Welcome to my party.
It is wonderful to be surrounded by 170 of my closest friends.
Disraeli, who was always reluctant to admit that his success owed anything to anyone else, once famously said:
“I feel a very unusual sensation – if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.”
In my case I know the unusual sensation I feel in my insides is due to the removal of my appendix a few days ago. But the much more powerful sensation that fills the rest of my body and heart is immense gratitude.
As shakespeare said: “I can no other answer make but thanks and thanks”.
• Thanks to all of you for your wonderful help and support during the election campaign.
• Thanks even more for your support between elections. Since that is when elections are won.
• Thanks for chalking up a resounding victory here in Hitchin and Harpenden. I can now proudly claim that, as within the old St Albans boundaries, my vote, my share of the vote and my majority have gone up in every successive election. It is particularly satisfying that this time you delivered well north of 50% of the vote. So even under the alternative vote system we should be secure!
• Thanks also to those who worked in Stevenage, St Albans, Luton south and further afield. It was wonderful to win Stevenage – now every seat in Hertfordshire is blue. It was great to see Anne Main double her majority in St Albans despite a peculiarly unpleasant, unjustified and negative campaign against her. Though it was sad that despite a fantastic campaign our own Nigel Huddleston didn’t quite win Luton South.
• Finally, invidious though it is to single out anyone from such a wonderful team – thanks most of all to my incomparable agent Geraldine. She inveigled many of you into doing far more than you ever intended. And she even had to do most of the work in organising this party.
When the campaign started malign forces seemed to be working against me. Central office laid down that every constituency must adopt the common slogan ‘vote for change in constituency x’. That was fine for the constituencies we wanted to win. But if my literature said vote for change in Hitchin and Harpenden, next to a picture of Peter Lilley, it might have put the wrong idea into voters’ heads. So we ignored that.
Nationally the result was not as clear cut as it was locally.
Given the parliamentary arithmetic i am certain that David Cameron was right to recognise that the only way to provide the strong and stable government Britain needs was a formal coalition with the Lib Dems.
A coalition of the losers would have been a monstrosity;
To govern alone, an impossibility;
And a loose agreement falling short of a coalition, a recipe for irresponsibility.
As it is, we can have the satisfaction of sharing with the Lib Dems the task of defending the painful process of reducing the deficit.
But the good news is: this doesn’t mean we have to learn to love them at a local level.
I have always believed that defeating Labour is business, beating Lib Dems is pleasure.
It was a particular satisfaction to see dean oust the last Lib Dem from Harpenden East and Annie displace ms ? From Wheathampstead.
Now we must get rid of the orange peril from North Herts too.
The disappointment of not having an overall majority in parliament is that we cannot implement all our manifesto promises. I know that has upset a lot of people. It upsets me. However, the solution is not to blame coalition but to win outright next time.
With your help I am sure we can do that.
On the subject of next time, I have been asked how many more General Elections I plan to fight. That depends on you as much as on me – unless we are required to have one of these open primaries they are talking about – in which case everyone will have a say. Inspired by the coalition I did consult the biography of my favourite liberal statesman – Gladstone. He spent 63 years in the commons and was still running for Prime Minister at the end of it. So after a mere 27 years I feel I am barely half way through.
I can hear Gail groan – I am not sure whether she is more upset at the thought of me spending 60 hours a week on politics into my dotage or the thought that I might come home every evening expecting dinner!
Meanwhile, I will continue to express my gratitude for the privilege of representing this beautiful constituency by doing my best:
o To fight for local issues,
o To serve every one of my constituents,
o And to uphold the conservative cause.
I shall certainly not follow the example of the famous MP who wrote to his constituents in 1774 when they urged him to vote for the excise bill.
How dare you demand that I vote for the Excise Bill. You know it is against my principles. And you seem to forget that I bought your votes.
I know you intend to sell them to someone else next time. But what you don’t know is that I intend to buy another constituency far cheaper elsewhere.
So may god’s curse fall upon you. And may your homes and businesses always be as open to the exciseman as your wives and daughters always were to me.
On which happy note – thank you all once more and let the revels resume.