Thanks to the Oxford Times for covering my first few months of being the candidate in the article below.
BEING selected as a candidate is a privilege, particularly for a constituency like ours in Oxford West and Abingdon.
You’re given the opportunity to meet so many different people, communities and businesses and get a real insight into what really matters to them.
My background is in telecommunications - I work for Abingdon-based fibre broadband company Gigaclear – so the prospect of representing an area that is home to so many developing innovations in digital infrastructure, healthcare and software development is so exciting.
The potential for some of these to radically improve people’s wellbeing is incredible.
When you do see something brilliant, it’s great to have the chance to show that success as an example that could influence government policy for the better - one of my favourite visits so far was meeting the team at TapSocial.
They are a local brewing company in Botley that provides training and employment opportunities for people coming to the end of their prison term.
Their business is a success story of how you can reintegrate people serving prison sentences into the working environment.
I want more businesses to have the confidence to do what they are doing, so I brought the Home Secretary to come and meet them and see their success for himself.
During the visit, we talked about how the ‘release on temporary leave’ programme was really useful for employers wanting to do what TapSocial was doing, but that there needed to be more structure around how to engage prison governors.
We are now talking to the prisons minister about doing just that.
Hopefully TapSocial can be a trendsetter for helping employers have the confidence to follow in their footsteps.
Of course, on the doorstep, there is one issue that keeps coming up and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
It’s the first question anyone asks me: "How did you vote in the referendum?"
I never shy away from saying that I voted to Remain.
I believed that the UK’s interests were best served as a member state of the EU.
Yet I fully accept that the Remain campaign lost that argument. In the largest democratic process in the UK’s history, a majority voted to leave the EU.
I firmly believe that any Prime Minister of any Government post the referendum result would then have to pursue negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement to take the UK out of the EU – that was always going to be an incredibly tough task, and the outcome could never please all sides.
My biggest worry is that dogma is rife in the Brexit debate.
I’ve met sensible, considered arguments on all sides of the Brexit question. To not meaningfully engage with that, and castigate those that disagree with you as ‘bigoted’ or ‘arrogant’, isn’t helping anybody.
As for the question of another referendum, as someone who personally voted to remain this conjures up temptations that the Remain campaign could ‘learn from our mistakes’ and ‘win the debate this time around’.
Yet on reflection I can’t see how such a vote could be a solution.
If the ballot options split the leave vote across different forms of deal/no deal, many would say it was rigged to favour remaining in the EU.
On top of that, if the result was a marginal Remain victory, what is to stop Leave campaigners rejecting the result and pointing to the 2016 vote as a mandate for doing so?
Such a vote, whilst aiming to have a final say on the UK’s relationship with the EU would then deliver only more political division and uncertainty.
Rather than push for another referendum, I think my time is better spent trying to get the A34 North Abingdon junction sorted out!
To check out the story on their website click HERE