It is inevitable that many would have looked on at the events in Parliament toward the end of 2018 with a mixture of bemusement and understandable concern. This has been reflected in my inbox (the Christmas backlog of which I am still clearing!) and it is accurate to say that I have never been contacted so much about any issue at any point since I was first elected, nor has one single issue ever kindled such differing opinions.
Just before Christmas I was written to by over a hundred constituents employed at Jaguar Land Rover, a flagship Midlands employer that justifiably evokes pride from so many in these parts. Given their desire to avoid a no-deal Brexit outcome that would, as I agree with them, have very problematic consequences, they urged me to vote in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement reached by the Government and EU. I have had similar representations from South Warwickshire branches of the National Farmers Union, along with many hundreds more constituents eager for the stability that I believe the Withdrawal Agreement will provide. Equally I have had letters and emails from those who would see us leave with no deal at all, from those who support a second referendum, and from those who believe we should renege on the referendum result and forget about Brexit altogether. Those of you who have contacted me will know the more detailed reasons behind my own views, but my decision to support the Prime Minister and the Withdrawal Agreement is based just as much on a desire to find a medium between all these divergent views held by my constituents as it is about doing what I believe is in this country’s best interests.
Brexit aside, there has been much cause for cheer in 2018. In November Midlands Connect announced a 20-year improvement plan for the A46. Intended to improve the flow of traffic on the arterial route that runs from Lincolnshire to Gloucestershire and cuts right through our patch, the scheme is estimated to generate billions for the Midlands economy. Further south, neighbouring MPs and I were overjoyed at the news in March that A&E and paediatric services will be retained at Horton General Hospital in Banbury. This is a hugely welcome step in what has been a tough campaign against the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s initial decision to downgrade the hospital, providing much reassurance for those who could otherwise face dangerously long journeys to A&E in either Warwick or Oxford.
Personally, 2018 has given me the chance to get fully stuck into my role as Minister for Children and Families. Along with politicians across the political divide, like Manchester’s Labour Mayor Andy Burnham, I have had the chance to spearhead initiatives like the nationwide Care Leaver Covenant, an inspiring strategy that provides more work-based opportunities to young care leavers who are too often neglected and forgotten once they reach adulthood. I am looking forward to launching the Covenant in Warwickshire next month. This rewarding and cross-party work has provided very welcome respite from the divisions that currently exist elsewhere in the political realm. My hope for 2019 is that we see more consensus like this because, as the Care Leaver Covenant shows, the results can change lives for the better.