As you probably know, I voted for the UK to remain in the EU. I’ve spent the last seven weeks pounding the streets, greeting shoppers on high streets and commuters on their way to or from work trying to persuade them to do likewise.
I’m proud that Croydon and the great city of which it is part voted to remain in the EU, but devastated that the country as a whole voted to leave. I remain very worried about the consequences of this decision - the effect it may have on my constituents’ living standards and our country’s influence in the world; the increase we are seeing in prejudice against people perceived as foreigners (many of whom are actually British citizens); and the possible break-up of our country given that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain.
About half of my constituents feel the same. Many have emailed me calling for Parliament to ignore the result of the referendum or legislate for a second one.
Despite my misgivings about the decision we’ve taken, I can’t agree with that. I said before polling day that I would respect the result. I warned that if we voted to leave there would be no going back, no second chance. I can’t go back on my word because I didn’t get the result I wanted.
Yes, Leave only won narrowly but it did win and in a democratic society the view of the majority must prevail even when it is only a narrow majority.
Yes, leading Leave campaigners are already admitting that they are unlikely to deliver some of the promises they made, but sadly that happens all too often in politics.
And yes, fewer than 50% of eligible electors voted for Leave, but the turnout was high (higher than at last year’s General Election for example) so you cannot argue that Leave lacks a mandate: more people voted for the UK to leave the EU than for any government in our history.
I dread to think how those who did so - many of whom already have very little faith in our political system - would react if MPs refused to accept the result or insisted on the referendum being re-run.
As you know, the Prime Minister has announced that he will be standing down in October. This is the right decision - the country needs a Prime Minister who believes in the path it has chosen - but in my opinion we've lost best politician of his generation (I appreciate those of you who are not Conservative supporters are unlikely to agree on that point!)
The Prime Minister has rightly said that he will not invoke Article 50 (the formal notification that we are leaving the EU) straight away, but leave this decision to his successor. In the meantime, I will work with like-minded politicians from all parties to press for:
• the best possible new relationship with the EU in terms of our access to the single market and the rights of EU citizens currently living in this country, many of whom are making a vital contribution, so that we minimise the economic price of leaving and thereby maximise the chance of keeping the UK together; and
• Britain not to turn its back on the rest of the world, but to remain an outward-looking country that believes in co-operating with others to solve international problems.
I will also be doing everything I can to confront the rise in prejudice which sadly seems to have been one of by-products of the referendum campaign.
I hope I will have your support in this vital work.
PS If you are a Conservative supporter but not a member, I would encourage you to sign up as a member as soon as possible so that you hopefully get a say in deciding who takes over from David Cameron (I say “hopefully” because the timetable hasn’t been announced yet and I can’t guarantee that if you signed up today you would get a vote, but it is highly likely). And if you're not a supporter or you are but don't wish to become a member, I would be interested to hear your views.