This is my last Penarth Times column as the Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth. After 25 years as an MP that does give me a strange feeling. But when I became an MP I missed my challenging work with young people and the roles as a magistrate and local councillor in which I had invested a lot of hard work and energy in the previous 15 years. It’s the same now: I will miss the House of Commons but I am moving on to meet a new challenge and to do something that I regard as essential to the public good. An MP cannot simply resign, but instead leaves Parliament by taking up the nominal Crown appointment of “Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern”. It’s a strange, old-fashioned proceeding which is in stark contrast to the reason behind my resignation, which is as Labour’s candidate in the election for making a new and experimental role work well for the public, so I’m leaving a traditional institution with the hopes of beginning a new one.
It’s been an honour to represent such a diverse community for the last 25 years, during which we have seen the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage and the transformation of South Cardiff. I’ve been through many changes myself, from being elected on 11 June 1987 to succeed Jim Callaghan to becoming Tony Blair’s Deputy at Home Affairs to becoming Deputy Home Secretary after the 1997 General Election. I was responsible for steering the Crime and Disorder Act through Parliament, introducing Anti-Social Behaviours Orders – the first time Parliament ever took anti-social behaviour seriously. In 1999, after Ron Davies’ “moment of madness”, I stepped in as Secretary of State for Wales, later becoming the first First Minister of Wales. As Minister of State for Rural Affairs I had to cope with the aftermath of Foot and Mouth Disease and taking the Hunting Act through Parliament. And my final Ministerial role at the Department for Trade and Industries involved Company Law Reform, Regional Aid and the governance of the internet.
Representing my constituents in Westminster has never been easy. But it has been rewarding and the number who carp has been miniscule compared to those who value the work of the MP and remember something that made their lives better or more tolerable. That’s what it’s all about!
In this column I have avoided partisan comments because it’s an opportunity to reflect the realities of day-to-day politics rather than the place for confrontation. It’s the end of an era but I also hope the start of a new one.
“Thank you!” to everyone who has corresponded with me and supported or challenged me in my role as MP. Whatever your views, do vote in the by-election on November 15th – whichever way you choose to vote – as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner Election. Ian Blair is wrong: if you believe in democracy you must use your rights to vote in any election.