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A Year Is A Very Very Long Time In Politics

The saying goes that “a week is a long time in politics”. It turns out that a year is a very, very long time indeed. This time last year, on referendum day, I was knocking on doors in the pouring rain asking people to vote Remain and I could tell it wasn't going well. A few hours later my fears were confirmed as Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Two weeks ago and nearly a year later I was once again knocking on doors, this time on General Election day and in the sunshine, but more importantly surrounded by hundreds of people brimming with enthusiasm, fired up by hope and wanting to win.

We had great successes in our region with gains in Ipswich, Bedford and Peterborough and stunning majorities in Cambridge, Norwich and Luton, and while we didn't win the election, the campaign and result was transformational.

What people are talking about has changed, the concept of "austerity" has been challenged, and now politics isn't about cutting the deficit by squeezing the public services not responsible for the banking crisis; it is about challenging cuts to schools and hospitals and the effect of a pay freeze on nurses and teachers. The young have found a voice. People are crying out for change.

Then came the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the conversation, so often dominated in the national press about denigrating and demonising the poor, was now about the need for decent housing, and about the lack of investment and about people struggling to get by who had been let down by cut after cut.

As Theresa May's dramatic fall from grace, from hero to zero in the space of six short weeks shows, one year after the referendum politics is still in a state of flux, while we start the most difficult set of negotiations in a generation.

The big Brexit questions still remain. What does it mean for our economy? For research? The price of food? How will the NHS be affected? I recently met a German doctor in Gamlingay who told me since the referendum he felt unwelcome in Britain and he was considering leaving. Meanwhile research shows a 96% decline in EU citizen nurses recruited here. Will we be able to attract the same talent post Brexit? There are still so many unanswered questions and one year on still no answers from the Government as the clock continues to tick down.

My view hasn't changed since the referendum result. I remain convinced that the path we are going down will make us poorer, weaker and more isolated. But we need to try each day to get the best, or more properly, the least worst, out of what we have.

Films about politics have an end. So Brexit on the big screen might end with a joyful Nigel Farage declaring "Independence Day" or perhaps the General Election one would end with cheering crowds at Glastonbury chanting Jeremy Corbyn's name, but real life is very different. The morning after we have to deal with the consequences of the day before. There is always a next day and the one after that, and how we deal with those days matters.

As Britain embarks on supremely complicated negotiations and political volatility abounds, people's lives and futures are being decided, not just in the one off moments but in the long and arduous political process.

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