Crispin’s Telegraph article on the Conservative vote of confidence

Crispin wrote to the Telegraph following his decision to let it be known that he had written to Sir Graham Brady asking for a vote of confidence in the Conservative Party Leader. 

His article can be found on the Telegraph's website and the full text is also below. 


"It was with very mixed feelings that yesterday I let it be known that I had written to Sir Graham Brady asking for a vote of confidence in the Conservative Party Leader. 15% of Conservative MPs (48 today) are required to express that view to trigger such a vote. These letters can remain entirely private as our rules, uniquely in the world, place total trust in one person, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee. I made my position public as a private example is no example. There is a need to form a centre of gravity reflecting that much of politics is about creating alliances and majority positions, and individual decisions rarely succeed until they have inspired enough to follow. 

I also wanted to address the misplaced anxiety that these letters will become public. They are allowed to be private so that any MP from the most senior Minister to the newest MP can request a ballot without the angst of a public position inevitably seen as critical of an individual with all the implications for personal relationships that a public position brings. As Jacob Rees-Mogg recently found out, as did I in 2003, the act of publicly leading a rebellion is deeply uncomfortable and hurting within the Conservative family. It is unlikely to do your immediate prospects any good either. But as in 2003 and today I am convinced of the need to give my colleagues the public nudge to get them to write the private letter to enable resolution of our now critical leadership issue.  

No-one questions Theresa May’s public service and duty and her astonishing capacity for hard work. One of the keys of her senior ministerial and shadow ministerial longevity, not least as Home Secretary, is her risk management. She advances with great caution and deliberation and has a notorious command of detail. She is not one of nature’s delegators. This has been seen in the unhappy relationship between her and successive Brexit secretaries reflected in strategies pursued in parallel by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union.  Her style of leadership, determined to deliver a deal, guided by senior permanent civil servants has meant the initial clarity of her leadership campaign on Brexit, her Lancaster House speech has, as negotiations have been joined, has seen the UK comprehensively outmanoeuvred by the EU Commission’s negotiators ever since formal Article 50 notice of leaving the EU was given. Two weeks before then, the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee produced a report on the implications of ending the notice period with no agreement. We were unanimously clear, Remainers and Brexiteers together, that no agreement was very possible and should be planned for. We said that “such preparation would strengthen the Government’s negotiating hand by providing credibility to its position that it would be prepared to walk away from a bad deal.” 

Had we had the chance to vote yesterday, Parliament would have decided it was a bad deal by a majority of about 250. I agree that no deal is infinitely better than that bad deal. Ironically given the largely unchallenged statements by Remainers of the consequences of “crashing out”, it is the default to World Trade Organisation terms that gives businesses the certainty of the terms of trade going forward so they can make investment decisions in 109 days’ time. The proposed withdrawal agreement presents immediate uncertainty as to when the UK could conclude a Free Trade Agreement with anyone. Why would any nation commit its trade negotiators to engage with the UK until its long term position was clear? 

The country needs a leader who can articulate the vision of the opportunities available to Global Britain immediately after 29 March. A leader who can manage the move to WTO terms, to trade with confidence and be prepared to minimise any differences by engaging the hard interests of our EU neighbours exporters and the need to plug their budget gap. The British Prime Minister needs to lead us confidently to the optimistic new future the people chose on 23 June 2016. If we allow that decision to be stolen on the basis of unfounded and exaggerated anxieties over any short term difficulties created by the move to WTO terms British politics will take a generation to recover. Theresa May has at times found this clarity, but too infrequently recently to give me confidence. She can of course win the renewed confidence of her colleagues in any vote. We now need confidence, optimism and vision to meet the challenges of 2019 and embrace the opportunities that lie beyond. A country managing its relative decline entered the EEC in 1973. It is a very different country that now seeks the freedom to enjoy our global competitive advantage across the world."