Very late one evening last week I was working alone in the House of Commons library when a colleague, whom I count as a good friend, came in and attempted to persuade me to switch my allegiance in the Tory leadership contest. At that time I was supporting Michael Gove, and he wanted me to switch to Theresa May. He was disappointed that he was unable to persuade me. Furthermore, he was unable to comprehend my preference to switch to Andrea Leadsom were Gove to be eliminated in the next ballot (which he subsequently was), notwithstanding my acceptance of all of Theresa May’s merits and that she would be a formidable prime minister.
I have read and listened to a great deal of ‘expert’ commentary and analysis explaining the ideological differences between the May and Leadsom camps, often going so far as to define them as two separate ‘tribes’. There may be a few tiny grains of truth in some of it, but – by and large – I believe that the commentators have added two and two, in order to try and make six.
Like my friend and colleague in the library, they fail to take account of what I call the random caprice of human nature, and assume that choice is rational. I come across this caprice all the time when discussing voting intentions on the doorsteps, but equally, I accept that I too am sometimes a prisoner of it.
I have known Theresa May since 1996 when I visited Germany with her on a fact finding mission prior the abandonment of the deutschmark and adoption of the euro. She has had a successful professional and political career. She has been our longest serving Home Secretary, in the department notorious for its difficulties. I have every confidence that, if elected, she will be a strong prime minister at a time when we certainly need one. I Know Theresa politically, but I do not know her personally, having never mixed in her circle and rarely met her socially.
Andrea Leadsom, by contrast, has had a much shorter political career, and I have known as a politician for a correspondingly shorter period. I know her socially however, and I count her as a friend. We have studied the Bible together, and prayed together. These relationships count for something in politics, as they do in any other walk of life. They rise above ideology, and tribal allegiance.