For reasons unconnected with politics, as one of my predecessors once said, I wrote yesterday to Cllr Paul McCloskey, chair of the local Liberal Democrats, to let him know that I have decided not to put my name forward in any forthcoming selection of a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham.
I do regret having to take this decision and I very much hope to return to frontline politics in the near future. But I can’t commit to that right now. We ran a tremendous campaign in Cheltenham earlier this year, bucking the national trend by increasing our vote significantly and making this one of the most winnable Liberal Democrat / Tory marginals in the whole country, so I understand why the local party will want to crack on with selecting a candidate as soon as possible. But the timing isn’t right for me.
Luckily, the Liberal Democrats have many able campaigners locally and nationally who will be very interested in taking on this challenge. I wish them every success and I hope to be able to give them my wholehearted backing.
For the record - since this question is often asked - Cheltenham remains home and I have no intention of going anywhere else. I remain a trustee of three local charities and I will be continuing with all of those commitments and continuing to help Cheltenham Liberal Democrats as much as I can.
The Conservatives are making a tragic mess of our country and their inept handling of Brexit in particular threatens all our futures. Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly embarrassing personality cult and his 1970s policies provide no realistic alternative. Here in Cheltenham, we continue to see Lib Dem victories in local elections. So I see no reason why the Liberal Democrats should not go from strength to strength again, nationally and locally. We have a new national leader in Vince Cable and we now need a new standard-bearer in Cheltenham too. But there is still everything to play for.