South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes has all but given his backing to former London mayor Boris Johnson to be Britain’s next Prime Minister.
Nominations for the Conservative Party leadership and the keys to Number 10 Downing Street close at noon today, with the new Prime Minister set to be in place by September 9.
I value my privacy and commitment to South Holland and the Deepings too greatly to consider the leadership position and I’ve always seen myself, first and foremost, as a constituency MPSouth Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes
Mr Hayes confirmed that he would be backing a candidate who campaigned in favour of a “Leave” vote in last Thursday’s UK-wide referendum on whether European Union (EU) membership should be maintained.
“The one person who can lead the Conservative Party as we go forward is someone who backed our exit from the EU,” Mr Hayes said.
“I don’t think we can fudge this issue and vote for someone who campaigned to remain in the EU.
“Whilst there are some people who are still in denial about this issue, the Conservative Party must be led by those who made the case to leave the EU.”
The leadership election was triggered after Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to resign last Friday when the outcome of the EU referendum became known.
Mr Cameron and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne led the campaign for a “Remain” vote under the banner “Britain Stronger Together in Europe”.
Signalling his support for Mr Johnson to be the next Prime Minister, Mr Hayes said: “Boris Johnson was clearly a leading light in the campaign for us to leave the EU and I’ve not yet heard an extremely powerful argument as to why he shouldn’t be the one to carry this forward.”
But Mr Hayes appeared to rule out any ambitions for the top office by insisting that his constituency responsibilities come first.
The position of Mr Hayes, Minister for Security in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Government, was made clear within minutes of the Tory leader’s resignation on Friday morning.
Mr Hayes said: “I would have liked David Cameron to continue as Prime Minister, but at least he will stay on until the autumn.
“In the meantime, we will have an election for a new leader and we’ll have to see how that turns out.
“As for me, I value my privacy and commitment to South Holland and the Deepings too greatly to consider the leadership position.
“I’ve always seen myself, first and foremost, as a constituency MP.”
Meanwhile, Mr Hayes came out strongly against a series of racial incidents that were reported after the 52 per cent to 48 per cent vote against continued EU membership last Friday.
So far, South Holland and the Deepings has avoided any incidents similar to that in Huntingdon on Sunday when racist leaflets were left on cars near a Cambridgeshire school.
Mr Hayes said: “I’ve been campaigning for racial equality all my political life and, at the end of the day, the EU referendum wasn’t about ethnicity or race.
“It was about the future of our country and the right to govern ourselves.
“Of course, there is an issue around immigration and no one has made any secret of that.
“Part of governing ourselves is having control of our borders and ending the free movement of people which has done so much harm across Europe.
“But people shouldn’t confuse that with the need to build a strong society, built on respect for each other and the key characteristics of civil, social values that are essential for a society to work.”