Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely, has shifted the person he is supporting as the next leader of the Conservative Party away from Michael Gove.
The conversion from Gove to Boris Johnson was broken by BBC Westminster reporter Jessica Parker (ex-BBC South Today), revealed during BBC Politics reporter Chris Mason’s live coverage of yesterday’s voting ballot.
A significant change
With it being a significant change, we spoke to the Isle of Wight MP about his reasons for the change.
We opened by pointing out that the MP had been a staunch supporter of Gove in the previous weeks (he’d used hashtags like #Gove4PM #ReadyToLead on his official Twitter account), to which he responded:
“I was always slightly divided between the two of them. I hold both of them in high regard. I started off by hoping that Michael was going to run a really strong campaign. For various reasons I decided to back him – he’s a very good orator and he’s full of good ideas.
“I’ve changed to Boris because – and I’m not being negative about Michael – I think that Boris has run a better campaign. I’m more in tune with some of the things he’s saying, specifically on HS2 – I hope he’s going to scrap it, as we need that money spent on regional regeneration programmes, which includes the Isle of Wight.”
Seely: Johnson sympathetic to IW needs
He went on to say,
“I have talked with Boris about what the Island needs and he’s sympathetic.
“I think we badly, badly need to deliver Brexit. We need a resolution – and then we need to move on to other things.
“I also think that Boris has the ability to reach out to people who don’t normally vote – not everyone likes him – I do think he has the stature to achieve.”
We asked if that meant Seely didn’t think Gove wouldn’t deliver Brexit,
“I’m not saying that, I’m just saying that we need clarity. I think Boris is clear – and the one message I am getting from Islanders is, ‘Just get on with it’, and we need somebody who will just get on with it. It’s critically important.”
Johnson being open?
When we raised that one of the criticisms of Boris was that he hadn’t put himself forward for questioning, we asked was that a concern to Bob? He responded,
“He did last night [in the BBC debate].
“Boris has spent years in the public eye. He’s spent years debating the public. He had a big Sunday Times interview last week and he took part in the debate last night, so no – I don’t think that’s going to fly. He’s doing lots of Hustings.
“Just because he doesn’t talk at every single point where any journalist wants, it doesn’t mean that he is hiding.
“You could also say that he rejuvenated politics. That he reaches out to people who don’t normally vote.”
OnTheWight asked, “So Boris Johnson is the next best thing for Britain?”. The Island’s MP replied,
“I think we need a Prime Minister that will deliver Brexit and I think we need one who can hopefully reach out with the domestic agenda after Brexit, which renews our country – I like both Boris and Michael, but on balance I think Boris is more likely to achieve that.”
Listen to the Island
OnTheWight asked what were the mechanics of how these things work, he replied,
“I can go to the leadership candidate and say, if you’re in the last two, the Isle of Wight Conservatives is one of the biggest Associations in the country and if you say you’re not interested in recognising the needs of the Isle of Wight, you probably won’t get many votes.
“But if you do say, actually we do need regional policies, not just for the Island, but for everywhere else, including the Isle of Wight – we need to recognise that while Scottish Islands have additional needs and are additionally funded – the Isle of Wight hasn’t had that additional funding.
“I want them in principle to accept that there’s a case. What that might do then is result in something a bit more cross-governmental, like at the Cabinet Office. So I can speed up this process which would otherwise take years. Nothing may come of it and I don’t want to promise stuff that I can’t deliver.
“I’m trying to work toward something which will result in the practical outcome over the next few months, but the most important way of doing that at the moment is highlighting the needs of the Island here.
The Isle of Wight has 1/40th of votes PM candidates need
The Isle of Wight MP continued,
“We deliver 1/40th or 1/50th depending on how people vote – depending on now many people vote. Normally Tory membership, 85% of the membership vote – so we can deliver 1/40th of the total required.
“If you add up Portsmouth, Southampton, Eastleigh and a few other constituencies around that, the nearest seven probably add up to what we have here – This is why Dominic Raab visited last week.
“So what I’m trying to do is use our Association for public good.
“What I’m saying is actually listen to the Isle of Wight and then maybe you’ll reach out to my voters.”