I always said I would stand to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister if my colleagues asked me to. They did and I was as good as my word.
I stood on a platform of giving a stronger voice to the north and the regions, and putting more money into education and policing. It is something I care passionately about. I wanted £4 billion extra funding into education, which would cover the £2 billion gap in core school funding, £1 billion in under-funding of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) provision and the remainder would address areas such as FE funding.
From conversations I have had with our local head teachers and governors, I was repeatedly being told that school funding and the way it was formulated was a massive problem. I arranged for Education Secretary Damian Hinds to come to the constituency and meet with teachers and they were very clear with him about the problems we face in Cheshire. I believe action is needed now and that is the reason I pledged to put more money into education immediately.
My other priority was £3 billion for policing. I heard the same message when meeting with our new Chief Constable, more money was needed to deliver what the public wanted and I know from talking to people across the constituency crime is a concern. The Conservatives have always been the party of law and order and I wanted to show our Police officers how much we value them so I wanted to go further than just the immediate £3 billion cash injection, but to introduce a Police Covenant – as there is for Armed Forces personnel –which would recognise the risks they take on behalf of the public and guarantee inflation-proof pay rises each year and set out how they will be supported.
I was clear that there is only so much money and all these promises needed to be funded. I do not believe in spending money we have not got and getting into debt so it was about re-using money in more sensible way so we are actually spending money on the priorities people have in this country. I proposed the £7 billion be funded by returning the overseas aid budget to the generous 2010 levels. I was not suggesting we stop overseas aid; it was never about that, it was about taking it back to a generous level and using the extra money freed up to deliver priorities across the country.
I am now supporting Boris Johnson in the leadership race as he has promised to deliver Brexit on October 31 and that is what the public, predominantly, want us to do. Once that is done we can then focus on delivering a domestic agenda and regaining the trust of the public, who rightly are frustrated by the delay to Brexit. He also promised to support Blue Collar Conservatism, a group I launched in Parliament aimed at starting a big conversation across the country asking people want priorities they want government to deliver. It is also about regaining trust which has been lost due to the failure to leave the European Union on 29th March. On some Thursday evenings before I head back to the constituency I am hosting events in pubs across the country with MPs and constituents from the area listening to their concerns and priorities. The pub idea stemmed from a successful series of pub visits last summer across the constituency.
Many people have asked me if I am disappointed I did not make it to the final two and the answer is no, for I stood with the purpose of raising key issues that needed to be heard on a bigger platform. The police, education and the north. Those pledges have been heard and will now be taken forward by the next Conservative leader.