Public service is an enormous honour – perhaps the greatest that you can have. I believe in it, as does almost everyone I have met who works to serve the public – teaching assistants, council workers, hospital porters, fellow politicians across the political divide, civil servants, diplomats – and so on. Of course, none of us wakes up in the morning and says “off I go to serve the public” – we are British and we wear our vocation lightly. But burning within most public servants is a deep purpose to make their corner of the world a better place, to serve the people who use public services and depend on the safeguards of the state.
For me, the last few months have felt like a particular form of public service. We face enormous opportunities but the challenges are real. We must negotiate a successful exit from the European Union, untangling a shared political system that has grown together over more than forty years. The negotiations themselves will be some of the most wide-ranging in history. But I am sure, having seen preparations begin, that we can succeed in getting the best deal for Britain. And the reason for that is the strong, principled and balanced leadership that our prime minister brings.
We were all surprised by the decision to call an early general election. But from my double aspect, here in Ipswich and down in London, I can see precisely why it is needed. The fact is that although our European allies are our friends, they will want to maximise what they can get out of these negotiations – as their voters and people would rightly expect. That is a formidable challenge – 27 member states against one Britain, however strong.
And then there are the challenges at home. You will know the position I took in the referendum; but you also know that I respected the result and am determined to make the very best of it. I believe now more than ever that we can make this work, but it will take care, hard work, honour and intelligence. There are some, however, who take a different view. They want to frustrate the negotiations and make sure that we either leave with no deal or do not leave at all. Some of these are separatists, interested only in their own narrow and dismal cause. They are ranged against the government, both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Surveying the scene, the prime minister realized that the best way of securing a great deal for Britain – one that safeguarded our future relationships around the world and promised a better future for our children – was to seek a mandate to deliver that deal. It is a simple request: back Theresa May to deliver for Britain. Our prime minister needs the nation’s backing if she is to get the best deal for our country. And that is what I shall give her, if you re-elect me, on your behalf.
For I know that many things will weigh on your minds at election time. I would want to explain to you how I will continue to work hard to make Ipswich a better place, full of opportunity and proud of its sustainable growth. I would want to talk to you also about our improving schools, and our incredible hospital and the apprenticeships that I would want to help create. All of this is important to you and to me, and no doubt we will discuss them if we can.
But the thing that really matters in this election is the future strength and prosperity of our nation, the opportunities it is able to give to every generation and the values it seeks to uphold. These things will be settled to a large extent by the outcome of the negotiations we are about to begin. By backing Theresa May, you and I will be able to give her the best possible chance of reaching the deal that is good for all of us, across this United Kingdom.