Jeremy Hunt Launch Speech, Royal Academy of Engineering Monday 10th June 2019
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen.
Our failure to deliver Brexit has put our country and our party in grave peril.
The leadership I offer is based on one simple truth: without Brexit there will be no Conservative government and maybe no Conservative Party.
Whoever delivers Brexit will win the next election for the Conservative party.
But without Brexit no Conservative Prime Minister can win.
So delivering Brexit and winning the next election are not different things - they are the same.
And the person most likely to do that is someone who can negotiate a deal that will pass through parliament.
As an entrepreneur and a cabinet minister who has spent his whole life doing negotiations, I am that person.
But before I explain how we need to go forward, let me pay tribute to Theresa May and the unflinching sense of duty she has shown as our Prime Minister.
History will be more generous to her than the newspapers today because alongside her setbacks in parliament, it will also record her extraordinary dedication to party and country alongside her wholehearted commitment to delivering the referendum result.
When we leave the European Union, her role in shaping our departure - not least the priority she attached to control of our borders - will be judged both significant and honourable, and I thank her for her service to our country
I’ve been a Cabinet Minister for 9 years now and have had the privilege of serving two Prime Ministers. But I’d be different to both.
I’d be the first Prime Minister who has been an entrepreneur - creating hundreds of jobs in a way that goes to the heart of what we stand for as a party.
Margaret Thatcher inspired others to go into politics but in my case she inspired me to start a business and I will never forget having the great honour of thanking her for this in person shortly before she passed away.
I’d also be the first Prime Minister to have been responsible for our biggest public service, the NHS, a post I held for longer than anyone else during which, perhaps not coincidentally, I saw my first grey hairs emerge.
Being responsible for the fifth largest employer in the world - and our country’s biggest social mission - was never easy but it was always a privilege.
And as a Conservative I understood the foundations on which the NHS rested. Yes I was proud to secure its biggest ever funding increase - double what Labour had promised - but that was only possible because we had turned the economy round. Every single one of the 1000 jobs we have created every day since 2010 paid taxes that funded the spending increases the NHS needed -when we said ‘a strong NHS needs a strong economy’ it wasn’t just a slogan, it was the truth.
But as the health secretary who dealt with Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay, Southern Health and Gosport I was even prouder about the improvements in care for individual patients and their families - with 2.7 million more patients every year using good or outstanding hospitals by the end.
Today’s endorsements by James Titcombe and Debs Hazeldine means as much to me as those of any of my Conservative colleagues- although they are also most welcome. And I would also be first Prime Minister for half a century who has won a marginal seat. Like Amber Rudd, whose endorsement I was so proud to receive today, I know what it’s like to fight for every single vote.
I didn’t need the European elections to teach me that the Liberal Democrats should never be underestimated. And I know we will never govern as a majority unless we get fully behind our candidates and MPs in marginal seats.
So as a campaigner I know challenging elections can be won.
As an entrepreneur I know there’s no success without risk.
And as a Brit I know there’s nothing our great country can’t achieve.
Which takes us to Brexit.
With me to face the unyielding Brussels machine you’ll be sending in a Prime Minister who has been negotiating all his life.
I’ve always said I would be prepared to leave without a deal if there was a straight choice between no deal and no Brexit. But I would do so with a heavy heart because of the risks to businesses and the union. And I would not do so if a deal that commands the support of parliament was in sight.
But parliament has made clear its intentions to take no deal off the table no matter what the new Prime Minister says or does.
So without a deal any Prime Minister who promised to leave by a certain date would have to call a General Election to change the parliamentary arithmetic.
That is an election we would lose badly.
Because the lessons of the European and Peterborough elections are clear. If we fight an election before delivering Brexit, we will be annihilated.
Squeezed by the Brexit Party on the right and the LibDems on the left we simply allow Labour through the middle.
And if that happened nationally it would be the end of Brexit. Because whatever else a Labour government did - and I worry about all of it - it would never deliver Brexit.
So we need to get real. We are facing a constitutional crisis. Our new Prime Minister will preside over a hung Parliament. A serious moment calls for a serious leader. We need tough negotiation, not empty rhetoric.
And faced with bad choices, we need a Prime Minister who can negotiate some better choices.
And that is what I will strive to do with every fibre in my being because having talked to many European leaders I believe that if we show determination, ingenuity and confidence, there is a deal to be done.
A deal that can get through parliament.
A deal that delivers on the referendum.
And a deal that allows our country to move on.
But just as I have never defined my own politics by Brexit, nor must we as a party.
We need to broaden our appeal to remainers, to women, to minorities, to young people and to the centre ground.
That means an economic vision - and as a tech entrepreneur I will fire up our country to be the world’s next Silicon Valley, a hub of innovation based on our world-class universities, our creativity and our inventiveness.
It means a social mission. Prosperity not just for its own sake but prosperity with a purpose.
I want the Conservative social mission to be education.
Not the 50% of school leavers who go to university and generally get an excellent education. But the 50% who don’t.
Too many of them leave education unable to read or add up properly and without the qualifications to get a well-paid job.
So I will negotiate a long-term plan with the teaching profession: more funding in return for a guarantee that we will be the first generation to abolish illiteracy and ensure no one leaves our education system without a rigorous qualification sufficient to work up to at least the average salary.
Then this country needs to start walking tall in the world.
My Dad was in the Navy throughout the Cold War. We followed him from Devon to Scotland to Portsmouth to Surrey.
When the Berlin Wall came down he had the sweetest win any military man could ever hope for: victory without firing a single shot.
While Jeremy Corbyn was marching for CND, my father and many others were marching for freedom.
That victory came because Britain, America and our NATO allies recognised that peace comes through strength.
I passionately want the United Kingdom to continue its global vocation. But there is a price to paid for that. Properly funded armed forces.
Which is why, with a more aggressive Russia and a more autocratic China, I pledge to increase the proportion of our GDP we spend on defence alongside maintaining our 0.7% aid commitment and why I’m particularly delighted to have Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt here today to hold me true to that pledge.
Most of all, though, I want Conservatives to get our mojo back politically.
I won my seat by focusing relentlessly on voters in every corner of my constituency.
The votes we need as a party are those of young people.
Three years ago the average age below which people were more likely to vote Labour than Conservative was 35. Now it is 51. Carry on like this and our party will die on its feet.
How can the party of aspiration turn its backs on our country’s most aspirational people?
So yesterday I published five pledges for young people.
Mental health support in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that promote self-harm.
A cut in the interest rate paid on tuition fees.
1.5 million homes for young people.
Pollution free cities in 10 years.
And help for graduate entrepreneurs.
I want young people everywhere to know that a Conservative government is there for you.
And be inspired to do what I did when I joined the Conservative Party at just 19 years old.
My dreams then were to set up a business, buy a house and save for a family.
But they weren’t just my dreams. Back in 1985 they were also Conservative government policy.
But if Jeremy Corbyn wins the next election they won’t be my children’s dreams because Labour government policy will be to destroy those aspirations.
And we must never ever let that happen.
So the biggest single reason that I want to be Prime Minister is to make sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same opportunities we did.
To grow up in a prosperous and free country, bursting with opportunity for every single one of its citizens.
Not a divided country but a United Kingdom proud of its four nations who add up to far more together than they ever could alone.
A small island with less than 1% of the world’s land mass and less than 1% of the world’s population that has none the less done more than any country bar America to shape the modern world as we know it.
A country saved by the heroes of D-day we remembered last week.
But which looks to the future with confidence as much as the pride with which it looks on the past.
That is the potential I seek to unleash.
That is the country I seek to lead.
So choose me for unity over division.
For experience over rhetoric.
For tough negotiation over empty threats.
Choose me and I will take us through this time of crisis, deliver Brexit, and make our country walk tall in the world.