Fortunately the first attempt at the blog seems to have gone down well yesterday and I have been given some good ides of subjects to cover over the next 6 weeks! When I said went well I mean everybody seemed to heed my plea to disagree well… we had no major fights on my social media. Phew!
As I pointed out yesterday politics is fast moving these days. I popped out last night to play Touch Rugby as usual and by the time I finished at about 8.45 my phone was alight with messages about our current Tory MP in Loughborough standing down. I told you not to expect much insight from me. I hadn’t seen this coming. I have chatted more over the last year with Nicky than her earlier years in Parliament but I will honestly say that I didn’t expect this.
First of all I would like to wish Nicky best wishes for whatever she decides to do next. Clearly we have never seen eye to eye on much policy and I have always hated watching many of the things we created and opened in Loughborough being underfunded and closed down by her government. But that is political disagreement. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible to get on and be civil. One of the things about being in Parliament is that you realise the ‘opposition’ think very differently about the world, but the vast majority are there because they want to improve the condition of the country from their perspective. Battle over the ideas and hate the policies – but don’t hate the person.
I will admit it was tough having an opponent working hard between 2005-2010 to unseat me. It’s like having somebody at work shouting in the media that you are terrible at your job and you should be sacked at every opportunity. I am not sure how many people could cope with that (unless you are football manager of course). But I realised it was her role and I had probably done the same to Stephen Dorrell MP in 1992.
By 2010 I knew I was going to lose. The Polls were telling us that. It had been a rough time in Parliament between 2005-2010 dealing with the fallout of the international global financial crisis and its impact on people locally. I a sense like Nicky has described it was a relief for me in the end to lose. Trying your best but facing anger and abuse daily isn’t a good place to be.
I tried to step back quite quickly and not be a back street driver for either Nicky or the new candidate Labour chose to replace me. She did invest her time in doing what I had always loved… getting stuck into the constituency issues. I know even local Labour activists would accept she worked hard and effectively on a wide range of local issues.
Over the last few years I have moved on from thinking there was a way back into Parliament for me and so I had started working with Nicky on a number of local and national issues as I suspected she was going to be around for another 5 years in 2015!
Oh how quickly politics changed after that election. We did agree to fight for #Remain together in the Referendum – putting out a joint plea in the end of the campaign to stay in Europe. The Loughborough constituency voted almost exactly 50/50 in the referendum. (people sometimes wrongly quote the Charnwood result. Analysis points to an even split) So Nicky was handed a poisoned chalice in 2016. One I don’t envy.
We will return to #Brexit I am sure, but this was probably the final straw for her. When she was sacked from cabinet and she rebelled for the first time we chatted about the freedom that one feels once you are free of obeying the whip all the time. She seemed to revel in this new role and would have been a difficult opponent to unseat. This was shown in 2017, where for a University liberal non-Leave seat she held Loughborough with a slightly bigger majority than when she beat me in 2010 (over 4000 to 3300)
But then over the last year she has tried to make Brexit happen, probably against her better judgement and has worked with all sides to work on a compromise. Sadly Brexit, the ERG the ardent Remainers don’t like compromise and she has lost the faith and trust of many when she joined the Johnson cabinet after making it clear she wouldn’t. Words like hypocrisy have been liberally thrown around. Her position was almost impossible to explain, but she seemed to think genuinely it was better to influence from inside the room – as they say in Hamilton the Musical!
I have MP friends still across the House and I see the abuse and death threats they receive. Some have panic alarms linked direct to the police because these death threats are viable. Nicky was receiving these threats and one person was tried in the courts. I had threats in the past but nothing on the scale extreme #brexiteers bring to politics . I know I couldn’t cope with being in Westminster and leaving a family back in Loughborough weekly with he nowledge that those threatening know where you and your family live and children go to school.
As politicians you never really develop a thick skin. Every insult and attack digs and hurts. Physical threat adds a strain to an already stressful job. I don’t blame her with all these things happening in Politics at the moment feeling it is time to walk away.
I actually thought Nicky would win this election given the polls and pass my 13 years stint. The previous MP of course Stephen Dorrell represented the seat from 1979 to 1997 when I won. He has now left the Party and recently joined the Lib Dems. Loughborough will always be a bellwether seat and won from the centre. So it will be interesting to see who the Tories choose as the next candidate.
I am sure Nicky leaving does increase the chances of the Tories losing the seat if nationally the polls narrow over the election. As MPs we can always over estimate the local impact we have. Most commentators and academics agree it is usually no more than 600-2000 people locally who would specifically vote for a candidate over party. But in a close election that is the difference between winning and losing.
Life after Parliament is possible. I believe I have been able to do some of the things locally by serving voluntarily that I would have done as an MP. You miss being at the heart of so much locally and nationally but you get your life and family back! Its a good swap. I am sure Nicky will find plenty of opportunities in the future to pursue her passions and interests. She has been massively helpful with Sarah on the issue of #ME locally and in Parliament. From a professional point of view she was very good and diligent.
Politically of course I am glad she has gone. But personally I am pleased she has made the decision of her own free will and hope she is comfortable with it.
I know people will hate and criticise me for being so ‘reasonable’ when rightly they will point to the hurt and misery caused by Austerity over the last 9 years on her watch. I get that but I don’t believe that means you can’t engage and hopefully change the mind of the individual. Even recently when I have been bitterly disappointed that she seemed to back NoDeal Johnson despite us campaigning together for Remain I took time to speak and try to understand. I still can’t understand her decision but we will agree to disagree like we all should.
So this does open up the Loughborough seat a bit more – and more of that at a later date now I have seen the opening salvo of Polls as the election kicks off!