It is difficult to move from one political party to another – a huge chunk of electors vote for the same party at every election – but it is particularly hard for longstanding members with friends, ‘histories’ and, often, electoral success garnered over decades. Of course, the alternatives also matter; it would be perilous simply to switch without thought or, for many, improbable to become politically idle.
For me, such a change has
been in gestation for several years. In part, it is about policies but these,
quite literally, come and go; the real drivers are values, and how they inform
policy making and behaviour. Politics is not an exact science; Otto Von
Bismarck’s famous quote, “Laws are like sausages, it is better not seeing them
made.”, reminds us of the complications – so a set of values must be the
politician’s reference point, certainly in choppy conditions.
For me, advancing the
national interest, promoting life fulfilment – everywhere, enhancing and
protecting individual freedom, and applying the rule of ‘good’ law through
consensus are values worth fighting for. Let me briefly examine each one.
First the national
interest; basically, making sure the UK is prosperous, cohesive, secure and
internationally respected. In my view, Brexit – literally in any form – is
likely to be at odds with the national interest but, since the referendum,
obsessive party interest (Conservative and Labour) has prevented the emergence
of a workable plan.
While I recognised the referendum
result and, with a heavy heart, voted for Article 50, I hoped the Government
would be more respectful of the national interest but, in truth, from the
ill-fated general election campaign of 2017 onwards, this was increasingly
subordinated to Party concerns. It is important to stress this is not just
about the act of leaving the European Union but the signals it sends about the
sort of country the Conservative Party now wants to shape.
Turning to life
fulfilment, my time as Chair of the Education Committee and, subsequently, as
Chair of the Commission on Sustainable Learning for Work, Life and a Changing
Economy (Pearson) were both platforms where I celebrated education but also
promoted my belief in reform and extra resources.
Priorities for education
should include a real boost for the further education sector coupled to
properly identified pathways towards different employment options, an end to
blunt league tables system supported by a refocus on a broader curriculum,
meaningful action to tackle regional disparities and the well-known
rural/coastal challenges, and, crucially, a more linear approach from toddlers
to lifelong learning.
I link economic
productivity and social mobility together, believing it to be a shocking waste
of human talent not to provide properly for every young person. I want to be a
member of a party which has the character and capacity to sort this out.
Protecting and enhancing
individual freedom might be considered a Conservative value but this is also
about rights and, above all, how we treat people, including immigrants. The
days when Edward Heath could invite 150,000 Ugandan Asians to the UK to save
them from Idi Amin’s persecution and then highlight their contribution to our
economy and society are, seemingly, well over within the Conservative Party. Today’s
Conservatives have the Windrush scandal as a handle to their approach to
I am committed to
representative democracy and the rule of law. At heart, I am a ‘pluralist’ –
seeing the rich variety of attitudes and cultures as a good thing. It is about
consensus, engagement and openness – attitudes that should define our political
processes. This is already a hallmark of the Independent Group.
I have decided to
register as a supporter of the Independent Group. I do so because my values
matter to me and I think I can fight for them more effectively if I make this
Former Conservative Member of Parliament for Stroud, 2010-17.