Article - Thank you

As this is the first column I have written since the general election, it would be remiss of me not to begin by thanking the 33,000 electors who voted for me and by assuring the 27,000 electors who voted for somebody else that, as always, I look forward to taking up cases on behalf of individual constituents of whatever political disposition and to working with officials and elected councillors of all kinds to further the interests of the towns and villages of West Dorset.

It is one of the remarkable features of our parliamentary democracy that we manage to combine robust political debate inside and outside the House of Commons with the recognition that MPs, when taking up the cases of individual constituents or representing the particular interests of their constituencies, need to be given equal access to government departments and agencies and need to be given equal attention by those bureaucracies (and by the Ministers who supervise them) regardless of their party or politics.

This is all a symptom of a deep truth about our country - which Jo Cox put very well, when she remarked that there is in the end more that unites us than divides us.

As I tramped across West Dorset from village to village and town to town during the election, experiencing afresh - and with a renewed delight - the extraordinary beauty of our part of the world I had countless meetings with constituents, and found (as I have always found in the past) that, with very few exceptions, it was possible to have civilised and courteous conversations with people whose views about the desirable outcome of the election were very different from my own.

As we enter what may well prove to be a rather turbulent time in our politics, I'm sure we should remind ourselves that almost all of us share an attachment to the values of liberal democracy and civilised debate that have characterised our country for longer than any other on earth.

In part, of course, this deeper understanding of our unity comes through our shared belief in the institutional fabric of our democracy - the law which governs us all and the means we have adopted over time for peaceful resolution of differences about how the law should be altered in Parliament. But what struck me as I talked once again to electors in West Dorset was something more personal and even more profound than our common commitment to the institutions of democracy. What I found, once again, in all but a handful of cases, was the ability to differentiate between rational disagreement and mutual suspicion. We are monumentally fortunate to live in a country (and in a part of the country in particular) in which two people of opposing views are capable of recognising that each view springs not from malign intent but from a genuine effort to discern the best way forward for all of us.

We shall have much need of this civility and mutual respect, I suspect, during the course of this Parliament.