Former Brexit secretary David Davis has said he will not run to replace Theresa May, declaring his support for his successor Dominic Raab in the upcoming contest for Conservative leader.
The 70-year-old Brexiteer – who came second to David Cameron in the 2005 leadership contest, but did not put himself forward in 2016 – said the Tories need ‘a generational change’ in leadership.
He said that Raab was ‘the best-placed Brexit candidate to win the necessary support among MPs and party members and, above all, broaden our appeal to voters’.
May has said she will stand down as Tory leader when an EU withdrawal agreement is ratified, handing over to a successor to negotiate the future relationship with the EU. But she has not yet given in to pressure to name a date for her departure.
Following Thursday’s local council bloodbath for Tories, Davis said the party needs a new leader who can deliver a Brexit which is ‘faithful to the demands of the referendum’ and unite Conservatives behind ‘an optimistic and authentic vision for the future’.
Writing in the Daily Mail, he warned that upcoming European elections on May 23 risk being ‘far worse’ than the local elections. And he cautioned Tories that the expected drubbing in the European elections cannot be brushed off as a temporary protest vote, warning it ‘may well give us a hint of the reckoning with the voters that will follow’.
‘Delivering on Brexit is a necessary condition for seeing off the threat of a hard-Left Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn,’ he said.
‘But, on its own, it won’t be enough. As Conservatives, we must now also offer a more compelling and inspiring vision for addressing the wider challenges the country faces beyond Brexit.’
Davis said the next leader faces ‘a real test of character’ to make a success of Brexit and take the Tories into a challenging general election.
The new leader will need ‘focus and drive, a combination of conviction and tenacity’, with the challenge of Brexit alone requiring ‘a unique combination of intellect, determination, decisiveness and courage’.
‘With all these considerations, the standout candidate is Dominic Raab, so I will back him if he runs,’ he said.
Raab succeeded Davis as Brexit secretary in July 2018, but resigned after just four months in protest at the Brexit deal he helped to negotiate with the European Union.