Stephen Crabb stumbles out of the Tory leadership traps
He left the lobby waiting for 30 minutes and then got ambushed over his gay marriage vote.
Stephen Crabb today launched his bid for the leadership of the Conservatives, promising to bring together the factions of his party in a government of “unity and opportunity”.
However, his launch event had an awkward feel as it began half an hour late and featured Crabb calling on journalists who were not present to ask questions.
Crabb also found himself forced to deny that he was “prejudiced against gay people”.
Flanked by Sajid Javid, the work and pensions secretary had stressed his working class credentials and appeared to position himself as the compassionate Conservative heir to David Cameron.
He said: “For those of you who don’t know much about me, I was born in Scotland, grew for a short time there but mainly in Wales; I had a fabulous education at a really good comprehensive school across the road from the Council house where I lived; I had an amazing role model in a mother who overcame massive difficulties and worked incredibly hard for us; she took us to the public library every Saturday where I soaked up books and learning; I worked every week from the age of 12 – starting at the local corner shop, graduating to the Tesco shop floor, and paid my way through university working on building sites in various parts of the country.
“Now I count myself very blessed to have had the upbringing I did. I was brought up to believe no-one was better than me and I was no better than anyone else. I was brought up to believe that no-one is a self-made man or woman – we are all shaped and formed by our families and communities. And I was brought up to understand that nothing gets handed to you on a plate.”
In a dig at Boris Johnson, he added: “On the rainy rugby fields of West Wales I learnt that it’s not a question of just waiting for the ball to pop out from the back of the scrum. If you want it, you do what’s required.”
Johnson once famously answered the question of whether he would like to be prime minister by stating: "If the ball came loose from the back of the scrum, which it won't of course, it would be a great, great thing to have a crack at."
On the future direction of his party, Crabb stated: “It’s about continuing on a path of reform and renewal. Delivering on our commitment to rebalance the economy, to see a fairer distribution of wealth creation right across our nation. It’s about our ability to speak to, and speak for, whole sections of society who feel we have no understanding of the lives they lead.”
But Crabb quickly hit the rocks when the question and answer session began and he had to insist that he was not “prejudiced against gay people”.
Asked about his vote against equal marriage in 2013, Crabb did not seek to u-turn from his stance. He said: “We had a debate in the last Parliament about gay marriage, I voted the way I did but I’m very happy with the outcome.
“That issue is now settled, we move on from it and I’m absolutely committed to doing my bit to create a tolerant, decent society for everybody regardless of their background, regardless of their sexuality – that is not an issue in this leadership campaign.”
But critics have also expressed concern that Crabb has taken parliamentary interns from Christian group Care, which has been linked to other groups that promoted “cures” for homosexuality. Crabb was once an intern there himself.
During the question and answer session, Crabb also called journalists including the Financial Times’ Kate Allen and The Sun’s Steve Hawkes, neither of whom were in the room.