As I have announced, I’m standing down and there is talk of an election as I write, so this will be the last contribution I will make to the Solihull Observer.
As I look back over my 22 years I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve my country as an MP. It hasn’t always been easy as there is always pressure on our area for development as we are one of the best connected places in the country.
What with the airport, the motorway network, two train lines and possibly a third, people move here for the quality of life. Solihull is synonymous with good schooling and many children like my own have had a great start at our local schools. But there is never any room for complacency in a turbulent world. Our manufacturers face the challenge of competitive pressures from global trade.
The car industry which has enjoyed such a renaissance has a huge challenge of the transition to electric and autonomous cars just at a time, when we are trying to leave our largest market. With the right investment the West Midlands can emerge as global leader in this race to produce the next mode of transport but there are many global contenders for that prize.
Already the government has invested in the Faraday Institute to develop battery technology, but it will need a gigafactory to produce the new batteries at scale. Only with this kind of investment from the public and private sector will the next generation go on enjoying the quality of life that so many of us do. I do not want our area to become somewhere people feel left behind. That means we also have to redouble our efforts to help those who are disadvantaged in our midst.
I have enjoyed seeing so many young men and women get a well paid job through apprenticeships in manufacturing. I have avoided using the B word up to now but however we Brexit there is work to be done healing the divisions which have been made manifest through it. So I’m going to work on a reconciliation process run out of Coventry Cathedral once Brexit is done using a citizens’ forum to facilitate a civil conversation about our differences and make recommendations on how to address them.