Shropshire Star comment: Next PM must crack Brexit deal

Whoever triumphs in the Conservative leadership contest is best advised to cancel any summer holiday plans.

The candidates in the hustings shown on the BBC
The candidates in the hustings shown on the BBC

And any ideas about a nice, gentle introduction to life in Number 10 should be put aside equally as swiftly.

When the dust has settled, and Boris Johnson – if indeed he is the chosen one – becomes our next Prime Minister, the challenges will arrive thick and fast.

The new Tory leader will have three monumental tasks on his plate as soon as his meeting with the Queen is over – and neither of them can wait to be sorted out.

Firstly, he will need to undo Theresa May’s disastrous, unbackable Brexit deal and come up with something that the European Union and enough MPs can get behind.

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Then – and this is crucial in the lead-up to his biggest challenge – will be to sell that deal to the British public as a major win, an achievement that puts to bed the Conservatives’ last three years of abject failure on the issue.

But hanging over everything is the desperate need to unite the Tory party, a phrase that is regularly banded around by MPs, despite the fact that few of them appear to have the slightest inkling as to how to do it.

For the new inhabitant at Number 10 failure is unthinkable.

The lessons from history are there.

When John Major’s administration toppled in 1997, the Tories were hopelessly split over key issues and found themselves jettisoned into the political wilderness for more than a decade.

To prevent this from happening again, the new leader will need to win the battle over the direction of the party.

It will be in his favour that the Labour Party is also in dire straits, crippled by divisions over Brexit, allegations of anti-Semitism and concern over a seemingly unstoppable lurch towards the hard left under Jeremy Corbyn.

But no Prime Minister should ever rely on the failure of the opposition as a means of guaranteeing power, particularly with the Brexit Party and the resurgent Lib Dems having entered the equation.

The British public will stand for no more procrastination when it comes to Brexit. Failure to deliver it will surely mean a very short stay in office for our next Prime Minister.

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