At one stage of the Conservative leadership race, it felt like spoiling my ballot was the most attractive option.
I could not fathom having to make a choice between two candidates who I could not bring myself to support. At first, I had supported Matt Hancock. When he withdrew, I transferred my support to Michael Gove. Both had, in my opinion, presented a bright and bold vision for our future, had a sense of realism about them and showed a real understanding that solving Brexit wasn't as simple as just walking away without a deal, or reaching one. Both understood that it involved uniting this country - and both had the experience to do so.
However, neither Hancock nor Gove will be on the ballot paper that myself and fellow Conservative members will be receiving. However, I was reminded of my duty as a member - a duty that meant I could not run away from making the biggest decision of the moment: who shall move our country forward. I was urged to listen to both current candidates and decide who I thought was best to lead us forward.
It was the Conservative Progress Conference on Saturday that cemented the decision in my mind that Jeremy Hunt is the best man for the job.
We need a leader who champions aspiration, enterprise and business. Jeremy Hunt has unequivocally demonstrated a commitment to these values that make the Conservative Party the party it is. And after all, it was Boris Johnson who, rather famously, said “f*** business”. We cannot let a man with that attitude get anywhere near the position of leader of the Conservative Party, or Prime Minister.
In Jeremy Hunt, we would have an experienced entrepreneur who understands the needs and challenges of modern day businesses, both big and small. This can be best seen in his pledge to completely scrap business rates for some shops on the high street to help them compete against Internet giants. This is a pledge which is expected to benefit 25,000 small businesses across the country. That is exactly the type of party that we need to become: the party that allows people to create their own businesses and in turn use businesses as a vehicle for social mobility.
We can't discuss the leadership election without talking about Brexit.
Now, Hunt has failed to endear himself to many due to being a 'remainer' and his voting for the Withdrawal Agreement on all three occasions. Yet, Cabinet records show that Jeremy Hunt consistently urged Theresa May to keep No Deal on the table, and when given a free vote on the matter, opted to keep no deal as an option.
In the debates so far, Hunt has consistently said that we will leave on 31st October unless there is a good deal on the horizon. This is a much clearer policy than that of Boris Johnson who, one minute, says we will leave with no deal and the next minute says it is 'eminently feasible'. However, to negotiate a deal will take someone with a proven track record of negotiating major deals, the ability to handle vast amounts of detail and understanding of briefings.
In his time as Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt has shown that he ticks all of these boxes, unlike his fellow candidate, whose willingness to go off-script and disregard the briefings led to his words being used as evidence to increase the sentence of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, rather than signing the plans on his desk which would've made the situation so much better.
A large part of making Brexit a success is the future that we forge - a future in which Britain walks tall in the world and Jeremy has a vision that Boris does not. A vision of increased defence spending to counter the threats from countries such as Russia and creating a more attractive country, free from excessive regulation that will attract businesses to invest in Britain. Brexit presents an opportunity for Britain to forge new alliances with other nations, become a global nation that is able to trade with emerging markets and to capitalise on the opportunities from Brexit to move this nation forward.
Education is an issue of particular importance to me, and in this field Hunt has the clearest and best policy priorities. 7 million people in this country are illiterate and in an ever-changing world where technology takes centre stage, this can cause real issues when seeking employment and with everyday tasks. Hunt wants to put more funding into identifying those who might be most at risk at an early age and putting in measures within schools to help them overcome this. This will take more funding, which is something that has been promised by the Hunt campaign.
We are the Party of aspiration and it is therefore our duty to the youngest in society to help them gain basic life skills so that they can progress and achieve their dreams.
The campaign by Hunt has excited me about the future of the country and the party. A future where the UK can walk tall in the world, but with a sense of realism that Boris Johnson seems to lack about the situation and what it will take to work. On top of this, Hunt has the track record of negotiating on a global scale. He has challenges against him, but if he can move past these issues then he will stand a far better chance than people think.