‘Mr Europe’ David Lidington: the man who could replace May

David Lidington, who is mooted to take over as interim prime minister should Theresa May be ousted, may scarcely register with the general public, but within his party he is known for being on the pro-remain wing, having served as Europe minister from 2010 to 2016.

That means he is at least well-versed on the subject that has torn the Conservatives apart for more than three decades and which threatens to take down another prime minister – but it may not endear him to the pro-Brexit European Research Group.

The MP for Aylesbury took over from Damian Green as May’s de facto deputy in a reshuffle in January 2018, becoming Cabinet Office minister, and has been one of her staunchest allies over the last chaotic year.

Born in 1956, the same year as May, Lidington read history at Cambridge, and captained his college, Sidney Sussex, to victory in University Challenge in 1978.

He served as as an adviser to Douglas Hurd – also a former Europe minister before stints as home and foreign secretary – and ran unsuccessfully for the Vauxhall constituency in 1987.

David Lidington and the Sidney Sussex Cambridge team on University Challenge.

David Lidington and the Sidney Sussex Cambridge team on University Challenge. Photograph: Granada TV

Eventually elected in 1992 to his safe Buckinghamshire seat, Lidington is ostensibly a one nation Tory, although his views are socially conservative – he voted against lowering the age of consent for gay sex to 16 and opposes same-sex marriage.

Although backbenchers widely respect him and he is said to have no enemies in the Commons, his elevation to the top job would cause ructions within the Tory party due to his pro-Europe stance.

“If you think the Tories are split now,” one minister told the Mail on Sunday, “just wait till Mr Europe takes the reins.”

Another MP from the party’s remain wing told the Mail: “Lidington’s reputation is so pro-EU the Brexit hardcore in the ERG will eat him alive.”

In an interview with the Observer during the referendum campaign in 2016, Lidington criticised Conservative colleagues who wanted to leave the bloc. “I do find it extraordinary that those who want Britain to leave the EU seem to hold to two utterly contradictory propositions at the same time,” he said.

He continued: “Their first belief is that inside the EU we cannot achieve any meaningful change and that too often the other countries are in some sort of nefarious conspiracy against our interests.

“But their second belief, which they hold equally firmly, is that outside the EU these very same countries and governments would rush to give us some new deal that has all the benefits of EU membership with none of the things that apply to others.”

In that 2016 interview he also pointed to the positions of Switzerland and Norway, which are often held up as templates for Britain’s future outside the EU. “They both have higher EU migration rates than we do, they both have to pay into the EU budget, they both have to accept EU rules and regulations as the price for access to a free-trade single market. There is no getting away from that.

“I think the leave campaign is still in a state of confusion about what they actually mean by leave.”


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.