Nicky for the Nation

This week’s Tory conference put the party squarely in the centre of British politics – exactly where it needs to be. Despite a somewhat bombastic speech from Teresa May, some questionable remarks from ‘Call Me Dave’ and the best efforts of the loony left, it seems the Blues are back in business, perhaps a little sanguine and pretty self-assured. But, as previous articles have no doubt explained, the job description for next decade’s leader is looking rather lengthy.

“Heir to Thatcher and Cameron legacies wanted. Obliged to win election and inspire confidence. Must appeal to left, right and floating voters with a sizable dollop of backbench appeasement. Corbyn-thrasher, absolutely non-negotiable. Charm and appealing personality vital but must remain genuine. Most difficult post in the UK up for grabs. Experience essential. No gaffes please.”

Personally, I’d prefer a socio-economic liberal from the moderate wing of the party, and such an applicant would be much better suited to eat into an inevitably stronger Liberal vote and distribute an effective vaccination to Socialism. Though any future Prime Minister should be judged on their abilities and not their gender, it would also be rather good to have a woman at the head of the operation, giving the centre-right a fine opportunity to play their ‘Iron Lady’ card without acquiescing to some of her more divisive policies. An impossible job? Step forward Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan.

Since entering Parliament in 2005, Nicky has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Conservative ranks, colleagues noting her competence, skill and determination. Ascending through the Whips’ Office and Treasury, she was finally appointed Education Secretary in 2014, taking over from the controversial Michael Gove with a deliberate air of freshness and light. Following the surprising General Election – in which she stood and fought for her marginal constituency rather than taking the easy road of a safe seat on the other side of the boundary – she’s kept her key brief and impressed with regular appearances on Question Time and her involvement with the Bright Blue think-tank, responsible for many of the best and most optimistic ideas influencing the modern Conservative party. Tuesday’s conference speech was of her usual, high standards.

If you’re thinking she’s too good to be true, I’ve dug up two small blemishes, just to address that concern head-on. The first little error of judgment was implying that STEM subjects which have lucid career paths are superior choices compared to artistic fields which reap the rewards of overemphasis; it’s conceivable that a point may be found there, but I don’t think it was a great choice of words. Secondly, the issue of same-sex marriage manifests itself before the court. Morgan voted against this bill of equal opportunity as “on the day of the vote, I had 285 people who had written asking me to vote against it and just 24 asking me to vote for it; at that point, it was clear to me that people in my constituency wanted me to vote against it.”

She also cited her Anglican faith and a few technicalities in the proposed legislation which led her to oppose the motion, but it’s the inference that letter-writing is the best method of determining public views which really bugs me. At risk of descending into the realm of lazy stereotypes, it seems much more likely that supporters of Equal Marriage will attend Pride Rallies, sign petitions or celebrate equality over social media than pen a letter to their Tory MP. The opposite’s probably true as well. Morgan failed to recognise how the diversity of the electorate is reflected in their methods of expression, which are equally varied and wonderful.

It wasn’t much of a surprise, therefore, that the ‘Women and Equalities’ brief was sliced in two during the last cabinet reshuffle, with Morgan getting a brief which I’d rather see go down the pan and the latter half going to rising star Sajid Javid. However, when the repentant Education Secretary voiced her change of heart, the posts were promptly recombined and she holds all of them today. But let’s face it: I’m nit-picking, really.

In Nicky Morgan, the Tory Party has its best shot at an election-winning figurehead who will see them extend their time in Government to at least fifteen years and oust the noble Mr Corbyn from the Labour frontbench. Under her leadership, I’m sure the Conservatives will go from strength to strength and might well exceed the unbroken streak of power which they enjoyed in the 1980s. I’d even suggest that the British people may have no better future leader in the two main parties of Westminster’s hallowed halls than her. But that probably isn’t a huge compliment with the Commons in its present state. Even so, she certainly has my vote.

Most of my ‘featured images’ are scrounged from a dingy, Public Domain corner of the internet. But this one’s from my own collection. In February, I was honoured to meet the Education Secretary as runner-up for the Lord Glenamara Memorial prize, a fantastic event in University College London which bookended my year as an MYP. NK