DETERMINED… Esther McVey wants more social mobility
The former work and pensions secretary was the first candidate to announce her bid to replace Theresa May, with at least a dozen more candidates expected to declare in the coming days. These include Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid. Ms McVey, who is already attracting support from Brexiteers and traditionalists among MPs, said she wants to maximise social mobility in Britain.
A senior MP told the Sunday Express that “McVey could be the best bet” for Brexiteers because of concerns that dossiers are being built up on the frontrunners Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.
Speaking ahead of her launch this week, Ms McVey, 51, a former TV presenter and businesswoman, highlighted the life of her maternal grandfather Joe Corless, who left school at 12 and started work as a station porter.
She said: “His job was to carry the cases of first class passengers arriving at Liverpool Lime Street station to their hotels. He spent his whole life working his way up through a range of jobs, including being a stoker in the cabs of steam trains, before he eventually became a manager at the station.”
Ms McVey’s life had a troubled start. Her young parents were forced through poverty to hand her over to Barnardo’s for adoption for two years.
She returned to her parents at the age of three with her father, Jimmy, building up a successful business from nothing.
She said “strong family ties still play a major part” in her life. Her father lives with her and her fiance, fellow MP Philip Davies.
A week ahead of the Prime Minister’s departure, Ms McVey had launched a Blue Collar Conservative movement.
She has spoken of her determination to create a society where genuine and far-reaching social mobility offers opportunity to all.
She said she is driven by the needs of “regular people and families who work hard, don’t ask for much but do expect a fair crack for themselves and their families”.
She said: “Recent governments have fallen short of providing proper, equal life chances for all.
“We have to do much more to deliver opportunity for millions of hard-working families, the backbone of the nation. Conservatives have traditionally been the party of social mobility.
“But in recent years we have become distracted and lost part of our focus on what a government should be doing.
“We have simply failed to deliver for far too many people.
“That, plus the inability to make a clean break with the EU as clearly instructed in the referendum, is why millions of voters have lost faith in politicians of both main parties.” Ms McVey, who resigned in protest over the Withdrawal Agreement, was the first candidate to officially enter the leadership.
In what is expected to be a crowded field, other candidates are expected to declare over the coming days. Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab are the frontrunners, while Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt are also among the favourites.
Sources in Mr Gove’s team say he has the backing of 50 MPs already and they are hoping to cut a deal with former Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom, who quit on Wednesday and came second to Theresa May in the 2016 leadership contest.
However, a source close to Mrs Leadsom said that while she “would be happy to talk to Mr Gove” she intends to launch her own leadership bid today.
Andrea Leadsom quit on Wednesday
Michael Gove is ‘among the favourites’ to become next PM
Among the other serious contenders, Home Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to declare next week while Mr Hunt is also expected to announce his candidacy today.
Sources in Mr Javid’s team claim they are picking up MPs who had been backing Mr Hunt.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Chief Treasury Secretary Liz Truss are finalising whether they will run over the weekend, but both have a leadership team in place.
Former party deputy chairman James Cleverly, currently a Brexit minister, is due to announce he will make a bid for the leadership mid-week.
International Aid Secretary Rory Stewart and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have already declared they will run.
Sir Graham Brady, former chairman of the 1922 committee, is also considering a leadership bid. Mr Hancock said he was running for leader because the party needed to look to the future and attract younger voters.
However, Mr Hancock also warned against an early election, saying: “Some of my contenders may say that if they don’t get their preferred option, whether it be no deal or something else, then they’ll have a general election.
“But I put it to you that it would be a disaster for the country and it would risk Corbyn by Christmas.”