Politics isn’t meant to be easy. What is determined matters to the country and its citizens and passions can run high, though the vast majority of people with whom I have ever spent time, of all party persuasions, do so out of a genuine desire to improve peoples’ lives.
This week’s spending round announcement, to be backed up by a new Queen’s Speech, are expected to emphasise ongoing extra funding for the NHS and boosts to the police and schools. The investment in the NHS is very welcome as we keep pace with modern treatments and as our population ages. Under Katy Bourne’s leadership Sussex police are already expanding. The Prime Minister’s pledge to increase police numbers nationally by 20,000 will be widely welcomed: we need the extra resources and keeping citizens safe and reassured is the primary responsibility of Government. On schools the fair funding formula for which local Conservatives long campaigned on average helped our local schools and began to correct unfairness. I campaigned especially to secure the guaranteed levelling up of per pupil funding – a move that helped Horsham in particular – I look forward to scrutinising the announcement.
These increases are only possible because of the huge strides made by the country over the last decade. The annual amount which the Government has to borrow has been driven down from nearly £130bn a year in 2010 to next to nothing. Instead of piling up huge amounts of extra debt for future generations to pay off with interest, good management and economic growth is enabling us, sensibly and sustainably, to invest further in expanding our valued public services.
However none of this, much of which will I trust be welcomed on both sides of the House, will receive much focus outside, understandably. The Brexit process which has dominated our political life for three years continues to dominate.
I advocated Remaining but always said before the Referendum and before the 2017 General Election that the decision made by the British people in the Referendum should be implemented.
I consistently voted with for the Withdrawal Agreement agreed between the EU and the UK. Had Parliament voted with me in sufficient numbers we would by now have left and be negotiating our future free trade agreement.
Parliament didn’t. Having voted overwhelmingly to hold a Referendum and overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50, Parliament voted down the only means by which we could guarantee to leave the EU with a deal. It did so without being able to agree any alternative.
The Referendum was held three years ago. The questions this week in Parliament are of deep significance one constitutional and one practical: whether the Government is able to set out its own agenda in Parliament and whether the Prime Minister can be allowed credibly to go to the EU and say we are leaving on 31st October, deal or no deal.
I believed the former is critical – only a Government can be held to account for its actions. I believe the latter is genuinely the best route to assist the Prime Minister in securing the acceptable deal I desperately want, one which will pass through Parliament. I think Parliament should give him the space needed to get that deal.