James Grundy MP: Raise a glass for Brexit
Almost three and a half years ago, the people of Leigh, and indeed, the other communities in the borough of Wigan voted overwhelmingly for Brexit.
Finally, last week, the Government enacted legislation to make that a reality, and Britain will be leaving the EU on January 31.
I still remember the day of the referendum, when I popped down to vote at my local polling station, and upon enquiring about the turnout, being told that it was higher than at the previous general election.
I was not surprised, having been listening to local residents over the preceding few weeks whilst campaigning for the Leave side in the referendum, and had predicted that residents would turn out in large numbers.
Brexit was an issue that had caught the public imagination, and during those weeks of the referendum, wherever I went locally, I heard people discussing the pros and cons of the argument, often with a much greater degree of both nuance and intelligence than some of the sterile debates in our national media.
It was at that moment, at my local polling station, that I believed that Leave was going to win the referendum, and that Brexit would become a reality.
Little did I know how difficult the journey to that outcome would be.
Sure enough, that evening, when the ballot boxes were opened, local people had voted a resounding 64% in favour of Leave, and of course Leave had also won nationally by 52%, largely due to communities like ours turning out in large numbers to make their view firmly known.
Whilst the Leave side in the referendum put down their tools after the result, believing the battle won, the Remain camp marshalled their forces to carry on the fight, determined to overturn the result.
We then saw three and a half years of bitter division and parliamentary chicanery, and a sense of political deadlock that was only broken when local people, once again, turned out to vote in large numbers for something they strongly believed in - democracy.
A few months ago I would never have believed that I would be sitting here in my office in Westminster, typing out this article as the first ever Conservative MP for Leigh.
The fact that I am sat here, writing this article, is in no small part due to how events have transpired since the referendum.
Had Labour not sought to frustrate the result, in the process alienating a huge number of their traditional voters, I would not have become the MP for Leigh.
I cast my vote in Parliament to ensure Brexit was delivered knowing this, and did so in the certainty I was bringing to an end a deeply divisive chapter in the history of our country.
It was, as PM Boris Johnson had said during the election, time to ‘Get Brexit Done’.
I hope never to see in my lifetime the political establishment set themselves against ordinary voters in such a manner again.
What happened to those who did is a salutary warning as to what happens when you stop listening to people.
So on January 31, raise a glass to the ordinary people of Leigh, our borough, and indeed of Britain, who stuck to their guns and made the establishment bend the knee.
I’m optimistic about the future of our country after Brexit, because I know the right people are in charge.
The British people, or if you prefer, you.