Few can ever accuse David Gauke of not being influenced by the elements of honesty and fairness he took from 18 months as Justice Secretary.
His resignation from the role in July 2019 was reflective of a turbulent year in which the South West Hertfordshire MP rebelled against the government (in the process of the Benn Act being signed off), had the whip removed, and saw the party he had supported all his life refuse to endorse him as a future candidate.
His actions, however, are wrapped in the belief that the government’s hard Brexit stance will have a devastating effect on the welfare not just of those in his constituency, but the whole UK population, which is why he is now standing as an Independent in a constituency he has served admirably since 2005.
“In my view none of the parties have got it quite right,” he told MyLocalNews. “They have all drift to the extremes – Labour’s position is a muddle, I don’t favour revoking Article 50 without a referendum as the Lib Dems would, and the Conservative approach is going to result in a very hard Brexit, probably without us having a deal at all. That would be seriously bad for the economic prosperity of this country… in financial services, agriculture, manufacturing – these sectors are going to face huge difficulties.”
Gauke admits that while the election shouldn’t be based solely on Brexit, it is the topic on everyone’s lips. “I think in terms of resolving Brexit it would be better to do this in a referendum rather than in a General Election, which muddies the water, but we are where we are. Rest assured though my focus is just as much on local issues – I want to carry on improving our transport services, making sure we get the hospital investment we need, as well as supporting new schools in the area. And this comes to you from a genuinely local candidate, having lived in Chorleywood for 18 years.
“More than that, I hope people will see me as a voice in parliament for moderation and common sense, to bring others to account, not beholden to party interests, but to go out there and say ‘this isn’t true’, ‘this isn’t right’, ‘this is a gross simplification’.”
And therein lies the rub for Gauke, who has fought and won the seat as a Conservative on no fewer than four occasions. As an Independent, he isn’t constrained by a party line, nor does he have to excuse the actions, comments and proposals of others in his party.
“It does feel unusual to stand in this way – I am used to having an established party machine, but that has its plusses and minuses. I’m more involved in the nuts and bolts but am looking forward to getting out there again, just as I have for the previous 14 years. Being an Independent means I can set things out to people exactly as I see it, and run a campaign that is based on being straight with people, telling them how it is. As a nation, we desperately need that, and as always with politics, it needs to start at local level.”
Gauke is joined at the ballot box by new Conservative candidate Gagan Mohindra, Sally Symington of the Lib Dems, and the Green Party’s Tom Pashby.