The end of a Parliament reminds you of the end of school. There are a few differences. Instead of having to pass exams to return to class after the summer break, it’s the ordinary voter who gets to decide whether they want you back, and your chances of being expelled are far greater. But for some it’s graduation time as we move on to other things and other places, escape back into the real world, cut and run in advance of an anticipated political massacre, or just simply retire.
There are a few of us in that last camp and I’m one. So this will be my last ever MP’s blog.
Thursday was a slot for valedictories. It’s an opportunity for those leaving to express a few choice words and just a chance to thank constituents for putting them there in the first place. People tend to think of Parliament as a place of skulduggery, bar-room brawls and deep-seated nastiness. Happily that’s incorrect.
I’ve spent 10 years as an MP, which is a pretty good run following on from a few decades of wider public engagement including being a county councillor. After my time building up two businesses, I could scarcely imagine I would end up as a ‘late starter’ on the green benches. It has been an extraordinary privilege. I hope that I’ve been able to represent the interests of hard-working people of this town and improve their lives a little.
I also hope I’ve improved the situation for small businesses and for those young people seeking jobs who initially failed to find one. Nine years on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has confirmed the remarkable energy that SMEs possess, if only Whitehall could remember to lay off the red tape, and big business remember to see them as a resource and a partner rather than a nuisance.
I am most proud of creating the Northampton Alive project which will come to be something of an exemplar in the years ahead. Building new facilities and expanding on our strengths. It’s sister project Challenge 2016 focused on our county’s NEETs (young people seeking employment, education or training) and when we launched the campaign there were over 5,600 young people in our county looking for a job, and that figure has been reduced to a little under 1,500. It’s real tangible practical successes like that which make the long hours and travel worthwhile, seeing real change to ordinary lives.
Incidently many people told me that young people weren’t aspirational. It’s surprising how aspirational they become – when they’ve got a job.
Will I miss being an MP? Of course I will. But at least you’ll be spared the prospect now of my ever appearing doing Strictly Chron Dancing again. By the way, I lost half a stone practising for that great event instigate by the Chronicle and Echo newspaper and I can hear many of you thinking that my waistline could benefit for a similar opportunity again.
Let me conclude by saying that I have been immensely proud to be a representative of the people of Northampton South and I have been very grateful for the kindnesses I have received from the many thousands of citizens I have come into contact with. Thank you for your support and your patience. It’s been a hell of a ride and I wish for you every joy and happiness in the year ahead.