Justin Tomlinson MP

Justin Tomlinson MP

MP For North Swindon

Swindon Advertiser Column - It Was Great To Be Part Of Kemi's Exciting Campaign

Last week finished on a high- as part of Kemi Badenoch’s inner team, we had defied the odds to make the final 5 in the leadership contest and earnt the chance to appear in the two TV hustings over the weekend.

Kemi’s strength is her authenticity - a straight-talking, no-nonsense candidate – underlined with a good sense of humour.

First up was the Channel 4 debate.

I could see in the opening exchanges the nerves were there, but she soon settled in and overall, there was a positive media response, with a view Liz and Penny had struggled, but Tom had shone. We would need more from Sunday’s hustings.

Kemi absolutely stepped up for the ITV hustings – the nerves were gone and she was on the front foot, with a glowing media response. This was a game changer and when we arrived in Parliament on Monday many undecided MPs were keen to meet Kemi.

At 8pm we headed up for the 3rd round of results and not only had Kemi remained ahead of Tom, but she had closed the gap on Liz now down to just 13. We were straight down to Central Lobby for the media round and the question now was could we gain enough of Tom’s supporters, plus a few switchers to overhaul Liz?

24 hours of chasing up and meeting with colleagues, plus media and Parliamentary hustings followed. At 3pm on Tuesday we headed up for the 4th round of results, alas Kemi was eliminated as we fell short of Liz.

Whilst we were all disappointed, it had been an amazing effort. From a standing start, with no slick video, no pre-assembled team and no website until 24 hours before the official launch, to come 4th in a crowded field, beating so many established candidates was well beyond expectations. I loved being a part of Kemi’s team, from the media rounds, reaching out to colleagues, prepping for debates and taking Kemi to vote each day. It was great to be part of something so exciting.

On Wednesday, with the final vote remaining, along with Kemi’s 59 supporters, I suddenly became very popular, with all 3 remaining candidates desperate for those final votes to get them over the line. With the hot weather I even joked on GB News they should offer up ice-cream to secure a meeting!

I did speak to all 3 candidates and choosing who to support having invested in Kemi was tough. In fact, I was last to vote, and I was still torn as my pen hovered over the ballot paper.

With Liz and Rishi in the final they both now have an opportunity to set out their ideas and policies. I suspect like me, most of the Party membership are torn, so the gruelling schedule of 12 hustings, 2 TV debates, roadshow visits and back-to-back media interviews will be key. I wish them both the very best of luck.

Finally, I want to thank all of those in the emergency services who worked so hard this week during the heat wave. It was pretty unbearable but as always, they kept going to keep everybody safe. This week showed that climate change is a danger to us all and Governments all over the world have to make sure this remains an urgent priority.

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