“It’s a great job were it not for elections” was advice proffered to me many years ago by some old MP when I was first elected. I could not disagree more. Most of what we do as MPs - in the constituency, in Parliament, and in all of our many and varied interests - is only legitimate because people voted for it/us. There is no better feeling than knowing that you have won an election, and no worse than realising that you have lost it. Politics is a hard trade.
We all hope, I think, that there will be no General Election before its due date in May/June 2022. Yet there can be no denying that that is one possible outcome of the paralysis currently gripping Parliament. Leaving aside the technicalities of the 5 Year Fixed Term Parliaments Act, and leaving aside the politics, which are confused and worrying, if the Government cannot govern they sooner or later have to go back to the people to renew their legitimacy. So I was delighted that the Executive Council of the North Wiltshire Conservative Association last Friday renewed their confidence in me as their candidate at the next General Election - whenever it may be.
It is great to know that I have their confidence, and that together we are hopeful/confident that we will win the North Wiltshire election whenever it may be. I am proud of the fact that since 1997 when I was first elected with a majority of 3,500, that figure has grown in each of my six elections to a 2017 figure of 23,000, or 63% of the those who voted. But I have never taken that majority - nor a single vote - for granted, always remembering who it is who sends me to Parliament to represent them.
Two of my favourite possessions are a letter from Viscount Eccles, who as David Eccles was MP here from 1942 until 1962. “What was your greatest moment”, I asked him. “Trying my best to serve the people of North Wiltshire” he modestly replied. The other is an election leaflet/polling card produced by Captain Victor Cazalet MC, who was the MP from 1923 until he was sadly killed (with General Sikorski) in 1942. “Victor Cazalet. The Man you know. No wild promises. Just a record of steady service,” it reads, and what a great and modest claim that was. Like my distinguished predecessors, my proudest profile would be: “He’s a good constituency MP; he tries his best to serve the people of North Wiltshire; the man you know - a record of steady service” would suit me very well indeed.
The Leadership election is past its first phase. Boris has guaranteed himself a place in the final two by exceeding the magic 105 votes (providing he maintains the same level of support). All of the remaining candidates (initially six others, but you can expect that to shrink by the time of the next ballot on Tuesday) are a long way behind. A great deal will depend on the alliances and deals which will no doubt be struck over the weekend. It’s a high stakes game, and brutal in its process. It stands in stark contrast to the Labour Party whose leadership mechanism is cumbrous and complex, making replacing Mr Corbyn virtually impossible.
I suspect that a few of the bruised leadership candidates will today be feeling: “It’s a great job were it not for elections.”