Boris Johnson's successor must be responsible, ethical and moderate. Here's who I think would be best for Scotland and the Union – Stephen Kerr MSP

Scottish Conservatives will always have the Union as a priority. With the cost-of-living crisis, a war in Europe, record drug deaths, and an increasing education attainment gap, there are many problems we face here in Scotland. We need a strong UK Government to help us address them.

That is why it was right for Boris Johnson to resign as Prime Minister. Given the well-publicised issues dogging his government, it was simply impossible to focus on the issues that assail our country. His resignation allows us to make a clean start. That we must do.

The next Prime Minister must deal with these problems, as well as addressing Nicola Sturgeon’s unwanted Indyref2 sideshow. I believe that this means we must elect somebody capable of uniting our country, someone with the vision to strengthen our common ties.

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Our next Prime Minister must have integrity and be of sound character. We simply cannot have rolling news stories about the personal lives of politicians. We are not looking for a puritan or a Trappist monk, but we are looking for serious candidates who will be able to focus on governing the country well without other distractions.

A clean start in my eyes means on this occasion looking past some of the more established members of the Cabinet. While they may have experience, being too close to power for too long can sometimes desensitise politicians to the bread-and-butter concerns of the members of the public, and I am concerned that it would not represent a significant enough change from the previous administration.

We need a UK Government that continues to listen directly to Scotland. The institutions that hold our United Kingdom together are not best served by having all Scottish opinion limited to the views of the Scottish Government. Scotland has so much more to offer and far more expertise and insight than is offered by the SNP and the Scottish Greens!

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We need democratic voices that bring together people from across the United Kingdom. The voices of local government, in all its messy variety from the islands of the west to the industrial heart of central Scotland, must be heard at a UK level. A sound leader will listen directly to those voices and set up the infrastructure for them to be heard.

Tom Tugendhat delivers the first speech of his Conservative Party leadership campaign yesterday (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

We need a Prime Minister who will enhance the social union. Understanding the common bond that is shared across the whole United Kingdom. It is the bond of family and that means all of us making sacrifices so that those most in need get the help they need, whether they are in Stornoway, Stirling, or Stevenage.

The next Prime Minister must be someone who takes the circumstances we find ourselves in, imposed on our country by global conditions beyond our control, and comes up with policies that work for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Conservative & Unionist Party has had a reputation for making difficult decisions for the good of the country. Anyone taking up residence at Number 10 needs to have a spine, be willing to take those decisions and face the public to explain why.

We also need a long-term economic plan that invests in key infrastructure and tackles our persistent productivity gap. We need lower taxes to attract investment, but also to ensure Scottish companies can meet their potential. We need a vision for the UK economy that rises above petty divisions and focuses on good jobs and prosperity for everyone.

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It is always difficult for a Prime Minister to take office between elections. You have MPs who supported the previous leader, and others who campaigned for somebody else to become leader. That is why, most importantly, the new Prime Minister must be a unifying figure who can count on the confidence of the parliamentary party. What this means for the country is a united government pulling in the same direction, vital for difficult times.

Having trailed all those necessary traits, I believe there is one candidate who would meet all the above requirements. It is Tom Tugendhat, the esteemed chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I offer my support to him and here is why.

He is a proven leader, having served as a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq. Throughout his life, Tom has put his country first and he understands the meaning of duty. He has risked everything in the service of our country. I am certain Tom Tugendhat would be a Prime Minister for the whole United Kingdom.

He would unify, not divide us. He would give us a clean start. While Tom is not by any means a career politician, first elected to parliament in 2015, he has earned the respect of members on all sides of the House of Commons.

He has the backing of MPs from all wings of the party: from the chair of the Northern Research Group, Jake Berry, to Theresa May’s former Deputy Prime Minister and soft Brexit enthusiast Damian Green, and from Stephen Hammond, who lost the Conservative whip for voting against a “no-deal Brexit”, to leading Brexiteer Anne-Marie Trevelyan. He moves the debate on from “Remainers” and “Leavers” and brings people together to work for the common good.

Tom spoke to a meeting of Scottish Conservatives only a few months ago at our conference in Aberdeen. He impressed us with his decency, his honesty, and his forthrightness. He will be a formidable opponent for Nicola Sturgeon, but he will go way beyond that to strengthen the very ties that keep our country together.

He is a clean start. He will be a leader who will govern responsibly, ethically, and moderately for all the people. He will be the Prime Minister that Scotland needs.

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Stephen Kerr is a Scottish Conservative MSP for Central Scotland

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