The EU referendum has conclusively proven to have heightened partisan tensions and exposed a fragmentation of political opinion, both in Westminster and throughout the country.
The complex and wide ranging set of issues that the debate entailed has meant that opinion is not split by traditional demographic lines. It is thus extremely difficult for an MP to be fully representative of the views of all of their constituents on this issue.
There are also a few MPs, including myself, who face the reality of being a Leave MP who represents a constituency with a Remain district. Some may argue that this represents a conflict of interest, but I do not see this as the case.
I strongly disagree that I am blindly at odds with the majority of my constituents. Although 52% voted to Remain, fewer than 2,500 votes prevented my constituency of Lewes from being Leave.
To suggest that 2,500 votes is the difference between an MP being at odds with one’s constituents, and an MP being a champion of their constituency’s principles is a shallow argument. It also seems to neglect the interests of the minority group, and thus is a divisive and unhelpful way to view the relationship between a Leave MP and Remain constituency.
Instead, it would be far more beneficial to look at what unites both groups.
The referendum result must be respected, and the UK must leave the European Union. Any rational Remainer would accept this notion and consequently hope for the UK to get the best possible deal. This is a common desire with all Leave voters.
So as a representative for all of my constituents, I must consider the concerns of both Leave and Remain supporters, and address them appropriately.
In my constituency, there are some unanimous concerns, such as immigration. However due to the geographic diversity of Lewes, there are various combinations of rural, urban and coastal challenges that must be addressed.
For example, there are farmers who are concerned about whether the single farm payments they receive from the EU will be ensured by the government. Similarly, the universities and students are anxious about whether the rights of EU students to study in the UK will be guaranteed. Conversely, the fishermen in the coastal towns are eager to regain their independent fishing rights – free from EU bureaucracy – as quickly as possible.
These are all industries and individuals who have different views concerning the referendum and completely different concerns, all of whom I must represent.
To suggest that there is a conflict of interest between a Leave MP and a Remain constituency is to suggest that one must only act in representation for the majority.
I am an MP for all of my constituents, and as a member of the select committee for exiting the European Union, I will make sure that the views of all of my constituents will be considered when scrutinising the government’s exit strategy.
Measurement and evaluation