Statement to Annual General Meeting of the Stroud Conservative Association
Thursday 15 March 2018
I am sorry to be unable to be with you this evening but it is necessary for me to be in London on a work-related matter. I would be grateful if you would accept my apologies.
The last general election was, in my view, unnecessary, badly framed in terms of the political context and fought in a reckless fashion. Despite increasing my total vote, I was defeated narrowly in consequence of these national failings but, as a democrat, I freely accept the result but not without noting my record as Member of Parliament has earned respect and, in many quarters, gratitude.
Locally, I am proud of all I did. In particular, playing a leading part in delivering the Berkeley Green project – including a University Technical College, creating Festomane (Festival of Manufacturing and Engineering), and, less in the spotlight, helping hundreds of people solve their often highly complex problems.
Nationally, I would highlight the period when I acted as a bulwark against the undermining of the Government’s strategy of obliterating the public finance deficit (sometimes having to stand against the wishes of local councillors) and I am immensely satisfied as progress has now been achieved. I am also extremely proud of the Antarctic Act 2013, recent changes in school governance, forthcoming introduction of ‘personal, health and social education’, and, more generally, the work of the Education Select Committee.
My reputation in public policy has now underpinned a number of highly interesting and rewarding opportunities. For instance, I am now Honorary Professor of Politics and Education at the University of Nottingham, and I have a large number of remunerated positions in the world of education. All of these activities are away from Stroud.
Politics is not an exact science or without disappointment. As many of you know, I have profound reservations about Brexit and the process leading to it. My worries are rooted in my unshakable love for my country, and my belief in nationhood, internationalism and free trade. I will continue to work for the best possible future of our people but I believe the course we now follow is laden with risk and lost opportunity.
I want to thank you all for everything you have done to support my endeavours. I have always thought of politics as a team operation and I have been fortunate to have had a great team, hopefully also a happy one.
It is too early to say how my political life will develop but I am not ruling out other ways to promote my values and ideas. Likewise, I recognise the appetite for a considered choice as to who might be the standard bearer for the Party here in Stroud.
My inclination is to move on – I was never simply interested in just being an MP; instead, I saw it as a means to achieve change – so, in the absence of compelling reasons to stay in Stroud, I am keen to grasp new opportunities to make an impact in public policy and politics as they arise.
With best wishes to you all.
11 March 2018