Theresa May is still the best person to lead the country and the Conservative Party, insists Mansfield’s MP, Ben Bradley.
The beleaguered Prime Minister is facing fresh calls to step down, or face a leadership vote, after she coughed and spluttered her way through a keynote speech at the party’s conference.
But Mr Bradley reiterated his view that she should carry on. “I firmly believe there is no-one better, within the Cabinet or the Parliamentary party, to lead the country than Theresa May,” he said.
“Putting aside all the issues surrounding her speech and the General Election, from a practical perspective, she is doing a good job.
“What happened during her speech was out of her control. Members of the public I have spoken to say fair play to her for carrying on. They were willing her to keep going.”
The leadership speculation has been fuelled by the party’s former chairman, Grant Shapps, who said: “We can’t go on like this.” But Mr Bradley said he had scant regard for Mr Shapps and dismissed him as someone whose views were at odds with “99.9 per cent of the Parliamentary party”.
The Mansfield MP also insisted that Mrs May had taken full responsibility for calling the Election and fighting an ineffective campaign. “She has said it was her fault and that she was sorry,” he said. “It is not about blame now. It is about how we go forward.”
The Conservatives’ conference in Manchester made huge play of Mr Bradley’s General Election triumph earlier this year when he grabbed a Mansfield seat held by Labour since 1923.
He was also hailed for an impressive five-minute speech that he used to sing Mansfield’s praises, to urge the Tories to preach a positive message to the country, and also to have a dig at his long-standing predecessor, Sir Alan Meale.
“The previous Labour MP hadn’t even uttered the word ‘Mansfield’ in Parliament for more than three years,” Mr Bradley claimed. “He talked about Bangladesh, he talked about dog meat, but he never talked about Mansfield.
“So it’s no wonder that people felt like they didn’t have a voice. I work on the basis that if you don’t tell people what you are doing, they are going to assume you are doing nothing.”
Mr Bradley felt this was a key element behind his shock victory at the Election when he unseated Mr Meale to become the first Conservative MP in Mansfield’s history.
“By embracing social media and going above and beyond to communicate on local issues, we brought people closer,” he said. “By being available and accessible for a chat, friendly or otherwise, we painted a positive picture that was in stark contrast with what came before.
“Mansfield is a former coalfield that had a Labour MP for almost 100 years. But actually, quite a lot of people, locally, saw the Election result coming. The tide was waiting to be turned. There was a tangible feeling that people were being ignored.”
Mr Bradley won applause from the conference for his rich acclaim of Mansfield and his determination to improve its lot. He believes many of its problems are based on a negative perception of the town.
“Mansfield is a vibrant place, full of amazing people, and hundreds of bright and positive projects and groups making brilliant things happen all the time,” he said.
“We should shout about all of them, making sure people know it is a great place to live, work and play.
“We have a lot of challenges and I am focusing on just a few. Combatting homelessness is at the top of my agenda, as are regenerating the town centre and improving education, making sure it leads to rewarding work.
“The biggest challenge, though, is combating decades of negativity, of Labour representation that would rather talk the place down than try to make life better.”
Mr Bradley who, at 27, is one of the country’s youngest MPs, said it was the “positive vision” of former Prime Minister David Cameron that first inspired him to go into politics.
“I had always been a Conservative without realising it,” he told the conference. “I believed in helping people to help themselves, and the importance of living within your means. But it was Mr Cameron’s positive message of compassion and the ‘Big Society’ that inspired me to actually get involved.
“I am now really proud that this Conservtaive government has the same positive message about building a country that works for everyone and making their lves better for the future.
“We have an amazing story to tell -- of record numbers of jobs, of delivering on Brexit and of finally taking on the challenge that Labour ignored of reforming social care and the NHS.
“We need to harness that positive message and to make sure everyone knows about it. And that means being proactive, making sure our logic and compassion shine through.”
Mr Bradley accepted in his speech that Brexit played “a massive role” in his Election victory, given that 72 per cent of Mansfield people voted to leave the EU. And he spent a lot of his time at the Manchester conference discussing the issue and passing on the views of his constituents.
Among those he spoke to were Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, one of the East Midlands’ Conservative Euro-MPs, Emma McClarkin, and also Brexit minister Steve Baker
“Brexit is such a huge issue for the people of Mansfield, and I will continue to raise my constituents’ concerns to the people in government,” said the MP. “I will push to make sure their voices are heard so we get the best deal for Mansfield.
“It was great to speak to Boris about his positive vision and how he’s working to deliver the result of the referendum.
“Talking to Emma gave me a great insight into the Brexit negotiations from a European Parliament perspective. She campaigned hard to leave the EU and is now making sure we get the best Brexit deal for the country.
“I also talked to Steve, who made it very clear that we are leaving the EU in March 2019 and that, by that point, a substantial amount of control will be back in our own hands, including our own laws.
“The government is committed to honouring the referendum result and getting the best deal possible, and I will continue to ensure Mansfield has a say in the process.”