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Caroline Spelman backs Rory Stewart for PM and says members should 'prayerfully' consider their choice for final round
Dame Caroline Spelman MP has said the party faithful should consider "who would best for the country" rather who aligns most with their views.
Other Christian MPs have also pledged their allegiance, with Andrea Leadsom now backing Boris Johnson and Stephen Crabb supporting Sajid Javid.
The Christian Conservative MP for Meriden, Caroline Spelman, who is also the Second Church Estates Commissioner (the MP who liases between the Church and parliament) has told Premier who she is now backing after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock - who she was supporting - pulled out of the race.
Spelman told Premier: "I waited for the TV debate and I have decided after that, and listening to the hustings that I've been to, that I will lend my support to Rory Stewart because I think Rory, like Matt, takes a strong position on the question of whether or not we should actually leave the European Union without a deal and that's very important to me. Having large numbers of people employed in the car industry, we really can't afford to leave without a deal."
Spelman spoke recently about the impact of the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plant in Solihull moving the production of their Discovery car to Slovakia, and said she was talking to JLR bosses to limit the risk to local jobs.
When asked why she didn't follow Matt Hancock's lead to support Boris Johnson, she said: "Boris has said that he's quite happy to leave without a deal. So, that's the problem for me.
"I've got Jaguar Land Rover, the biggest employer in my constituency, and they're going through a hard time, not just to do with Brexit but they've been very clear that to actually leave the European Union without any deal at all to be disastrous and it's not just for JLR but for manufacturing generally because on World Trade Organisation tarriffs they would find it very, very hard to compete."
Hancock withdrew from the campaign after getting 20 votes from Conservative MPs, which was enough to stay in but meant it was unlikely he would get through the next round.
After yesterday's TV debates, I'm very pleased to now support @RoryStewartUK. His realistic and positive vision for Britain promises to reach out to a broad audience, especially young people. Rory can bring people together and unite the country. #RoryForLeader— Dame Caroline Spelman MP (@spelmanc) June 17, 2019
Speaking about the moment she heard Hancock was no longer running, Spelman said: "I was a bit disappointed. I think both Matt and Rory represent the future generation of leaders and I feel they were going to connect well to younger people.
"But I've had a lot of calls to my constituency office today after the TV debates from people of all generations saying that they were impressed by the way Rory Stewart conducted himself and the vision he has for our country and the fact that he's very realistic about the situation that we face but also very positive about our future. So, I feel we're getting good support at a local level too.
"I said also to my association members that I think they bear a huge responsibility when we eventually provide them with a short list. It's very important that they think carefully and prayerfully about their choice to who would make the best Prime Minister. I'm trying to be very even-handed with them, and for me, it's about character and competence and I think I'm encouraging them not just to think whose views most closely align to yours, but actually who do you think will be the right person for our country?"
Most of the candidates signed up to a 'Clean Campaign Pledge' at the beginning of the campaign, promising to not speak ill of each others' personalisties.
Spelman agreed that this seemed to be working so far: "I think there were two moments in the TV debate on Sunday night that I found quite heartening - when all the colleagues sprang to the defence of Sajid Javid who was being given quite a hard time over this issue of whether or not you should be invited to a state banquet and they immediately sprung to his defence and said, 'you know, not all cabinet ministers get invited to all these things!'
"Also, Jeremy Hunt came to Michael Gove's assistance too and I think it shows the willingness of the colleagues to work together and I think that's really important."
When asked who she would vote for if Rory Stewart doesn't make the next round she replied: "Well, I think let's take it a step at a time, shall we? I think that Rory has got some traction.
"I think that he's fought a very good leadership campaign. I think all his colleagues would acknowledge that and I hope he will do well in the second round."
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