To understand the genius of this country, you sometimes need to see us through the eyes of others.
And having served as Foreign Secretary, I can tell you that across the world we are admired – sometimes even loved – far more than we realise.
When foreigners look at this country, they see a place that stands up for certain values and certain freedoms: democracy, the rule of law, human rights, free speech.
They see a country with fantastic Armed Forces and a globally trusted national broadcaster.
They see a place that has provided the world with its greatest explorers, scientists, inventors, poets, suffragettes and environmentalists.
And what is the name of that country? It isn’t England, or Scotland, or Wales, or Northern Ireland.
It is Britain, or rather the UK: the whole composite – the most successful political and economic union in history.
It is the United Kingdom that is the great global brand, and the Union Flag that captures imaginations around the world – the amalgamated red, white and blue that sums up the soft-power superpower of the 21st Century, recently rated by one leading think-tank as the second most influential country on Earth – and only beaten by the United States, a country that is, when all is said and done, a part of the political and spiritual progeny of the UK.
It is the UK, and not its constituent components, that is defined by some of our greatest national glories: from our National Health Service to our sense of humour to the sports and games that we largely invented and codified and which help to bring the world together today. We members of this precious Union are therefore so obviously and so irrefutably more than the sum of our parts; and that is why I am a passionate believer in the unions – all of them – and when you look at the scale of our collective achievement I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to mutilate this country and to break it up.
SO IF I am lucky enough to be elected as leader of the Conservative Party in the next few weeks, I will do anything in my power to stop that disaster, and to bring this country together.
That does not mean reversing devolution. Of course not – and we should give due acknowledgment to the successes of that programme.
But devolution must not mean dissolution. Devolution should not mean decay of the vital bonds that hold us together.
We should accordingly be far more vocal in illustrating and explaining the success of the whole UK.
We will have a unit in No 10 to sense-test and stress-test every policy for the results it may bring to the Union.
When projects or funding are owed to UK investment – and not the devolved authority – we will be less bashful in claiming credit for the Government of the UK. We should actively campaign for a public understanding of the benefits of the Union, economic and strategic, for the people of all its component nations.
Because there are still passionate voices – especially in Scotland – that are campaigning night and day to break our Union up, to diminish our country. We cannot just leave the field to them, and refuse to engage in the argument.
And to protect the integrity of the whole UK, we need to get Brexit done. We need to fulfil the mandate of the people and come out of the EU, as instructed in the referendum of 2016. We need to get Brexit done sensibly and cleanly – because that is precisely the way to spike the guns of the SNP.
Think of their argument once the whole UK has left the EU.
What are the Scottish Nationalists going to say then?
Are they really going to propose to rejoin the EU as an independent Scotland? Are they going to use the euro in Scotland, to submit to Schengen rules on immigration for Scotland, and to make Scottish business and citizens bow to the full panoply of EU law – while the rest of the UK, Scotland’s most important trading partner, seeks a different and more global destiny?
When the UK leaves the EU, Scotland will finally take back control of Scottish fisheries, which are among the richest in the northern hemisphere.
Are the Scottish Nationalists really going to campaign – post-Brexit – to throw that opportunity away? Will it seriously be their manifesto to hand back control of fisheries to Brussels? Of course not. Properly done, Brexit will not threaten the Union; a sensible Brexit will enhance the Union and protect it and make life more difficult for those who wish to destroy it.
Now is the time, therefore, to be resolute, to get on with Brexit and to bring the whole country together; with better infrastructure, and full fibre broadband, across all four nations.
We should be boosting Scottish fisheries; improving transport in Wales; and we should be restoring and protecting the governance of Northern Ireland, and insisting on the sovereignty of the UK – as upheld in the Good Friday Agreement.
NOW is a great opportunity to entrench and intensify our Union, and it should be an easy sell and an easy argument to make. The world can see our collective strength. We need to celebrate it ourselves, because we are the awesome foursome – far more together than we are apart.
To underscore the importance of these multiple partnerships that develop and grow richer with every year, I also propose a cost-free but symbolically important addition to the office I seek.
I believe that the occupant of No 10 should be not just Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.
He or she should be Minister for the Union as well.