"This leadership race has been good for the Conservative Party. It has been conducted with civility and humour. That is to the enormous credit of both of the final two contenders. The Conservative Party has been in the national eye and the public have liked what it has seen. The party looks fresher than it has done for a long time. It certainly appears more united than an increasingly fractious and discredited Labour Government.
The other great achievements of the last six months have been that the Conservative Party looks more democratic and that it has renewed its one nation tradition.
The battle for internal party democracy that defined much of the early months of this contest was won by the democrats. It was essential that we won. A party that champions localism in the public services and democracy across the world could not deny its own members a say in its most important internal decision. The involvement of party members has certainly enriched the contest. The leadership wasn’t decided behind the closed doors of MPs’ offices. The leadership candidates had to appeal to party members in every part of the country – to Conservatives in seats held by the party and in regions where we have no representation. The enfranchisement of rank-and-file members made Blackpool the most exciting conference for many years. Imagine how it would have been if we had kept it amongst MPs?
The Conservative Party’s commitment to democracy must not stop here, however. Still bigger strides are necessary if we are to become a truly open party. Theresa May, as my Party Chairman, began a process of open primary selection for parliamentary seats. We need more of that openness to the views of the people we need to win elections.
The other great advance of this leadership election has been the renewal of the party’s one nation tradition. All of the major candidates have spoken at my Centre for Social Justice and have seasoned their platforms with commitments to Britain’s most vulnerable people. Liam Fox championed the mentally ill and women who have been victims of domestic violence. Ken Clarke described the impact of public service failure on the poorest families. David Davis outlined an international justice agenda that would appeal to the wristband generation. David Cameron launched the CSJ’s Alliance of poverty-fighting organisations and has promised support for a new era of social entrepreneurship.
Labour has failed to tackle our nation’s deepest forms of poverty. Its indifference to the stability produced by marriage and its confused drugs policies have undermined structure in communities. Gordon Brown’s stealth taxes and benefits maze have undermined incentives to work. There has rarely been a greater need for one nation Conservatism.
Throughout this process I have listened carefully to each of the candidates and consulted many of the voluntary groups that are part of the CSJ’S Alliance. They have genuinely been encouraged by the emphasis that all of the candidates have placed on social justice. They have enjoyed meeting them and they have felt that they have been listened to.
The whole party has made big promises to society’s poorest people. Those poorest people have turned away from politics because they have been repeatedly failed by here today, gone tomorrow politicians and their promises. Keeping our party’s promises to hard-pressed neighbourhoods is not just about social justice. It’s also about restoring integrity to political life.
I have now cast my ballot after having given every candidate access to the CSJ and its network of poverty-fighters for visits and speeches. That process of full and fair access ended last week. I have voted for David Cameron. It wasn’t an easy decision as I’ve been impressed by David Davis’ candidacy. His policies on patient choice and tuition fees are, for example, close to my own. However, I chose David Cameron after being struck by the growing belief amongst the voluntary groups working in the hardest pressed communities that he is best placed to deliver for them.
After six months of renewed unity and purpose my greatest hope is that the party won’t return to old, destructive ways once this contest is over. The parliamentary party almost needs a year zero. The election of David Cameron offers the party a great chance of a fresh start. He has promised to lead a team of all talents and I hope that that will include a substantial role for David Davis.
Whoever wins, this is the moment that the parliamentary party must to a man and woman determine to give that leader their unstinting support. Of course debate and argument are legitimate as we shape our future direction but this has to be done in the context of support for the leader. There must be no more noises off and personal briefings that have poisoned our party for too long."