slavery Act – laudable in intent but very poorly executed. We are living with its consequences today.
The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking, coupled with May’s Act, mean that economic migrants who have happily paid thousands to make the Channel crossing are able to assert they did so against their will – which means statutory “cooling off” periods kick in. Then lawyers get involved, and the list of ECHR and other reasons not to deport grows and grows.
It all stems from bad legislation. May’s other legislation – the ratification of her Brexit deal – was also an abject failure. But there, at least, I’m sure Mrs May was perfectly aware that her alleged “Brexit” was nothing of the sort.
Experience of cabinet government and working the Whitehall system is crucial. Suella has that in spades. As Attorney General, she has played a crucial role in most important and difficult government decisions. From this she has current knowledge of most, if not all, government departments. You need that broad experience – you can’t run government on a single issue, however popular it may be.
Most other ministers have no inkling of the intricacies of their colleagues’ departmental work. Suella, however, is brought in at the most difficult moments to break a legal deadlock – she sees behind the curtain of the set piece weekly updates in Cabinet.
As a former secretary of state I know what cabinet government is like: you have to know the system and work your way through it. You also need to know how to stick to your guns in policy development and legislation.
We have so much talent in our party, and as I survey the field it is obvious that whatever happens, we will have a very strong Cabinet. But the next prime minister needs to hit the ground running. Suella can do that. What’s more, she will run towards the tough decisions, and she’ll get them right. Red Wall voters certainly seem to think so: recent polling shows that Suella’s policy platform – including ECHR withdrawal – has the highest support compared to other candidates.
Suella has the courage, skills, and experience needed to lead the Conservative Party. She is also undoubtedly the right person to lead our country at this unprecedentedly difficult time.
David Jones is chair of Suella Braverman’s leadership campaign and deputy chair of the European Research Group