Brexit: “I shall continue to vote for what I see to be our long-term interests”

There can be joy in reading a well-written memoir. This week Virginia and I enjoyed the launch in the House of Lords of Robin Renwick’s Not Quite A Diplomat, 35 short chapters in fewer than 300 pages.

The title came from Margaret Thatcher when she sent him to South Africa where he was trusted by Nelson Mandela and by F W de Klerk.

| Also in the news – World Book Day 2019: Worthing, Shoreham and Littlehampton children dress up as their favourite literary characters |

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In the Foreign Office he contributed to the successful agreement that returned back to Britain two thirds of our contribution to the European budget.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for West Worthing

As Ambassador in Washington DC, he became a confidant of President George Bush Sr. and then of Bill Clinton: he was an exceptionally influential diplomat.

For those who were alive and alert during the past half century, there will be many memories; the younger reader will find it a brief introduction to international relations.

Prime Minister Thatcher intended her words to be a compliment of a kind.

In discussion with other senior former civil servants, we agreed that she might bring a firm view to an issue, she was capable of varying her approach when it was justified.

Argumentative? Yes. Inflexible? No.

Robin Renwick includes a few sentences on a Foreign Office discussion whether we should align ourselves with the Europeans or the Americans.

He made the plain suggestion that we should align ourselves with our own interests, choosing who could most practically help us to attain our objectives.

On Brexit, I shall continue to vote for what I see to be our long-term interests.

That is the kind of plain speaking that I have tried to adopt, even in the past when discussing an issue with Margaret Thatcher as a backbencher and as a minister.

I think of myself as a member of parliament. Of course, I do politics; I do not think of myself as a politician, perhaps because I missed out on student politics. It was community campaigning that drew me close to elected roles.

These thoughts come to mind as I support the local bid for central government support from the Future High Streets Fund.

Worthing town centre matters to the coastal district around the largest town in West Sussex.

This weekend, Virginia and a friend aim to walk along the coast, across the constituency from Rustington to central Worthing.

The task is to make possible a practical vision of a multi-functional high street that includes a number of elements: more flexible co-working spaces, flexible planning processes, a thriving sustainability agenda, and continued use of surplus first floor retail spaces for residential use.

Our coastal West Sussex has successfully met most challenges during the past two decades.

By talking and deciding and acting together, we can create a community where people can enjoy life together.

I add this point that is important to me. Think of a time when there is not a weekly half page of court reports.

Crime is a problem. Worthwhile activities can be an alternative to negative damaging attacks on other people or their property.

This week I attended a meeting with Sir Nick Serota, presently chair of the Arts Council.

I long for the time when all ages enjoy and participate in arts activities.

Like sport, the arts bring us together, bring us out of ourselves and bring joy to our communities.


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