COLUMN: Toby Perkins MP on Labour, Brexit and HS2
For as long as I am the MP for Chesterfield, I will always have two priorities - the best interests of Chesterfield and the Labour Party.
I am the MP because I was voted in by Chesterfield people and I was the Labour candidate because members of Chesterfield Labour Party selected me to be.
My recent decision to stand down as Shadow Armed Forces Minister (it doesn’t in any way affect the fact that I am MP for Chesterfield) was informed by my desire to do what is best for Chesterfield and the Labour Party.
At a time when there is such uncertainty in the UK, it is vital that we have a government and an opposition that people have confidence in.
For most of the last 80 years Chesterfield has had a Labour MP, but history shows us that people can take that away if they feel Labour has ceased to represent them.
Over the recent Referendum campaigns, it was clear that many Labour voters were uneasy about the current Labour leadership, and that, coupled with the performance of the leadership prompted me to act.
Standing down from a role that you have accepted is never a decision that you take lightly.
And I was always greatly inspired by the work of our Armed Forces, so relinquishing the Armed Forces brief was particularly hard, but I felt strongly that having seen Jeremy Corbyn’s work at close quarters, Labour stood a better chance in an impending General election campaign under new leadership, and that it was my duty to the people of Chesterfield to try and ensure that we offer people a strong and credible alternative government at a time of such national upheaval.
The EU Referendum result was a shock to the political and financial establishment and has sent shockwaves reverberating through our economy too.
In Chesterfield 60% of people voted to Leave the EU, and having had the referendum, it is important that the government attempts to deliver on the verdict it has received.
Therefore I won’t be backing the campaign for an immediate second referendum.
I think it would be disrespectful to voters to ask them to vote and then reject their outcome.
However, it is crucial that promises made to voters about the shape of Brexit Britain are honoured.
From increased NHS spending to international trade, and from immigration controls to regeneration funding, people were promised that Brexit would help put the ‘Great back into Britain’ and it is my job as MP, to hold the government to account for delivering on those promises.
Another area where a promise was fulfilled was with the great news that HS2 will now stop at Chesterfield.
I am pleased that local Tory Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin has listened to the representations that I, and others, have made and HS2 now offers truly transformative prospects for our local economy.
At a time of too much partisanship, it is good that we can work together across the parties for local good on occasion.
Before that, many people suspect we will be plunged into another General Election soon.
I hope that my party can face the future as a united party with a strong and credible alternative programme quickly.
If we can do that, all the difficulties and unpleasantness of the current situation will be worth it.
Whatever happens, my duty and desire to represent people here in Chesterfield as MP remain undiminished.