The saying is that a week is a long time in politics. Well, since my last Courier column only six weeks ago, we have seen the biggest political upheaval in generations and the emergence of a brand new political landscape.
I fully expected ‘remain’ to win and politics to continue much as before. However, upon reflecting on the result, I should have based my prediction not on what analysts in the media were saying, but rather on what I had been hearing on the doorstep across Calderdale over a period of many years. The majority of local people whom I spoke to were supporting ‘leave’, and many of these had been telling me so for years before a referendum was even remotely on the cards. Whilst a variety of reasons were given for this view, by and large, for many people, it came down to one issue: immigration. In particular, a feeling that immigration has been too high for a number of years and that the political establishment lacked either the will, or the capacity, to reduce it to sustainable levels. Rightly or wrongly, many saw leaving the EU as the only way in which immigration could be brought back under control and ultimately this sealed the result of the referendum.
For 13 years under the previous Labour Government we saw immigration at record levels. Furthermore, there was a suspicion of anybody who had the audacity to challenge the wisdom of this with many being labelled as racist for doing so. Although the current Conservative Government are committed to bringing immigration down to sustainable levels and have legislated (with some success) in an attempt to do so, it has found it increasingly difficult to deliver its targets inside of the EU and the current framework regarding the free movement of people.
As we prepare to leave the EU, people will interpret the result of the referendum in different ways. However, it would be a grave mistake not to recognise the role that immigration played in influencing the final result and in not acknowledging the change that people have voted for. The British public have sent a clear message to their politicians on the issue of immigration and this must be reflected in the detail of our post-brexit arrangements.
We have a strong figure at the helm
As an early supporter of Theresa May in the Conservative leadership race, I was delighted to see her installed as our new Prime Minister so quickly.
Historically, the Conservative Party has always had a tendency to resolve such things swiftly and this time it was no different.
In the interests of the party, and most importantly the country, the other candidates stood aside and within weeks of David Cameron indicating that he was going to stand down we had a new Prime Minister.
The quick transition was exactly what the country required and we now have a strong and experienced Prime Minister who will provide steady leadership as the Government resolves to deliver the will of the British people following the referendum.
The Government was elected with a mandate to continue our economic recovery and to deliver a compassionate, one nation agenda which provides genuine opportunity for all and this is exactly what our new PM will deliver.
It is also important to remember the achievements of David Cameron as a Prime Minister who delivered us from the economic brink and who reformed our public services and society whilst working towards balancing the books in difficult times.
He left the country in an immeasurably better condition than he inherited it.