After two weeks of tumultuous events in Westminster and British politics as a whole, things seemed to be set on a well-defined course. Writing this column, as I usually do, on a Sunday evening or Monday morning I intended to move away from the various issues surrounding Brexit, leadership elections and challenges, and focus on the Chilcott report which was published last week.

However, mid-morning on Monday, when Andrea Leadsom announced that she was withdrawing from the race to succeed David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and thus Prime Minister, events then moved very quickly, as Theresa May was duly made leader of the Conservative Party and also our new Prime Minister. As readers will know from my column last week, I was supporting Theresa so I was pleased at the result.

I believe that Theresa’s experience will be crucial and, whilst I am an admirer of Andrea’s abilities, I feel that Theresa is the safe pair of hands that the country needs at this time. There has been talk of Brexit, with people like myself who voted to leave the EU backing Theresa who supported remaining, but as she herself said on the steps of the Houses of Parliament, “Brexit means Brexit”. This however is not solely about Brexit. No matter what view I and colleagues took prior to the 23rd June, it is now about the whole issue of governing the country, giving the stability we need as we move forward. I am convinced that Theresa will bring that to the role of Prime Minister and to the country as a whole.

Such were the magnitude of events last week, the much awaited Chilcott report on the Iraq war was quickly moved off the front pages.  The delay in the publishing of this report was too long; last Wednesday was naturally a difficult day for the families of those who lost loved ones and our first thoughts must be with them. The Iraq War - both the lead up to it and the aftermath - were hugely important events in our recent history. I wasn’t a Member of Parliament at the time, but I well remember the controversy around the decision to invade Iraq.  That debate continues and, whilst Tony Blair still advocates it was the right thing to do, Lord Prescott has cast doubts on its legality.

The Chilcot Report is a huge document which does fully investigate the issue and is critical of various aspects of the decision. The House is debating it this week and doubtless MPs who were around will have much to say on the subject, but whilst other events have occupied the media we should not forget the sacrifice made by many as a result of that decision.

As the upheaval in British politics continues following the Referendum vote, the attention has turned to the leadership of the two main political parties. The leadership of the Opposition and Jeremy Corbyn I will leave to others to comment, however the leadership of the Conservative Party and thus the Prime Minister is something that I am directly concerned and involved with.

The system that exists within the Conservative Party is that the MPs will vote on the nominated candidates and bring the field down to two. The final two will then be put to a vote of the whole membership of the Conservative Party. I am conscious that I am writing this prior to the first ballot as I need to meet the print deadlines for the newspaper. So as you are reading, the results of that ballot will be known. I feel it is important, however, to set out my views as I see them on the candidates presently standing.

It was widely expected that Boris Johnson would stand for the leadership, so it came as a shock to many - myself included - when he announced he would not be a candidate. That left 5 candidates; Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. I have been asked who I am going to support, and I said that I would wait until nominations closed and then speak to the candidates over a few issues that I would like assurances over, which I have done over the weekend.

I am very conscious that not only am I looking to vote for a new Leader of the Conservatives, but also a new Prime Minister, so I feel it is important that the candidate I back not only has the qualities needed for the job but also the experience. Normally when political parties change their leader it is when they are in opposition, which gives the new leader time to grow into the job. This is very different; the winner will have to be ready to hit the ground running. On that basis the obvious choice is Theresa May. She has been the Home Secretary for 6 years and has all the experience needed to step up to be Prime Minister.

People who voted for us to leave the European Union will think it strange that I am backing someone who was on the Remain side, however Theresa has the support of other prominent supporters of leave such as Chris Grayling. I have raised this personally with her and she has assured me that she is committed to executing the result of the referendum by setting up a Brexit department that will be headed up by someone who was a clear advocate of leaving.

The choice of a new leader and Prime Minister isn’t solely about leaving the EU though; there are many other issues to be dealt with both nationally, as well as challenges facing the High Peak. We discussed these at length, and I am now reassured that Theresa is the best person for the job, both for the country and for us here in the High Peak.

Last week was possibly the most momentous week in British politics that many of us have seen. The vote to leave the European Union came as a surprise to many people, as all the experts and opinion polls were forecasting a remain vote to prevail.

Here in High Peak, the vote closely mirrored the national one, with the majority of High Peak residents who voted on the 23rd voting for the country to leave the EU. Following the result, David Cameron said that he will step down as Prime Minister before October. This decision has disappointed me as - prior to the referendum - he always said that he would stay on, even if the country were to vote out. However, he has made his decision, and we should accept it.

There have been some calls for a second referendum, but I do not feel that this would be right. The 23rd June saw possibly the largest democratic exercise this country has ever seen, and to ignore the result would, I think, undermine our democracy. Those who did vote to leave would be rightly outraged should the result be ignored and a second referendum held on the basis that the result of the first was not what those who were on the opposite side wanted.

People have raised issues such as thresholds since last Thursday but these were things decided on prior to the referendum itself. It was conducted on a simple majority basis and there were few dissenting voices over this prior to the day.

I said clearly from the start what my views were, and I was also clear that I would not seek to impose my views on people in the High Peak, as I believed a referendum was for everyone to arrive at their own decision, rather than be lobbied by me to follow my lead. There were those who felt I should have campaigned to leave, and there were those who felt by stating my view I was trying to influence the thinking of others, but I always tried to be balanced when discussing the matter.

In a referendum it is the will of the people that prevails, and it is the role of elected politicians to deliver that will. I was also very clear from the start that whatever the result I would accept it without question, no matter what the result or the margin of victory. I intend to abide by that promise; the majority of votes cast last week were to leave the European Union, we should now accept that instruction and seek to enact it in the most orderly way we can.

Next Thursday (23rd June) will see only the third referendum ever held in this country. A previous one on membership of what was then known as The Common Market was held in 1975 and then one on our voting system was held in 2011.

As I have previously stated, I believe that we should leave the European Union and I have spoken to many people about this and the reasons why. This is a crucial vote for the country and it is important that people have their say. Many have been calling for this moment for several years, political parties of all colours have promised people a say in one form or another for too long, so whilst some people feel that the decision should be left to elected politicians, I disagree, we should all have the chance to vote and that’s what we will have on the 23rd.

Questions have been asked about information and getting a balanced view on the consequences of the decision. I very much regret a lot of the rhetoric being used by senior political figures – on both sides of the argument. The campaign has, in my opinion, been marred with a sense of both sides trying to outdo each other with tales of doom should the result go the way of the opposing view. In response to discussions I have had with many constituents, I have placed a dedicated page on my website which also includes a link to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on the subject. The Members of the committee at the time were split between remain and leave and as all the members were happy with the report I think it can be accepted as a balanced account weighing up both sides of the argument.

I read now that many of the other Member States are urging Britain to remain in the EU but I return to my original comments on this that their intransigence when the Prime Minister was seeking a new deal has been a key factor in this. If they had been more prepared to give concessions then the arguments to stay would have been more powerful, but their refusal when faced with a possible ‘Brexit’ demonstrated to me that we can never effect necessary change in the EU project. For them to now be calling for Britain to remain smacks to me of too little too late. Whether they didn’t believe the Prime Minister or not I don’t know, but I’m afraid they should have thought about that at the time.

During any week in Westminster there are always numerous receptions and events on behalf of a range of organisations, interest groups and charities. These are an opportunity for these groups to speak one-to-one with MPs about their work or a specific issue.

In common with all MPs, I receive many such invitations and I try to attend those that have a relevance to the High Peak. Also on occasions there will be someone from the High Peak at the reception and in those cases I always do everything I can to attend. If a constituent has taken the time and trouble to travel to London then it is only right that I meet with them to hear their story or listen to their point of view on a particular issue.

Last week there was such a reception on behalf of Guide Dogs Access All Areas. The purpose was to raise the awareness of the fact that, despite the Equality Act of 2010 stating that people cannot discriminate against guide dog owners, there is still examples of people with guide dogs being refused access to places with their dogs.

I met a constituent at the event who told me some of his experiences in restaurants, shops and also in taxis. It is very difficult to imagine life without sight and a guide dog is invaluable, so to be discriminated against because of the dog is not only wrong but a very distressing experience, and I was very sorry to hear that some of these experiences have happened locally.

I have agreed to undertake a blindfolded walk to try and gain a better understanding of how it feels to be in this situation, but in the meantime I think it is important for all of us to remember that it is against the law to discriminate against guide dogs, and it is also not permitted to try and charge extra for a guide dog – something else that is more common than I imagined.

The guide dog users I met at the event were all determined and resolute not to let their condition be a barrier to their lives, but it is up to those of us more fortunate to give full and equal access to guide dogs to allow them to do just that.

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