First and foremost a very warm and sincere ‘thank you’ to the people of NE Bedfordshire, who returned me to Parliament in the recent General Election. To have been elected for the fifth time to represent you is an honour and a privilege indeed, and a responsibility I never take lightly.

I have never known a more curious election in terms of its trajectory, from what looked like a dominant position at the beginning for the Conservative Party, to the drama of the exit poll telling us something different. There are many causes, and we all expect much to be written about it in the weeks, months and years to come, so I am not going to pre-empt all that. Suffice to say I think a lot of lessons have been learned by all parties, and the next election campaign will be different.

Did I say next election? Well, we could all do with a break! I am aware that Brenda from Bristol spoke for all when she exclaimed her frustration that the election was called. Two elections and a Referendum from 2015-17 is quite enough! We shall see.

The election will also be remembered as it was marred by two terrorist atrocities. Coming in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox MP a year ago, and of the Westminster attack more recently, the awful scenes from Manchester and London Bridge mattered much more to people than politics for many days, and rightly so. I hope the stories of bravery from passers-by, of heroism from emergency services, and of what had already been achieved in young lives cut short will long be remembered after the attackers themselves are forgotten and discarded. The unbreakable spirit of people in adversity is sometimes just astonishing.

The consequence of all this is that I expect this Parliament to be the most difficult of all I have been fortunate to serve in. We have, of course, the challenge of leaving the EU, though the Parliamentary arithmetic now ensures that the Prime Ministers determination to see this as a ‘national endeavour’ should be fulfilled by taking note of a wide range of voices, in Parliament and outside, rather than just those of a governing party. The increased threat from terror sources, from home and overseas, will require even greater efforts to combat and disrupt it. And the huge social challenges of the country, the balancing of the economy between new requirements for spending and the need to raise it wisely and fairly, will not be easy.

My own role has changed once again, as I am asked by the Prime Minister to return to Middle East affairs, which affect us all greatly. I shall write further about this next time.