Conservative leadership hopeful Tom Tugendhat says he will use Brexit as a springboard for success in Britain.
In an exclusive interview with GB News, Mr Tugendhat also vowed to tackle immigration by going further than the Government’s controversial Rwanda policy.
And the former soldier said he was channeling his inner Reagan – a nod to his respect for the former US President and his views on taxation.
Speaking to Alastair Stewart he said: “Look, if the situation arises where I think there’s an opportunity to make a difference to the country – I’ll serve. I did for 15 years in the Army, I served in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve served in the community and I hope I’ve served the community well. They have been very kind to me in recent days, but I hope I’ve done them proud. And what I’d like to do now is serve our country as Prime Minister. I’ve always been open about it. I’ve never hidden it.”
“Leadership isn’t just about standing up to your enemies. I’ve stood up to China. I’ve been sanctioned by them, I’ve stood up to Russia and I’ve been abused by them in many different ways. It’s not just about standing up to your enemies. Sometimes it’s about standing up to your friends. And that’s what we’ve got to do.
“I’ve got souvenirs from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve got a dodgy shoulder and dodgy knees from soldiering in some of the hardest parts of the world. I’ve got photographs, sadly, of some people who aren’t with us anymore, alongside whom I served and built a government in Helmand, built the National Security Council of Afghanistan. I’ve got souvenirs, memories and experiences of the real world of what it really takes to change a country. What it really takes to build a society. Fundamentally what it really takes to get over the division.
“We need a clean start to get beyond the division, beyond the playing of politics. I’m not interested in playing politics. What I’m interested in is delivering for the British people. And if we’re going to get that we need to return to service because we need a government that serves the British people, the Conservative Party, so much already does, but a Conservative party in Westminster actually serves the British people around the country. We need the union to come together properly as one: Great Britain, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, and then we need a new deal for Britain to make it all work that we can deliver.”
On winning over those still angry about Boris Johnson’s removal he said: “I completely understand why people who voted for a leader are angry when the leadership changes. Of course I understand that and I also understand that loyalty is essential in life. I don’t believe in underhand politics. What I believe in is speaking out clearly for our country – in defence of our community, in the defence of our values and making that count.
Mr Tugendhat said decisive leadership was vital in restoring public faith.
“I think the whole country can see the state that the Government is in at the moment,” he told GB News.
“I think the whole country can see that there’s a real problem with trust in our community. There’s a real problem with trust in the Government. And sadly, because there are some fantastic Conservatives out there, Conservatives in Parliament, Conservatives in councils, there’s a loss of trust in our party. We need to get it back. We need to return to service because our party is at its best when it’s delivering for the British people and when it’s absolutely focused on the needs of the British people. We need to be focusing on things that really matter to all of us.”
On using Brexit as a springboard to success he said: “I absolutely believe in the British people. I completely believe in Britain’s possibilities and Britain’s future. And I believe that Brexit can be a springboard. What we need it to be is a revolution, what we need is a clean start for this economy, a clean start for our country, and to grasp the opportunities that sadly we just haven’t delivered on recently. What we need to do is we need to be absolutely ruthlessly focused on making sure that Brexit works for everyone.
“That means controlling migration. We haven’t got that right yet. We can build new alliances. We can build new partnerships and we’re doing it already. I’ve already started the Viking Parliament all the way from Ireland to the Baltic Sea, creating different ways of working together in Europe, and by partnering with NATO looking at different gaps in the agreements that we can make work.
Answering how he plans to deal with immigration, Mr Tugendhat added: “There is no way that human traffickers and those who effectively treat the most vulnerable in the world as slaves to their greed will be tolerated in any way at any time.
“The victim of the criminal needs to be protected. And sometimes you need to do that by showing very clearly that there is no reward, there is no profit in the crime. And that’s why the Rwanda policy is important.
“But let me be very clear, the Rwanda policy is not enough. Even Priti Patel has said it herself. Priti has said this would only stop a few hundred. Now, that’s worth doing. But what we really need to be focused on is closing down the route and we can only do that if we get serious in North Africa, if we get serious in the Mediterranean. And that’s why I’ve already been speaking to various leaders in Libya. And I’ve already been engaging with various different people in North Africa to make sure we close down those routes because if you think it’s bad in the English Channel it is much worse in the Mediterranean where hundreds are dying every year.
“It’s absolutely criminal, what’s happening in the Sahara. Quite literally, there are smuggling routes of people where there are thousands left to die in the desert. This is human trafficking. It’s a modern form of slavery. It’s wrong and it must be stopped. We must protect people against this evil.”
Mr Tugendhat also explained why he voted against the recent rise in National Insurance contributions.
“I didn’t vote for it,” he said. “Not because I have any moral problem with taxes as an idea. Of course, we have to pay taxes, of course we need to pay for the things that we share in common. “I had a problem with it because it’s a tax on workers at a time when we need the economy to grow. Now, this is a point that Ronald Reagan made so brilliantly.
“I’m a Reaganite and I tell you why I’m such a fan of Ronald Reagan. If you’ve heard his 1964 speech, It is absolutely profound. He makes the point that no government has been able to deliver for the people when it starts to tax over about a third. I think it’s 37/38%. And the real reality here is this isn’t just about taxes, not just about paying for services, it is fundamentally about liberty.
“How free are you if you can’t decide how the money that you’ve worked hard for is spent? How free are you if your economic liberty is constrained? How truly free are you if your decisions are changed or constrained by the whims of a Whitehall official or Treasury minister? How free are you?”