At midnight tonight I will stop being your MP.
For eighteen years I have had the privilege of serving constituents from Wymington to Arlesey, from Wrestlingworth to Harrold. I have said a number of times that being an MP, as I have been in my home town of Bury as well as here in Bedfordshire, is surely the greatest privilege of a citizen. I start by thanking you all enormously; every part of my working life has only been possible because of you. I will never take it for granted.
The privilege lies not only in being at Westminster, taking part in debate, or serving in Government, but in being part of the life of the area which you represent. MPs see so much of what people do- communities held together through parish and town councils, sports clubs, societies based around ideas or pastimes, faith groups - so many. Most constituents see their own and one or two other groups, whereas we see many more. An MP is invited to any place of work, any public service, to the homes of our constituents and be privileged to touch their lives, and even more fortunate be asked to help sort out problems great or small, and make, if possible, a difference. I have been so lucky that this has been my life.
I have loved the House of Commons too - there is simply no better place to turn up to on a Monday morning - I never tired of it. It will be strange to go somewhere different in future.
As you have taken the trouble to read this far, and I’m going, it’s time to let you into four confidences.
Firstly all parties spout nonsense from time to time. Sensible individuals put their brains to one side and say things patently untrue. For example ‘our party cares about x and the others don’t”. Never true; virtually all MPs care about everything you care about, but have different ways of trying to solve the problems of the economy, health, welfare, policing, Europe etc. It would help your understanding of politics if we all acknowledged what we agree about more publicly and stopped running our opponents down. This will not be easy in the next few weeks. But look beyond this, to MPs first and last speeches, and spot the humanity lurking there. We need to get this out more often, and have it acknowledged more.
“Politicians never give a straight answer”. Good politicians do try to answer the question asked, but very little can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. However, politicians briefed simply to run through their script no matter what the question, try the patience of their colleagues, let alone the public.
“You must know what’s going on” No, no one does.
Finally, ‘Politicians don’t care about us’. Actually, we do, all of us, more than you can possibly imagine. So many of the all-party groups in Parliament commenced because of taking on a cause of our constituents, and following it through out of public gaze, and for no electoral gain at all. Laws are changed because of what MPs believe in, fight for and overcome. We come into public life through politics because of a simple desire to do what we can, with what we have, where we are - to make life better both nationally, locally and personally for our constituents.
I have been proud of my life as an MP, proud of my colleagues and deeply appreciative for the opportunity given me on five occasions by the electorate.
May I wish you, the communities which make up the villages, parishes and towns of our North East Bedfordshire, all the very best for the future. I will make sure my successor knows what a gem is being inherited.