There will be an audible sigh of relief as Parliament rises today for the Summer Recess. I cannot remember any occasion in my 20 years in Westminster when there have been so many dramatic events in such a short space of time; and a month or so for quiet reflection may be a very good thing. But while I may be away from Westminster, my constituency engagements will continue even over the summer.
The sheer democratic drama of the EU Referendum (whichever side of the argument you may have been on) will be remembered for centuries to come. Project Fear has resulted in a number of self-fulfilling prophesies being duly fulfilled in the few weeks since. The Stock Exchange did indeed collapse, although has now rallied to a stronger position than before the Referendum. It is true that the pound devalued; although there is really no reason why it should have done. Currency speculation (for that is what it is) often bites back. Watch this space. After all we are still full members of the EU; absolutely nothing has, as yet, changed. So some of these ‘dire’ consequences are purely the result of speculation and scare-mongering.
Yet it cost the careers of David Cameron, George Osborne, and a handful of senior ministers; it precipitated Theresa May into No 10; it occasioned one of the most dramatic reshuffles since the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ under Harold MacMillan; it has sent shock waves through the EU and across the Globe. Plucky old John Bull doing what he believes to be right despite the collective wisdom of the liberal North London elite.
Sir John Chilcot meanwhile produced his devastating report finally destroying another Prime Minister’s name and legacy. The Liberal Democrat whose letter appeared in last week’s Gazette is wrong. I resigned as Shadow Defence Minister over Iraq, to which I was very much opposed. I was (I am sorry to say) persuaded to abstain rather than vote against the war, and then along with the whole House voted in favour of a motion wishing our service people well as they went into battle. The Liberals, of course, never let the facts prevent smear and innuendo and personal attacks.
The devastating and tragic attack in Nice is to some degree a result of events in Iraq in 2003, which created chaos across the region, and left a vacuum for Daesh to fill. As we grieve with the people of France (yet again), we must take note of Sir John Chilcot’s conclusions, and make sure that the same thing can never occur again, and must not happen here in the UK.
Friday brought more devastation, with the attempted military coup in Turkey. Yet further evidence of instability in the region.
These have been turbulent times indeed (without even mentioning the meltdown in the Labour Party). Yet we now have a strong new PM, a dramatically refreshed group of ministers, a clear direction ahead of us, and some great opportunities for our nation. There are dangerous rocks to the left, all-consuming whirlpools to the right. Theresa May must now safely steer the Ship of State between Scylla and Charybdis to a better future on the other side.