Dear Reader: Our MP on the tricky subject of Brexit + talking my way into trouble

Brexit views - Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones
Brexit views - Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Twenty nine days ago I sat opposite Amber Rudd in Harrogate Job Centre to talk about Universal Credit.

At that point she was a loyal member of the Cabinet.

Earlier this week, less than a month later, she’d quit, the latest upheaval in the Brexit turmoil.

Talking to me in an upstairs room in the building during her visit as Work and Pensions secretary, she appeared to be saying the right things as a then-member of the Government.

But I do remember thinking at the time, she didn’t sound like a member of the Government.

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Not that I’m claiming any great powers of clairvoyance

I would also like to say that it’s not this newspaper’s job to speculate about national issues all the time, no matter how big, interesting or important.

It’s our job to try and reflect the broad church of our readership on issues that matter where they live.

That hasn’t stopped this newspaper coming under pressure to write more about our own local politicians’ views on Brexit.

I don’t think any of our readers can be in any doubt, to take one example, about where Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones stands on Brexit.

Like Amber Rudd, he views himself as a ‘One Nation’ sort of MP. When talking to him on the phone a week ago, I asked him how he could square this with support for the present Government.

Slowly and calmly he pointed to the Prime Ministers’ record as Mayor of London when his approach was what you might like to call ‘flexitarian’ as regards policies traditionally regarded as left or right.

I didn’t argue.

Juggling party and country, colleagues and principles is a common problem these days.

At one point in our telephone conversation I tried to be clever or funny or, perhaps, a bit of both.

“Brexit is a fascinating subject,” I suggested, “It’s impossible to get tired of talking about it.”

The silence on the other end of the line spoke for itself.

Occasionally I find myself at what I call ‘fizz and chat’ events.

The fizz is always nice but the chat doesn’t always come naturally.

Not so the recent launch of Harrogate Theatre’s new rep season.

I’m a big supporter of the theatre which I think is the town’s finest living, breathing arts hub.

Still, I didn’t know everyone at this particular soiree and I knew it wouldn’t be long before mingling became inevitable.

In this sort of situation, I tend to say the first thing that comes into my head then just keep on going.

As a strategy, it has its risks, I have to admit. At one point one person I thought I recognised was so close in the crowd of people rubbing shoulders in the theatre’s circle bar I felt I really had to say something, no matter what it was.

On and on I chatted until it struck me the person wasn’t actually who I thought it was at all.

With a sudden flash of recognition I realised it was Joyce Branagh, Kenneth’s sister.

Isn’t this a magnificent-looking space for a chat?

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