It's a cliche when politicians label elections ‘the most important ever’, but I can’t think of a more important election that has happened in my lifetime.
Article 50 has been triggered, Brexit is happening, and negotiations with the rest of the EU will begin just 11 days after the election result. That means that whoever is our Prime Minister, has to be up to the job and ready to start right away.
What seemed an absurd prospect to most voters only a few weeks ago suddenly feels very real. The fact is, a loss of just six seats and Theresa May’s government loses its majority – delivering the chaos of a hung parliament with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister propped up by the SNP and Lib Dems.
Voters will make their own minds up about that, but for my part, that is an alarming prospect. I cannot imagine Jeremy Corbyn leading us through highly complex negotiations and delivering an outcome that both avoids the risks of Brexit and takes advantage of the opportunities. We know that a majority of his own MPs feel the same way.
Added to that uncertainty are the complications that would come with a Jeremy Corbyn-led Coalition.
The in-fighting in the Labour Party has dominated the news for many months. Add the Lib Dems and SNP to the mix, and ‘coalition of chaos’ looks less like a slogan and more like a terrifying reality.
Top Lib Dems were caught out just a few weeks ago doing backroom deals, trying to help Labour in some seats and help Jeremy Corbyn become Prime Minister. The Lib Dems say that their aim in Parliament is to grind the business of government “to a standstill”. How they think that would help this country is anyone’s guess. The fact is that every seat the Lib Dems win, makes it more likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be our Prime Minister.
The quality of the leadership we have over the course of this parliament will colour everything that matters to us. Getting these negotiations right is central to everything we care about – our economy, our jobs, our finances and our position in the world.
Getting Brexit wrong will harm us all. It would make it harder to pay for the services on which we all rely. Everything from looking after our elderly to educating our children, to keeping our country safe, depends on getting Brexit right.
I’m standing as a candidate in this election on a strong local record. Even my opponents usually concede that I was effective. I got good things going, and stopped bad things from happening. I have never been afraid of speaking my mind, and people know that I keep my word – even where it is not in my interests to do so. My record standing up for our environment is stronger, I believe, than any other MP. And my last act as an MP was to back a motion calling for real assurances for the millions of EU citizens living and working in the UK.
Having a strong local representative with an ability to work with government is critically important.
But this election is about more than that. Theresa May needs a strong mandate to govern and negotiate Brexit in the national interest. She needs a clear majority to get the best deal. We need to strengthen Britain’s hand – not weaken it as the Labour and the Lib Dems want.
What happens in key seats in London, like Richmond Park and North Kingston, will determine the outcome of the election. However you voted in the referendum, we now need to make sure we are in the strongest position to ensure Britain gets the best possible deal. That means backing Theresa May, who has the strength and experience to deliver it.