EXCL Nick Boles suggests he will not stand at the next election
Newly independent MP Nick Boles has suggested he will not stand at the next general election, saying he is on his “way out” of frontline politics.
In an interview with The House magazine, the former Conservative minister said he was in his “swansong” after deciding to quit his party over Brexit earlier this month.
Though Mr Boles backed Ruth Davidson as the “perfect candidate” to become the next Prime Minister, he said it was “very unlikely” that a new Tory leader could bring him back to the fold.
He also said it was “reasonable” to question whether it would have been better if the Tories lost the 2015 election and accused Theresa May of making a “moral error” in trying to be more “Brexity than Brexiters” after entering No10.
Mr Boles spectacularly resigned the Conservative whip in the Commons after accusing his party of intransigence and refusing to compromise during the Brexit debate.
It came after a fractious period with his own constituency party in Grantham and Stamford, which had earlier backed a no-confidence vote against him. Mr Boles fell out of favour over his support for a Norway-style Brexit and opposition to leaving the EU without a deal.
Speaking to The House magazine, Mr Boles cast doubt on standing for re-election in the future.
“I’m probably going to spend the next two or three years working on certain issues that I care about and that lend themselves to a cross-party coalition building approach… Then it will be time for somebody else,” he said.
“My dad had three careers. He moved into his final career... taking over the family farm aged 58. My brother has just retired from a job in industry to the same family farm aged 58. I will at the next election, assuming it takes place when it’s due to, I’ll be 56. [I’ll] go and do one other thing – god knows what.”
When asked if a new leader could bring him back to the Conservatives, he replied: “It’s very unlikely. I’m not a great believer of going back to anything. Throughout my life, I’ve never been back to school, back to university, or back to anything. I’m a great believer in pressing on...
“I will always be interested in who is leading the Conservative party and who’s a candidate to lead the Conservative party.
“For my personal taste, Ruth Davidson would be the perfect candidate. She’s not available, but whoever can come closest to Ruth both in terms of political views but also in terms of personal presence and charisma and authenticity, that for me would be the best outcome, both for the Conservative party and for the country.”
However, he refused to rule out re-joining the Tories if Ms Davidson asked him to, saying: “Well, Ruth is not going to become Prime Minister anytime soon, because she’s got a new baby and she’s trying to become first minister of Scotland. So, it’s not just a hypothetical question, it’s an impossible hypothetical question. So, there’s no answer to that.
“As I say, I’m not a goer backer. This is my swansong, I’m on my way out. But I’m very happy to wish anybody who does come from that wing of the party and who is running the best of British and, as far as I can, be helpful if they want my help. I’m not in the market for becoming a Conservative again.”
He also played down the prospect of joining the Independent Group of MPs, due to their support for a second EU referendum.
“I rule nothing out, because what’s the point of ruling things out. I don’t anticipate any circumstances in which I join them, because they have defined themselves very consciously as a party that stands for one thing which I don’t agree with. So, it’s a bit hard to see how you get around that,” he said.
"Ultimately, I’ve had a decent run. This would probably be the last act.”
Mr Boles, who served as a minister under David Cameron, said he wished he had advised against holding the EU referendum.
“I was not an important figure, and not influential on the decision, but I nevertheless did take the view that it was – not that it was a good idea, but that it was an unavoidable idea. That if we didn’t do it, then we could kiss goodbye to winning the 2015 election,” he said.
“Now, you can reasonably a very painful question, wouldn’t it have been better for Britain if we hadn’t won the 2015 election and hadn’t had a referendum. I rather hate thinking about that, because I don’t know the answer.
“Whether we were forced into holding it, or whether we forced ourselves into holding it, I do still believe that it was probably inevitable at some point. But I do think that probably if it had been held at a different time, it would have been much less likely to have been lost.”
And he attacked Mrs May for her Brexit strategy.
“She’s not a naturally ideological person, she’s not a right-wing person, and I would have thought that she would have gone for something much more moderate and pragmatic," he said.
“Partly, she was much influenced by her advisors. But, in a funny way, it was almost because she’d taken over this party which had this enormous responsibility and she hadn’t herself been one of the people who’d campaigned for Brexit.
“And so, she persuaded herself she needed to be more Brexity than Brexiters, more Brexiter than thou. It was a massive, not just a miscalculation, but a moral error. One that has come to determine and define everything that’s happened since.”