I am so grateful to those who put their trust in me last Thursday. I was delighted to increase my share of the vote and to achieve one of the highest popular votes in the country. I am so lucky with the great team who supported me for their hard work and good humour. I congratulate Jason Collis and Dan Carter for their stunning success in the Thatcham by election brought about by the tragic death of my friend and colleague Roger Croft.
At the announcement of the result I paid tribute to my opponents for having the courage to “put their heads above the parapet”. It is not easy to stand for Parliament and it’s time we had more respect for those who do so, particularly in constituencies where they are unlikely to win. As someone who still likes to think of himself as young I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that my Labour opponent was born the year after I was selected to fight the Newbury seat!
The national result was clearly not what I wanted but we must now make the best of it. I think the message that the electorate sent us was that they wish to see political parties work together on the big issues that we face. Brexit will be foremost among the great challenges. The reality is that the differences between the Labour and Conservative Parties are relatively minor so I hope a workable plan for the negotiations can be achieved in the coming weeks.
I firmly believe that eliminating the deficit and tackling our nation’s debt is fundamental to the future of this country. The younger generation will be burdened by it in almost unimaginable ways if we do not tackle it. But I also accept that the country is weary of the financial constraints we have applied to Government spending. It is too early to say how the Government should reflect this and how it could afford increases that would go above the already record-breaking and inflation-busting increases we have planned for services like the NHS. But I think that the electorate is asking us to look hard at how we support public services and those who work in them.
I will continue to do my best for West Berkshire and to seek to represent all those who live here regardless of how they voted. It is the greatest privilege to represent such an exciting and diverse constituency and I’m grateful for the chance to continue to do so.