Ditch Boris and get Starmer, Sturgeon and Brexit chaos
There's no time for more navel-gazing - Conservative MPs must now unite behind Boris Johnson and get on with the job. If we don't, then we risk handing a disastrous SNP-backed Labour government the keys to Number 10.
Yesterday's confidence vote was an act of self-indulgence. The idea that the UK should ditch its Prime Minister - who has been steadfast and relentless in standing up to Vladimir Putin - when there is war in Europe is ludicrous.
When tens of millions of people in Ukraine and across eastern Europe - where people feel under threat from an imperialist Russia - are looking to our nation, a three-month-long Conservative leadership election would be an international embarrassment.
At home, a bitter leadership contest taking place while families are struggling to meet the rising cost of living due to Putin's war and post-pandemic pressures would be excessive and out-of-touch.
I'm pleased that this was avoided but we must now put this issue to bed. No matter how Conservative MPs voted in yesterday's ballot, we must pull together as a team and go forward together.
Whatever MPs' views of Boris Johnson, it's clear he has the confidence of the majority of the Conservative Party. He also has an overwhelming mandate from the British people to deliver on their priorities.
If the Conservative Party descends into further self-indulgence and focuses on internal debates there will be only one beneficiary - the Labour Party. While Keir Starmer is less dangerous than Jeremy Corbyn, he's a weak leader with no vision for our country and his Party is full of people who make little attempt to disguise their loathing of our country.The prospect of people who take no pride in our history, culture, traditions, values and institutions – indeed, people who in some cases actually appear to despise those things –taking control of government is appalling.
But if Starmer does indeed enter Number 10, it will be Nicola Sturgeon standing behind him, pulling the strings.
The Labour Party shows no sign of regaining ground in Scotland and without a significant increase in the number of Scottish Labour MPs they are unlikely to win a Parliamentary majority. A Labour government would therefore be reliant on the SNP to govern the United Kingdom. The damage would be profound: amongst other things, our NATO membership, nuclear deterrent and our nation's 315-year-old union would be at direct risk.
There's little doubt that Starmer would grant Sturgeon a second independence referendum, breaking the SNP's “once in a generation” pledge. In any future ballot, Scottish Labour can't be trusted to advocate for our United Kingdom with many having succumbed to nationalism.
It's not just Scotland's UK membership that would be at risk. With Sinn Fein as the largest party in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, we need a British government in Westminster ready to fight our precious union's corner.
Labour's former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary let the cat out the bag recently when she admitted that Starmer's Party would stay neutral in any poll on separation.
Too many on the left think the British government shouldn't be pro-union. This is simply irresponsible and wrong - the UK government can and must bang the union drum while respecting the rights of Irish citizens in North Ireland.
Not only would Starmer sell out our union on two fronts, but he would also surrender on the Northern Ireland Protocol and sacrifice Brexit.
We need Boris Johnson in Number 10 to fix the Protocol. Another Prime Minister would give in but he's committed to finding a workable solution that respects the UK's sovereignty and the integrity of our EU friends' Single Market.
Despite claiming to respect the Good Friday Agreement, the EU has been extraordinarily inflexible on this issue and disregarded the views of Northern Ireland's unionist community.
The UK needs a Prime Minister capable of staring the bloc down and deploying charm when they get to the negotiating table. Boris Johnson is that leader.
But for the Prime Minister to fix this problem he needs the clear support of the Conservative Party behind him. We've seen how the EU exploits party divisions before, so we must not allow it to happen again.
If protecting our union and Brexit from the wrecking ball of Starmer and Sturgeon isn't enough to put divisions to one side, MPs should do it for the sake of this government's domestic agenda.
Under Boris Johnson's leadership, the government is finally beginning the long task of levelling up the United Kingdom and reviving our former industrial heartlands.
No government has got to grips with this issue before and it's left our country with deep regional inequalities and an economy that doesn't fire on all cylinders.
Levelling up our country will have huge benefits for our entire country - it will make us a more prosperous, fairer and more innovative nation. It will also ease the pressure on the overheating Greater London and South-East, which has long been struggling with housing and transport demand.
This long-term mission, along with reducing the size of the state and cutting taxes by the end of this Parliament, is key to growing our economy and lowering inflation.
We must not let Starmer and Sturgeon grasp the keys to Number 10. The consequences for our country would be catastrophic.
Voters don't like divided parties. They want unity and vision. That's what our party can offer if we focus on the job at hand– the job we were elected to do. I urge my colleagues to respect the confidence vote so we can move on, re-unite our party and deliver for our nation.
Article by Gareth Bacon MP first published by The Daily Express.