Mon, 03 Jun 2019
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon is backing his friend and ‘neighbour’ Kit Malthouse to become the country’s next Prime Minister.
North West Hampshire MP Mr Malthouse, who is the current housing minister, has thrown his hat into the ring after Theresa May announced that she will stand down on June 7.
Mr Malthouse is one of 12 Conservative candidates to have entered the Conservative leadership contest so far.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mr Benyon said: “I have been speaking with my parliamentary neighbour Kit Malthouse because I think he represents a new generation of thought in the Conservative Party.
“He’s a unifier and has proved his ability to bring people together on the issue of Brexit, but more importantly I think he has a real plan for the future.
“I’ve been talking to him for some years about the future, about how we as a party can make ourselves more relevant to young and old, urban and rural in England or any other part of the union and I think he has a real vision that I find very attractive.
“It’s early stages of the campaign, but I have told him that I will support him.”
Mr Benyon, who backed Mrs May to be the next party leader following the referendum result in 2016, said of the announcement that she is standing down: “I’m sad. Nobody could have tried harder than she to find a solution to this, and for her premiership to end this way is just really sad.”
The Prime Minister’s voice cracked towards the end of her resignation speech last Friday as she spoke of having had the opportunity to have serve the country that she loves.
“I thought her speech outside Number 10 was very moving,” Mr Benyon said.
“Whatever your view is of Brexit or this Government or your politics you would have to have a heart of stone not to feel sad for her.”
Mr Malthouse, who backed Leave in the EU referendum, put forward the failed Malthouse Compromise in March, which proposed to delay Brexit until May 22 to enable a managed no-deal Brexit.
The compromise would have also renegotiated the Irish backstop and replaced it with a free trade agreement using technology to avoid customs checks on the Irish border.
The transition period would also have been extended until December 2021 to provide added time for a new trading relationship to be agreed.
Mr Benyon abstained from voting on the comprise when it went before MPs for indicative votes in March.
When asked why he abstained, he said: “I am a good friend and admirer of Kit Malthouse, but I don’t think his option will work because the EU has said it won’t work, therefore I was not going to support it and I didn’t want to vote against it as I think Kit has done a good job of bringing people across Parliament together.
“It came down to the Government motion as amended.
“I couldn’t vote against that and I couldn’t vote against him and his amendment, which meant voting against my party whip.”
Mr Benyon said: “I supported the process, unfortunately his compromise was not picked up by those who needed to pick it up for it to become a reality, but it was a remarkable piece of diplomatic manoeuvring and I was admiring of it at the time.”