Views from the Review: Gadsby discusses Johnson campaign
Much of the Conservative leadership race has been dominated by discussions about Boris Johnson’s character. In order to assess the views of prominent business leaders on this issue, we spoke to David Gadsby, co-owner of Spirotech Group, a specialist engineering business based in Peterborough.
Despite previous electoral success, including becoming the first Conservative Mayor of London since the post was created in 2000, questions surround Boris Johnson’s suitability for the role of prime minister.
A number of high profile politicians, including the SNP Commons Leader Ian Blackford, have publicly declared their belief that Johnson is not capable of performing the role of prime minister.
Even those from within his party have argued that he is unfit. Dominic Grieve, the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield and a prominent campaigner for remaining in the EU, said in an LBC interview: “I personally have serious doubts about Boris Johnson's capacity to be Prime Minister.”
When asked directly if he thought Johnson was unfit for the role, he answered: “Yes I do. I'm afraid he's shown, especially during his period as Foreign Secretary, that he doesn't have the necessary skills and capacity.
"He has undoubted skills and indeed elements of genius, but I'm afraid his record in that respect doesn't suggest to me that he's the solution to the problem."
Despite these criticisms, Johnson won the support of 160 Conservative MPs during the first round of the leadership contest, 83 more than the candidate in second place, Jeremy Hunt. He has also attracted fulsome praise from both current and ex-cabinet members including Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and Gavin Williamson, the former Defence Secretary.
Writing in The Times, Hancock argued: “Having considered all the options, I’m backing Boris Johnson as the best candidate to unite the Conservative party, so we can deliver Brexit and then unite the country behind an open, ambitious, forward-looking agenda, delivered with the energy that gets stuff done.”
According to an opinion poll conducted by Opinium, which surveyed 324 Conservative members and 1,919 members of the public, 75 per cent of Conservative members believe Boris Johnson would be a “good prime minister.”
The wider public, however, view Johnson very differently, with 46 per cent of respondents stating he would not perform the job well. This trend is replicated across the vast majority of opinion polls: while Johnson may be popular among Conservative party members, the general public remain sceptical.
Key to the success of a possible Johnson premiership will be the way he interacts and is viewed by UK businesses. During his leadership launch, Johnson declared he “would stick up for every business in this country.”
He also vowed to transform the UK economy, elevating it to a level at which it could compete “neck and neck” with Germany in both manufacturing and technology.
Operating across the UK as well as in France, Germany and the Netherlands, Spirotech provide manufacturing solutions for a range of industries. Their co-owner, David Gadsby, struck a measured tone when assessing Johnson’s suitability for the office of prime minister.
Despite praising Johnson’s intelligence, Gadsby called for the former mayor to “temper his responses”, especially while campaigning for office.
In response to a question about some of his more contentious remarks, Johnson apologised for any offence he may have caused but criticised the “bureaucratic platitudes” of fellow politicians and argued what the public want to hear “is what we really think.”
Gadsby identified this idea of “speaking directly” as a strength of Johnson’s, describing his “forthright views” and “actual political answers” as “refreshing.”
Closing his remarks, and despite reservations about Johnson’s ability to be measured, Gadsby stated that he believed that Johnson would be a good prime minister.