Matt Hancock's pitch to be PM - ‘politics is stuck in a rut and I know how to get stuff done’
West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock is standing to be the country’s next Prime Minister and says he has the long-term vision to move British politics out of the ‘rut’ it’s trapped in.
The Health Secretary has entered the crowded race to replace Theresa May, who will resign as Conservative Party leader next Friday.
In an interview with the Bury Free Press, Mr Hancock, 40, said: “The next Prime Minister needs to be focused on the long-term future of Britain.
“Of course delivering Brexit in the coming months is important, but this is about what we want Britain to be in the 2020s.
“I’ve been lucky enough to learn in Government how to get stuff done and we need to get things moving because politics in Britain is stuck in a rut.
“I know from living in West Suffolk the frustrations people feel at things that can be improved and I want to get onto solving those sorts of problems – having properly- funded public services, people with more money in their bank account at the end of the month, as well as, of course, delivering Brexit in the short-term.”
The tipping point age at which a person is more likely to vote Conservative has risen to 51 and Mr Hancock hopes he can broaden his party’s reach to appeal to younger voters.
I’m going to be brutally honest about the trade-offs involved in delivering a Brexit deal in advance of asking MPs and party members for my vote - Matt Hancock
Mrs May was the latest in a string of Tory leaders to be felled by her party’s wrangling over the UK’s relationship with Europe after MPs rejected her withdrawal agreement three times.
Although the face at the helm will change, the Parliamentary arithmetic remains.
“We have to deliver Brexit within this Parliament,” Mr Hancock said.
“We can’t have a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit – that means agreeing a deal this Parliament will accept.
“The one thing that has passed Parliament is the proposal for alternative arrangements based on technology at the Irish border so we need to do much more on that to get a deal through.
“I’m going to be brutally honest about the trade-offs involved in delivering a Brexit deal in advance of asking MPs and party members for my vote because I want a mandate to be able to deliver a deal through Parliament so we can leave.”
Frontrunner Boris Johnson has insisted the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31 but Mr Hancock has poured cold water on this approach.
“I don’t think that no deal is a policy option available,” he said.
“In March we found Parliament was willing to change centuries of constitutional rules to legislate to stop no deal happening whether the Government chose to or not so I don’t think it’s a credible policy option for the next Prime Minister.”
However, he does not support a second referendum, insisting that Parliament must abide by the country’s decision in 2016.
The Conservatives and Labour suffered a drubbing in the European elections after both parties lost MEPs to the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats, which won 29 and 16 seats respectively.
On the message taken from those elections, Mr Hancock said: “We’ve got to deliver Brexit.
“We made a promise to do that but we also need to appeal to people who voted Lib Dem and people who floated with voting Labour.
“We’ve got to look to the future and provide people with hope and opportunities and I think we can do that.”
He has written to the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 to ask them to screen live Conservative leadership debates.
The BBC has already agreed and all candidates in the race by mid-June will have the chance to take part in a hustings event on BBC One. The final two will then appear in a Question Time Special.
“I want this to be a battle of ideas on policy in front of the public not just those who have got a vote like the MPs in the first round but the whole public,” Mr Hancock said.
“This isn’t just a debate about who’s going to be a party leader, this is a debate about who’s going to be the next Prime Minister.
“We should welcome the public into that debate.”
Candidates have until the week beginning June 10 to put their names forward for the leadership and MPs will pick the final two in a series of votes. Members of the Conservative Party will then decide the winner in a postal ballot.
It is expected the two-stage process could take as little as six weeks.
According to the Conservative Home website’s estimates of candidates with the most support from MPs so far, Mr Hancock was sixth out of the 11 candidates listed on the site on Wednesday.
Jeremy Hunt led the pack followed by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid.
“I’ve been flattered by the amount of support,” Mr Hancock said. “I’ve got enough support to put my name forward and there will be more news coming on this front.”
He is the first MP in modern times to win a horse race, having ridden to victory at the Newmarket July Course in 2012.
Asked about the secret to winning in a competitive field, he answered: “It’s all about timing.”
On his message to West Suffolk while he runs for the top job, Mr Hancock said: “It’s been a great privilege to represent West Suffolk in Parliament over the last nine years whilst also undertaking a series of ministerial roles and it gives me a great foundation to put my name forward for the highest office in the land.”