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By Bishop of Leeds
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Bob Neill MP: Michael Gove is the best candidate to take our country forward

3 min read

Justice Select Committee Chair and Remain campaigner, Bob Neill MP, writes in support of Michael Gove's bid to become Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.

It is often said the best leaders are listeners. That the ability to take on board, whatever your personal convictions, constructive criticism and advice, and be flexible in your stance as a result, is far more conducive to effective leadership than sheer strength of will.

Beyond any of his other qualities – his intellect, personal integrity, or genuine commitment to reform, which are all important in themselves – this is the characteristic that sets Michael Gove out as the best candidate to take our country forward.

In my role as Chairman of the Justice Select Committee, I have worked closely with Michael over the past twelve months and have been genuinely impressed by his openness to new ideas. At times, my Committee has pulled no punches in its criticism of the MoJ, and to his credit, Michael has listened to our recommendations and, where they are needed, made bold, decisive changes.

His swift overhaul of the criminal courts charge in December exemplifies this pragmatism and open mindedness. More than this, it takes guts to scrap something one of your respected colleagues introduced little over a year ago, but which you know isn’t working. That’s the sort of bravery and independence of mind I want to see in a Prime Minister.

It is for that very reason that since 2010 Michael has been the man trusted to lead on policy areas that are in need of extensive reform. The changes he implemented while Secretary of State for Education were considerable, and often unpopular, not least with teachers, but his legacy speaks for itself. Standards are rising across the board.

In his current role, confronted with an antiquated justice system and a penal network on its knees, Michael has been radical in his approach. The announcement of a Prisons Bill in the Queen’s Speech is testament to his appetite for genuine reform, on something, let’s face it, isn’t the top of everyone’s agenda. But it’s because of his honest, socially liberal principles, and that desire to help those who have been left behind and commitment to social mobility, that this once overlooked policy area is receiving the much needed attention it so rightly deserves. These are the jobs others would shy away from. Not Michael.

Indeed, writing as a former barrister, I can say with some experience, that the world of the judiciary can be a daunting place, often incredibly complex to understand and brimming with as many quirky traditions as Parliament itself. But almost everyone I speak to has been impressed by the speed with which Michael has equipped himself for the role, showing an adaptability and intuition that will be needed as we negotiate an orderly withdrawal from the EU.

Over the past few weeks, I put everything I had into the Remain campaign – something Michael and I fundamentally disagree on. However, the electorate have exercised their democratic right and the result must be respected. We cannot dwell on what is past, but instead must set our sights on the future to ensure we get the best possible outcome for Britain. Someone from the Leave camp is the best means to do so, representing the split of the democratic vote.

It is for these reasons that I hope other colleagues, and members of the Party at large, will join me in supporting Michael Gove in his bid to be the next leader of the Conservative Party.

Bob Neill is the justice committee Chair and the Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst


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