I am still a Conservative and still your MP, says Boles
Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles says he can't wait for Brexit to be over so he can get back to working on local issues.
The MP, who resigned from the Conservative Party with an emotional speech in Parliament on Monday, has told the Journal he did not believe he would be sitting as an Independent Progressive Conservative in the Commons.
Mr Boles said he 'understood the concern' of his constituents after his resignation. He said: "I think I did not expect to find myself in this position but I have always felt I would not be comfortable continuing without offering myself for reselection if I had joined another party. But I am not joining another party or the Independent Group. I am not doing what my predecessor Quentin Davies did. I am a progressive Conservative and I will continue to vote with the Conservative Party on just about everything. I will continue to serve all of my constituents as an MP."
Grantham's previous MP Quentin Davies infuriated Conservative voters when he crossed the floor in the Commons and defected to Labour in 2007.
Mr Boles says he cannot criticise those who feel what he has done is 'not legitimate'. On Monday, the MP resigned from the party after his motion in favour of a Single Market failed to win a majority. He told the Commons: "I have given everything to attempt to find a compromise that can take this country out of the European Union while maintaining our economic strength and our political cohesion. I accept I have failed. I have failed chiefly because my party refuses to compromise. I regret therefore that I can no longer sit for this Party."
Mr Boles was applauded by MPs on the opposition benches while some of his Conservative colleagues asked him not to go.
He told the Journal that he was 'very disappointed' when his amendment was defeated and blamed 'pig-headed' Conservatives who, in the end, had decided not to support him.
Mr Boles has been the target of strong criticism from his constituents and his own local Conservative association from which he has also resigned. He said of the association: "They could feel let down, but the truth is that they were not happy with me and wanted to select a new candidate. They cannot have it both ways and they will get someone in who is more their kind of Conservative."
But Mr Boles came in for particular criticism from the former chairman of the local association, Philip Sagar, who accused him of 'rogue and incredulous actions'. But Mr Boles told the Journal that he had had 'very good relations' with the vast majority of association members and was grateful for their support, especially during his treatment for cancer. "They got me re-elected. I feel huge gratitude to them."
Mr Boles accepts that his actions mean he is unlikely to stand for re-election as an MP again, but he is determined to serve as MP for Grantham and Stamford until the next General Election which may not be until 2022.
He said that he believed the majority of his 100,000 constituents were still supporting him. He has received many emails, letters and messages which have been 'overwhelmingly positive'.
Mr Boles said he did not regret his work on Brexit, having worked solidly on his Common Market 2.0 amendment since August. He admitted: "I am dying for it all (Brexit) to be over and then I can start again on local issues."
Mr Boles said he was happy that a no deal Brexit looks to have been avoided. He said a no deal would be 'devastating' for local businesses and farmers. "I think through my efforts we have managed to stop it happening."
Mr Boles told the Journal he dismissed any criticism that he was neglecting local issues. He said he wanted to make sure 24 hour services returned to Grantham Hospital, but admitted the hospital was not doing everything people wanted it to be doing. Grantham's A&E department has been closed overnight since August 2016 and last month it was confirmed there were plans to downgrade A&E to an urgent treatment centre. He said: "People were deeply unhappy with the hospital when I was first elected. They were talking about it being closed altogether. It does a lot more now but doesn't do all that people would like it to do."
Mr Boles said he was also proud of the fact that at the start of his term as MP for Grantham, he supported efforts to build the new Priory Ruskin school. He said that it looked as if efforts to build the school would have to be cancelled because of financial struggles, but he had supported a successful bid to get it built. The MP also said it would be 'particularly amazing' when the Grantham southern relief road was completed.
While it is unlikely that Mr Boles will stand for re-election as an MP again, he says nothing is impossible. He told the Journal: "Maybe by the time of the election in 2022, things will have changed and the Conservative Party will have reunited. I am still a Conservative. I am still the same person and if the Conservative Party comes back into alignment with me, maybe I will rejoin."