Edward Leigh – 2022 Speech in the No Confidence in the Government Motion

The speech made by Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, in the House of Commons on 18 July 2022.

The motion before us on the Order Paper is about confidence in Her Majesty’s Government. Since we face this cost of living crisis, war in Europe and all the other challenges, I was rather hoping when I arrived here that we might have a serious debate about how to deal with those issues. Instead, I heard a speech from the Leader of the Opposition that, in terms of vituperation, insult and sheer nastiness, was like nothing I have ever heard before, certainly about a Prime Minister who will be leaving office in a very few weeks.

Where is any sense of kindness or magnanimity? Why do we need to throw these insults around and claim—

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Edward Leigh

I am going to proceed, if I may. Why do we need to claim that this is the worst sort of mass murderer and criminal in political history? It is complete rubbish. The fact is that when this Prime Minister took power, Parliament’s reputation was in tatters.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Edward Leigh

No.

Virtually everybody in this Chamber had voted to have a referendum, yet many Members were doing their level best to frustrate it. Had we not had this Prime Minister, and had we not delivered Brexit, I believe we would have had a meltdown in political trust. He got Brexit done, though I agree that personally I would have liked to have done a lot more with it, and we will do, given time. That is the first issue, and that is why the Prime Minister was given a majority of 80.

The second issue is the pandemic. We have had all these insults against a Prime Minister who was working on our behalf and nearly died in office. It is a disgraceful attack. He was working flat out to save lives. Our record on the pandemic is frankly second to none. Again and again the Opposition tried to force us into more and more severe lockdowns, but this Prime Minister, with his vaccine roll-out, got us out of that mess, and thousands of people are now alive because of him.

Speaking for myself, I wholly regret the departure of this Prime Minister and I remain completely loyal to him to the very end, as I remained loyal to Mrs Thatcher. I think we will ask ourselves, “What have we done? What have we done to a man who gave us this 80-seat majority?”

The third point is that, but for this Prime Minister—the first western leader to arm Ukraine—Kyiv would now be in the hands of the Russians. We led Europe and the world in saving that country. That is the record of this Prime Minister, and I am proud as a Back Bencher to have given him all the loyalty I possibly could, as I will give loyalty to the next leader.

Of course there are challenges. Anybody would think that we lived in a vacuum—that despite the fact that we had the pandemic and the fact that we have a war in Europe, somehow the Government are to blame for all our ills. That is complete rubbish. When the next leader of the Conservative party—the next Prime Minister—comes into office, within weeks the Labour party will be calling for another general election, as we have already heard from the Leader of the Opposition. They will say, “This new Prime Minister is unelected, or elected by a fairly small number of people.” They never said that about the previous Prime Minister, because he was elected by the people with an 80-seat majority.

The problems are not going to go away .We all know that if the Labour party had been in power, the outcomes of the pandemic may not have been a great deal different. We do not know what will happen with Ukraine or with the economy, but the Conservative party, as the Prime Minister explained, is turbocharged because we believe in the power of the free economy, in freedom and in low taxation, although of course we cannot deliver that now. I say to my friends who are competing for the leadership: be responsible. I know it is popular to call for tax cuts now, but we have record levels of borrowing, and we do not solve the problem by borrowing more and more. It is said that we can put the covid expense in a particular box and forget about it for 50 years, and it does not matter, but we all know in our private life that we cannot say to NatWest, “I’ve got this debt on my car—I want to put it in a different box and I won’t have to pay for 50 years.” Debt is debt.

The Conservative party’s reputation is built on economic competence. We have to be careful with the economy. I personally was very unhappy about the rise in national insurance contributions. I am not in favour of tax rises. I believe that the reputation of a Conservative Government depends on low tax. We want to cut tax, but I say to the leadership contenders that we must be responsible.

In conclusion—[Hon. Members: “Hooray!”] I am only trying to give a speech loyal to my party, which is surely no bad thing, and to the present leader of my party.

Shaun Bailey rose—

Sir Edward Leigh

No, I had better stop now, because they have had enough of me. Ultimately, the secret weapon of the Tory party is loyalty.