This has been a long election campaign. Taking part locally, and observing what has been going on elsewhere, it is clear that national messages do not always match the mood of the country. As Jo Cox observed, there is much more that unites than divides in this country, but politics is about choice, and our democratic process highlights the differences upon which choice is based. This makes the process harsher than I think most people want. And you are tired of soundbites.

So, with the ability to use this medium as well as the more conventional leaflets- which again can only convey part of a story - let me offer my view of where the country and NE Bedfordshire should be over the next few years.

I believe, as I always have, in a politics which recognises the value of individual aspiration and effort, from whatever base, how those aspirations can be realised, and what role the state might usefully play in that, coupled with a degree of realism about economics - which means you can’t always get what you want.

In the present Conservative Manifesto it says this:-

For too many people, where you end up in life is still determined by where you were born and to whom. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their talents and hard work, whoever you are and wherever you are from.

AND

We will need to govern in the manner established by Theresa May since she became prime minister last year. We must reject the ideological templates provided by the socialist left and the libertarian right and instead embrace the mainstream view that recognises the good that government can do.

I think this is good, and I am sorry we have not heard more of this during the campaign. Of course it doesn’t mean that a government can avoid difficult decisions, and there will always be criticism of any Government and party - Labours 75p pension increase or the Lib Dems U turn on student fees - no one is immune! - but we can sometimes miss the wider picture in concentrating on specifics, no matter how important.

I have liked working in Government. I liked the civil servants I worked with, who were never faceless, and gave me extraordinary service. Most people in government try to do their best for the public.

I believe in a mixed economy UK, full of choices. I have worked in the public and private sector. I found new skills in the private sector, valuing those who put themselves on the line to build a business, but found a deep sense of vocation in public life through politics. I am a child of public service. My father is a doctor, my mother was a teacher. My brother is a doctor. I have no private health insurance, so my commitment to the NHS is strong. My family has been educated in both state and independent sector.

I have worked with excellent people in local government, and do not believe that there should be over dictation as to what they should choose to do locally. I like choice in schools, and the new mix contains exciting opportunities, but good councils can run schools, and housing, well. I am looking forward to seeing the Government turn its new proposal on Council Housing Deals into reality.

Publicly run organisations are not good just because they are public, as some argue, nor are they bad because they are public, as some ideological right wingers suggest. In my experience of over thirty years they can be good or bad, depending on the quality of leadership. Resources make a difference, though I reject both “easy hits” which are that ‘more money always means better’, or that ‘there is always fat in the public sector’. A bit of stability matters more - we have to learn to make changes and then leave alone for a while.

So, in the next few years, let’s move away from the old arguments, and judge the ability of an organisation to do its job not on ideology, but on effectiveness. Renationalising a whole swathe of bodies seems like yesterday’s answer to me, so I won’t be voting for that, if re-elected! But they cannot get a free run just because they are in the private sector either.

On Brexit, I think my views are clear. I did not vote for it, but accept - genuinely - it is in the UK’s interest to make this work both for us and the EU. The EU is in a weak position - the near rejection of it by the French should be a source of worry; it is not a magical escape pod that would save the UK, somehow. But nor is ‘with one bound we are free’, the cry of the Brexiteers. The truth is that we are interdependent, and a negotiated separation and future that strengthens the EU, and assists the UK to trade effectively, is in our best interests.

I am sadder about the politics than the trade aspects of Brexit. States working together, as we have been doing in the EU, is a strong counter to centuries of conflict in Europe. I don’t think the emotional aspects of Europe’s history and the contribution of the EU came out strongly enough in the Referendum debate. But it is not impossible to work closely from a new position. The problems facing Europe have not gone away; migration, Eurozone, Climate and environment, Russia, a new US - and I regret the sense that somehow our leaving the EU suggests we are walking away and leaving them to it. In recent months I have already met with Chancellor Merkel’s Chief of Staff, and friends in the German, French and European Parliament as Parliamentarians must work together, in parallel with our Governments, to ensure the most co-operative atmosphere for talks which will be difficult at times, but need not always be seen as zero-sum games. We could do with some help from the media on this, but is suspect that is pie in the sky.

If re-elected I will hope to use whatever position I have in Parliament to be engaged with Brexit, and encourage the Government to keep to its commitment to make a deal for the benefit of the UK as a whole. I am expecting a lowering of rhetoric on all sides, and determined efforts to get an agreement on past commitments and a new trade future. The talks on both need to be in parallel - the Government is quite right about this, and we need to ensure rights for all our citizens are quickly agreed.

On our future more locally, we remain in an envious position geographically, with business clamouring to be based here. We need to manage the new building needed to meet the aspirations of people who want housed by ensuring that it is ‘sustainable’. What I mean by that is that we don’t lose what makes our area enjoyable to live in by crowding it out, and that the services on which we all depend do not become too stretched. GP cover is my biggest concern, because the NHS cannot direct people to particular places. We need more - which the Government is planning and will deliver upon - and need to encourage them to come to Bedfordshire.

Much of what makes us tick here depends on getting the economy right, which I expect a Conservative Government to do. I will be watching out for both manufacturing and farming - the terms of Brexit matter very much to both. I’m very alert to what the US might be demanding in return for trade deals, in terms of protecting our animal welfare and environmental standards, but so have ministers been when I have questioned them about this.

And by the way, I do not think the countryside needs another great debate about foxhunting. The 2004 Act is not perfect, but its central premise is correct, and I am not going to vote for its repeal. We still have packs of hounds, and we still have hunts, but re-opening this issue threatens a broad acceptance we have had for over a decade now. And yes, I have changed my mind over this, because of the passage of time and the lack of agitation over it. There would be risks to both the supporters of foxhunting and those who oppose it if we open it up again. I do not object to a Parliamentary debate- it has been a longstanding commitment to offer that - but I think we have moved on.

I hope these reflections are helpful. On my belief that people do actually have a longer span of attention than a goldfish, and will read something with the occasional sub-clause, I trust the chance to spell things out in a bit more detail helps the debate before the election this coming week. And although there is more I could be writing about - foreign affairs for example - you have been more than patient to read this far. Do email me with any thoughts you may have on the above.

I would be proud to have your vote and be re-elected.

Thank you