Norfolk MP: 'I'll stand to be next PM'
PUBLISHED: 12:15 14 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:34 17 September 2018
George Freeman has announced he will stand to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister if he is "asked to".
The comments came just hours after he said embattled prime minister Theresa May should stand down after a Brexit deal has been agreed.
The Mid Norfolk MP once chaired Mrs May’s policy board but distanced himself from Number 10 after the disastrous 2017 general election campaign and the party’s manifesto which Mr Freeman believed he should have been more involved in drafting.
Now he wants the Tories to set out a clear time when they will look to change leader.
Mr Freeman said: “If the question is ‘will I stand, the answer is if people want me to in parliament, I will.”
Speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk he added: “I would like to see the whole range of candidates stand. I would like a democratic Conservative Party choose the right leader. I’d like to see the nation see the breadth of talent we have.”
Mr Freeman – who held his Big Tent Ideas festival last weekend in a bid to reignite the centre ground of politics – has long argued for a generational shift within the Tory party and wants the next crop of senior politicians to be from the 2010 intake.
Speaking at an event hosted by The Times in London Mr Freeman said Mrs May needed to “seal the deal for a new generation and hand the torch to them - and I think the country would cheer”.
“Let’s get the withdrawal agreement over the line,” he said. “Let’s leave the decision about the end state to be negotiated by Theresa May’s successor.”
He added she had inherited “carnage” and had “done her very best” but said: “We should allow her this winter to see through her promise she made to the British people and take us to the gateway.
“But I think hand the baton of future design of our relationship with Europe to a new generation leader.”
Although Mr Freeman has not directly challenged the prime minster his comments will not be welcomed by Number 10. Mrs May has – until now – enjoyed the support for the majority of her MPs aside from those who want her to dump the Chequers agreement and pursue a harder Brexit.
One source, close to a senior Brexiteer, said: “The prime minister’s time is running out. And now the voices saying that are coming from all sides of the party. It is a matter of when not if for Theresa May.”