Leadsom vs May – Two Risky Options

Theresa May - Andrea Leadsom - Conservative Tory Party leadership

The very qualities which make Theresa May an awful Conservative leadership candidate on domestic policy mean that she is best equipped to handle our tough secession negotiations with the EU in Brussels. But the future leadership of the United Kingdom cannot be viewed solely through the lens of Brexit…

Dr. Richard North perfectly captures this blog’s dilemma in trying to choose between two highly sub-optimal candidates for Conservative Party leader and the next prime minister:

With a final contest between May and Leadsom, [if] Leadsom wins, we are faced with the great danger of having a woman as prime minister who has little understanding of what it takes to negotiate a successful withdrawal from the EU, and no capacity to develop that understanding.

On the other hand, if May is elected, we are faced with a danger just as great, in having a prime minister who brokers an exit plan which is so successful that we end up stuck with it, and in a position far worse than we are at present.

If this sounds perverse, it is. What we are seeing from the “remains” is a sudden enthusiasm for the Efta/EEA or “Norway option”, an option which, prior to the referendum, they had all been falling over themselves to demolish.

This, as readers here well know, we support as an interim option, acknowledging that it would be completely untenable for the United Kingdom in the longer term. We thus look for a different end game, which then takes us out of the EEA – with other Efta members – leaving the Agreement to collapse.

Unfortunately, the opposition is wise to the flaws of the EEA option and, from the Robert Schuman Foundation, the intellectual heart of the EU, we see proposals to modify the EEA to such an extent that it will soften some of the worst features of the EEA, and thus weaken the pressure to move on.

Dr. North goes on to describe the chicanery by which this might be accomplished – basically by making the EEA Council rather than the Council of the European Union the lead body in approving single market legislation, tackling the (already disingenuous) complaint that being in the EEA means accepting all of the rules while “having no say”.

While superficially appealing, this could lead to Britain being permanently parked in a significantly sub-optimal position on the edge of a still-integrating Core EU in which the eurozone would inevitably be dominant. It would certainly undermine one of the key benefits of Brexit to an interim EFTA/EEA access “departure lounge”, namely the restoration of Britain’s right of reservation which we could apply to new regulation which threatened to inflict significant or unacceptable harm on our key industries or vital national interests.

But while a Theresa May premiership increases the risk that Britain is sucked into a sub-optimal “associate member” status on the EU’s margins, Andrea Leadsom would do almost the exact opposite – invoke Article 50 almost immediately and then effectively let Jesus take the wheel, hoping that something satisfactory is miraculously negotiated within two years. Having recently started to appreciate the true complexity of the global trading and regulatory environment, largely thanks to my involvement with The Leave Alliance, it is immediately apparent that Leadsom’s cavalier approach to our EU secession negotiations is fundamentally unserious, no matter how genuine her euroscepticism.

Leaving aside issues of personality, experience and gravitas – for few could seriously deny that May would be the more formidable negotiator to fight Britain’s corner – it is hard to see how a Leadsom negotiation could succeed when the candidate seems sure of little besides her impulse to take Britain out of the EEA, making our trade subject to the EU’s common external tariff in the far from certain hope that doing so dramatically cuts immigration.

Therefore, from a purely Brexit-related perspective, Theresa May seems (counter-intuitively) to be the better choice if we want to maximise our chances of escaping from the EU’s always-tightening political union while disrupting trade as little as possible – even if this means that we have to remain permanently vigilant to ensure that May does not backslide from her commitment that Brexit means Brexit.

But of course this Tory leadership election is not only about Brexit – though our secession from the European Union is by far the most important issue on our national plate, and will be for some time. Still, other issues cannot be overlooked entirely. Foreign policy, civil liberties, economic freedom, education, healthcare and the role of government matter enormously too. And in many of these areas, Theresa May is extraordinarily deficient.

This is why I cannot simply swallow my distaste and endorse Theresa May outright. All of these other policy considerations must also be factored into the mix – which is what I shall attempt to do in my next blog post.


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Top Image: BT

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7 thoughts on “Leadsom vs May – Two Risky Options

  1. Sean McCormack July 9, 2016 / 10:38 AM

    Theresa May might just about have the political skills to navigate our Passage Through the Red Sea.

    But does she have the wisdom and vision to lead us into The Promised Land?


    • Samuel Hooper July 9, 2016 / 1:35 AM

      I’m still genuinely torn and haven’t yet finally made up my mind. My Brexit hat says pick Theresa May because she is most likely to be able to effectively negotiate the kind of secession that I want to see, but my Everything Else hat keeps pointing out that an ideologically rootless, power hungry authoritarian like Theresa May is everything that this blog has been campaigning against for years, the very worst instincts of the Conservative Party made flesh.

      I’m still not sure which side to come down on. I keep hoping to see some small sign that Andrea Leadsom has a previously unnoticed level of depth or curiosity, something, anything that could make her “heir to Thatcher” claim seem plausible, but so far I’m coming up short. As you say, a nearly impossible choice.

      Which way are you leaning?


  2. Heather Newham July 8, 2016 / 7:38 PM

    OMG! And it is a revelation to me that two, modern political women place so much faith in a God. Where have they been lately? Don’t they read books like Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”? And my hopes for placing my faith (excuse pun) in Andrea Leadsom were shattered by her revelations 2 days ago, that she doesn’t support same-sex marriages and would like to repeal the ban on fox hunting. At least Theresa May, I believe, does support gay marriage. Not sure about her views on fox-hunting. In the words of Lenin, “What is to be done”? We seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

    What’s worse is that this vitally important job may be decided by the 150,000 or so of Conservative Party members. I thought we were fighting to get out of an undemocratic European Union so that we could make our own decisions and doesn’t that involve the whole UK electorate?

    Perhaps we should not be in such a hurry to trigger Article 50 – let’s have some breathing space in order to come to a considered opinion. Does that entail a General Election? Whoa – wait, might that mean the Remaniacs would feel they could have a second bite of the bullet? And who would we want to be in power after such an election? Warring Tories or in-fighting Corbynistas? I don’http://leavehq.com/t have any solutions, I’m afraid. Anyone out there brighter than me?


  3. Chauncey Tinker July 8, 2016 / 2:57 PM

    I have put forward my own take on May’s leadership bid in two blog posts (I’m working on a third).

    If May becomes Prime Minister then “Extremist Banning and Disruption Orders” will become law and we will begin to edge ever closer to a police state. Please take the time to consider this because in my mind it is a bigger danger than any of the others being talked about currently. You may think these orders will be used only against genuine “extremists” but let me paraphrase the eternal words of Pastor Martin Niemöller:

    “First they came for the Islamophobes, and I did not speak up because I was not an Islamophobe…”

    “Then they came for the bloggers, and I did not speak up because I was not a blogger…”

    and so on, you know the rest.



    I particularly draw your attention to the story in the second post, about (alleged) interference with the free press.



    • Samuel Hooper July 8, 2016 / 4:17 PM

      Thanks for this – both good pieces, and I agree with nearly all of the criticisms which you level at Theresa May. I remain torn, however, because I have no assurance that Andrea Leadsom understands the complexity of Brexit. She wants to trigger Article 50 before we even arrive at an understanding of what we want from Brexit, never mind our European negotiating partners. To Leadsom, everything seems very simplified – just cut the cord and 40 years of slow but steady political integration with Brussels can be undone, just like that, with no harm. Brexit is the most important thing on the nation’s plate, and I have no sense that Leadsom understands the magnitude of it, or that she has the experience or gravitas to guide us through.

      That being said, for the many reasons I’ve given on this blog (many of which you echoed in your pieces), Theresa May is about the last person I want to see installed in 10 Downing Street. I think she would be utterly poisonous for our remaining civil liberties and potentially the most snarlingly authoritarian prime minister in recent history.

      It’s a near impossible choice for me.


      • Chauncey Tinker July 8, 2016 / 5:30 PM

        Thanks for the feedback.

        I share all your concerns about Leadsom, but ultimately in my mind it comes down to 3 things:

        1. “I think she would be utterly poisonous for our remaining civil liberties and potentially the most snarlingly authoritarian prime minister in recent history.” i.e. what you said about May.

        2. I believe that Leadsom is genuine about Brexit and I am not at all sure that May is, or will be further down the line if she thinks its in her advantage to delay Brexit ever further. I think May is quite addicted to power and we may not even have seen the worst of that until she is in the top job. May didn’t just back Remain, her ideas towards curbing free speech are absolutely in line with the worst instincts of the EU. The EU were also talking about curbing “hate speech” in a recent directive.

        3. Finally I believe Leadsom will be more inclined to listen to wiser and more experienced voices, whereas May will be certain she knows what’s best and ignore them. May also has a (half) endorsement from Kenneth Clarke if I’m not mistaken, a true europhile. This is more than ever a time when people need to get busy joining the debate and throw their arguments into the ring. The referendum is only the beginning of the beginning. We need a better standard of debate. There are still weeks before the final vote, so there is time to make a sound case for your argument for delaying Brexit a little, for example. I think Leadsom can get us out of the EU, with the right kind of help.

        Liked by 1 person

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