Unusually, I returned by train from London this week at lunchtime on Tuesday.
When I got off in Lewes, the air seemed cleaner and the sun was shining brightly. I was glad to be home.
The night before I had officially resigned my ministerial post at the Home Office, which then led to a media scrum which I was glad to escape from.
Back in August I had told the Deputy Prime Minister that I felt I needed a break. Four and a half years in office is longer than most ministers do, and it has been ever more challenging for me, given the coalition arithmetic, with almost every Lib Dem minister being on his or her own in their department.
So as well as my direct portfolio responsibilities for the government, I also had to keep a watching eye across the whole department for the Lib Dems.
At transport, where I served three and a half years, there was a good level of agreement and friendly relations between the two coalition parties. Unfortunately the Home Office was rather different, being the sharp edge of the coalition on policy, a much bigger department to keep tabs on, and where relations frankly were less cordial.In the end, put together the huge time commitment, itself added on to my normal full constituency workload, and the fact that I don’t see my family enough and want to carve out a bit of time for my music, and I decided it was right to go.
The Deputy Prime Minister and I agreed that I would wait for a convenient point, and that came when I finally managed to get the seminal report on drugs out last week. This report, written by civil servants and the first evidence-based study of its kind in 43 years, was repeatedly blocked by the Conservatives, no doubt because its conclusions tend to support the Lib Dem health-based approach to drugs rather the punitive one the Tories prefer. The report showed clearly that the former gets drugs use down and health harms down, whereas the punitive approach has little effect on the levels of drug consumption.
Overall, I am pleased with what I have achieved in office, including at transport kicking off the biggest rail investment programme since the 19th century. For example we are now electrifying over 800 miles of track compared to just 9 in thirteen years of Labour. At the Home Office, apart from the drugs report, I initiated the first ever cross-government agreement on FGM, improved the laws on anti-social behaviour, and published the first ever strategy to reduce the use of animals I experiments.
The DPM was kind enough in his public letter to me he hoped I would make myself enough available for office again after the election.
Frankly, it’s too early to say if I would want to do that, and in any case there is the small matter of the election and the decision of the British people to take into account.
In the meantime, I am very happy to be able to spend more time in my lovely constituency.