Twenty years will have passed in December since this Association first selected me as its candidate. With your generous but often unsung help the people of our unique, historic, vibrant Cities of London and Westminster constituency have since entrusted me five times to be their representative in Parliament.
Frankly over the years I could not have asked for a more tolerant or understanding local Conservative team, always operating smoothly alongside my parliamentary office. Whilst local councillors may have come and gone, I cannot recall a single public disagreement over policy throughout my time. Here in the heart of our nation’s Capital Conservatism has been vibrant, outward looking and united.
Our two local authorities, Westminster City Council and the City of London Corporation, have been blessed with consistently outstanding policymakers and flair in an era when we all know city centre living has become tougher – whether it is anti-social behaviour, round-the-clock noise, daily disruption or protests on our streets. We take for granted this superb local leadership.
Meanwhile I have been proud of my local reputation as a moderate, consensual MP, invariably keen to work effectively across party lines to the benefit of constituents and communities alike. However, such a pragmatic, co-operative approach to public service has been tested to destruction in the fractious, febrile and deeply divisive aftermath to the EU Referendum in 2016.
I had dearly hoped that by the time of the next General Election these issues would have been resolved. However, it is increasingly clear that divisions over Brexit and our future relationship with the EU-27 will dominate and define domestic politics for many years to come.
As a Party Vice-Chairman and then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office I was until recently constrained by collective responsibility, although during free, indicative votes in April having the opportunity to express a personal preference for ruling out a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and for revoking Article 50 (albeit to restart the two year clock, rather than override the Referendum result entirely).
As you will appreciate these beliefs stand at odds with the current Administration’s impatient approach to getting Brexit done. Yet even if the current proposed Deal passes – and naturally I shall support it – we must be clear what lies ahead will not be plain sailing. But having watched many colleagues follow this path in recent torrid months, I have no desire to become a disaffected, dissenting voice from the backbenches, undermining a government under whose colours I have been elected.
So the current speculation that a General Election may be imminent has forced me to reach the very difficult decision not to offer myself as your candidate for the next election.
I cannot deny that coming to this conclusion has caused me great distress and anxiety in recent weeks. As a Conservative Party member for 35 years (and representing it in elected public office over the last quarter century) I shall continue from the bottom of my heart to wish it, and especially the members of this wonderful Cities of London & Westminster Conservative Association, the greatest of electoral success.
The truth is that emotionally and geopolitically I still believe in my heart that the UK would be better served by remaining in or very closely aligned to the EU, not least given our privileged position of opt-outs over immigration, the Euro and our hard won budget rebates.
Nevertheless from my recent experience as Minister for Asia and the Pacific I am also confident that in time our people and businesses have the innovation, enthusiasm and drive to make an economic success of Brexit in the decades that lie ahead.
On leaving parliament I relish the opportunity to contribute actively to the vital national mission of ensuring that for the sake of future generations the vision of a confident, bold Global Britain becomes an economic and diplomatic reality.
I cannot thank you, and my constituents, enough for the unstinting support you have given me over these past two decades. Please ensure that even amidst these unprecedentedly turbulent political tides that you provide as much encouragement, friendship and joy to my successor.
THE RT HON MARK FIELD, MP
17 October 2019