This will be my penultimate weekly column for the West Sussex County Times. As I write, the Chancellor is preparing to deliver the last Budget of the Parliament.
I know what is in it, as I heard it at the Budget Cabinet first thing this morning, but can’t write about it as the press deadline here falls before the Chancellor will have revealed its contents to the House of Commons.
Suffice it to say that we end the Parliament with the economy in infinitely better shape than we found it in 2010. We’ve genuinely halved the deficit as a share of GDP, cutting spending and delivering more for less.
Our opponents said that the effect of cutting spending would be to create higher unemployment, but the reality has been the reverse: more people – and especially more women - in employment than ever before.
Businesses have created more than two million jobs in this period.
My own role has been to lead the work in cutting the government’s own costs, and to prepare to do the same again in the next Parliament by applying - for the first time - normal business practices. So the government’s long term economic plan is working, but there’s still much more to do.
Deeply engaged in that work will need to be Horsham’s new MP. I make no assumptions about the result of the election in Horsham, and neither does my successor as Conservative candidate.
I’m delighted to welcome Jeremy Quin in that role.
I travel the country a great deal and have campaigned with numerous Conservative candidates, and can say that there is no stronger and more talented candidate than Jeremy.
From his success as President of the Union at Oxford, where he worked with several leading figures in the current government, through a glittering career in business, including a spell as a Treasury civil servant helping to sort out the issues following the financial crash under the Labour Government, this is a man marked out for a leading role in public service.
With strong family connections to the Horsham area, I’m confident that he’ll quickly make his mark here.
We know that there are big issues facing our locality – from controversial housing developments through a – now receding – issue with prospecting for oil and gas to the future for Gatwick Airport.
Horsham needs a really strong voice on all these issues, someone clever and well-informed, able to make Horsham’s voice heard with real clarity inside the counsels of Whitehall as well as in Parliament itself.
It is totally clear to me that Jeremy would be that strong voice, so I shall be giving him unequivocal support as he seeks the backing of this wonderful constituency that has been the centre of my life for 20 years.