We need an anti-woke prime minister – and all roads lead to Rishi Sunak, says Mark Dolan

The former Chancellor is willing to be straight with the British people

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They say politics is showbusiness for ugly people, but those vying for the leadership of the Tory party are a quite a handsome bunch. This appointment is, in my view, the most important one since 1975, when the Tory party chose the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher.

Four years later, she won an election and took over a country knee deep in unemployment, inflation, union deadlock, low growth and high debt. By 1987, Britain was a global, economic, military and diplomatic powerhouse. How different our story might have been, if it wasn't for her vision, leadership and tough economic love.

And here we are again, in 2022, have effectively dragged ourselves back to the 1970s, with inflation, debt and union chaos, this time self-inflicted, as a result of the disastrous and in my view totally failed experiment of lockdowns. So where do we go from here? Well, we need tough economic love once again. Public sector pay rises, or cranking up departmental spending, just aren't an option. Because more cash spent is more borrowing, and more cash printed is more inflation. And inflation, the worst stealth tax of them all, which disproportionately impacts the poorest, is economic quicksand. Stagflation – an impossible combination of low growth and inflation - is something our next prime minister must battle to avoid. If we fall into that trap, we could be in it for decades. So whoever gets the job, needs to understand the economy intimately well. Somebody with an entrepreneurial or financial background, with a deep understanding of the economic challenges the country faces.

We need an anti-woke prime minister, who will cut back on the worst excesses of the online harms bill, which is effectively a law against free speech, or as impressive leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch, brilliantly put it, in yesterday’s Times, ‘legislating for hurt feelings’.

More on her shortly.

Kemi Badenoch
Kemi Badenoch

Our next prime minister must wage a war on woke and win it. Woke must not pay. Otherwise you'll have men who identify as women, continuing to use female only spaces, competing against biological women in sport and reversing decades of female emancipation. More protections are needed for gay people too, in the face of misogynistic, homophobic trans ideology. Keir Starmer's inability to define what a woman is, ought to be his undoing, and will be if the Tories exploit what is widespread public anger, about what’s happening to the culture and institutions of our country.

The next PM needs to be someone that actually believes in Brexit, that campaigned for Brexit.

Sure, Boris Johnson got Brexit done, for which he deserves huge credit. But it’s going to take political courage, a strong will and balls of steel, to face down the EU, over the appalling Northern Ireland protocol, which must be torn up. No organisation outside of this country should be defining our territorial boundaries. Beware the snake oil words of some hopefuls, saying they will seek to make Brexit work. That's code for diluting it, undoing it, reversing it. And we need someone dignified, a grown-up in the room. Somebody sensible, a safe pair of hands, someone with a work ethic, with discipline and a sustained history of being straight with the public, and of telling the truth. Notwithstanding his many colossal talents, it was Boris Johnson's character, or lack thereof, his integrity, or lack thereof, his morals, or lack thereof, that ultimately did for him. But the Tories do need someone, that has some of Johnson's charm, charisma and success at the ballot box, and who can build on the positive aspects of his legacy, of which there is plenty. The Tories need someone who can unite the party. Too many talented backbenchers, were frozen out of Johnson's administration, because they were not partisan loyalists. That was a mistake. A new cabinet under a new prime minister, must represent the broad church that is the party, and there must be a diversity of not just backgrounds, cultures and races, but opinions too. So where do we go from here? Well it's my view that all roads lead to Rishi Sunak. And I called it in late January of this year, when I called then for Boris to go.

That was on the 30th of January, when the Mail on Sunday reported that Boris Johnson was planning to once again, cave into SAGE scientists, and needlessly cancel Christmas. That great paper reported, that it was the intervention of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lord Frost and yes Rishi Sunak, that brought the prime minister to his senses. So it wasn’t Boris that was Mr Freedom all along, it was Mr Sunak.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak

Sunak ticks all the boxes for me. A reported lockdown sceptic from the beginning.

Notwithstanding that Sunak was responsible for the complex, but ultimately successful policy of furlough - no mean feat and a great example of how he innovates and gets things done - it's been an open secret in government, that Sunak has pushed back against the worst excesses of SAGE and their demands, and indeed Boris Johnson and his “splash the cash”, spend-thrift instincts. It's only thanks to Sunak’s principled foot on the fiscal brake, that this country isn't deeper in the red, and in more economic trouble. He got criticism, for “Eat Out to Help Out”, but it was brilliant for hospitality, relatively cheap and was proof that this guy wanted to unlock, and stay unlocked. And he has a conscience. He said in his Spring statement, in March, that leaving debt to future generations is morally wrong.

I want someone with that conscience and principle, in number 10. And this is a guy willing to deliver a tough message. This weekend he is seeking the leadership, on a campaign that Britain cannot afford tax cuts. Now we can debate, the rights and wrongs of that – I’m torn - but what does that tell you about this guy? He knows full well, that promising tax cuts, which all of the other hopefuls are doing, would help him get elected. But he's willing to be straight with the British people, and with the Tory party membership, and say no, the cupboard is bare. That tax cuts will come, but only in time. This willingness to tell the public, what they don't want to hear, is a rare and precious quality, in a politician.

Sunak would also be Britain's first Asian prime minister. And his story is the perfect British story. A son of immigrant parents, his mother opened a chemist shop, and his father was a GP. He entered the city ,and made his fortune. He shouldn't have to cover up or airbrush his wealth, it should be his key selling point. His story tells young Brits, of all backgrounds, and origins, that they can achieve great things in this country. And it's not his fault, that his wife is incredibly rich; if only Mrs Dolan was worth a few more bob. He's slick, he's charming, he's polished. He's a teetotal workaholic, known for his 16 hour days.

He’s a family guy, with just ONE wife – there’s a novelty - and two daughters.

For me, Rishi Sunak is the only choice for our next prime minister, and if the Tories want to keep Starmer out of number 10, I think he’s their best bet at the next election. And woke warriors, with an axe to grind, and division to sew, will struggle to peddle their hatred, on Britain's first prime Minister of colour. It will in fact, be another great moment our the history of this country, after electing the first female PM, in 1979. I keep an open mind about the other candidates, and never say never, that one of the others, could do a great job. If it's not Rishi, I'll bite your hand off for Badenock and I’ll say Bravo to Braverman.

But I certainly don’t want this Hunt.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

So I personally anoint Rishi Sunak, as our next prime minister. I think he will be honest, straight and disciplined enough, to get this country, back on the road to recovery. All roads lead, to this talented, energetic and young politician. Frankly I'll have a Rishi fit if he doesn't get it, and his appointment, can't come Sunak enough.