This is a piece I've written for today's Daily Mail about the referendum and its aftermath:
I voted to remain because you are always better off at the top table and the UK is a leader in Europe. Our membership of the EU has delivered us some 60-plus years of peace and all the benefits of the single market. I worked with the cross-party Stronger In campaign in my constituency, with street stalls, leafleting – you name it. Within Parliament, both sides were respectful of each other and locally we remained scrupulously courteous. But I received abuse on social media and it hasn’t stopped. I’m bombarded with ‘Why won’t you accept the vote?’ messages, even though, of course, we have.
The day of the Referendum, I woke up with a stinking cold, so breakfast was Lemsip. I spent the morning working in my constituency office. I had to vote as a proxy for two friends who are sailing around the world. They live in one of the more deprived areas of the city and I noticed a big turnout there: I knew these constituents were more likely to vote leave in the hope of regaining some power over their lives. At around 5pm, I went home as I wasn’t feeling well. I had Marmite on toast for dinner. During any campaign like this, your diet goes completely out of the window because it’s easier to grab a biscuit than to find something healthy. I put on about three kilos.
At 10pm when the polls closed, I went to the count in Southampton, filled with trepidation. The former war correspondent Kate Adie was reporting from there for Radio 4. She’s one of my heroes so that was thrilling. There were no TV screens at the count, so Kate, Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, and I huddled round a reporter’s computer.
From 2am, it became increasingly obvious that remain would lose. Not enough people had turned out in London and Scotland. The EU had become remote to the public and that was politicians’ fault. Hardly anybody knew who their local MEP was. The out brigade traded successfully on immigration, more money for the NHS and accusations that remainers were running ‘Project Fear’.
By 4am, when the outcome was clear, I went home and got a few hours’ sleep, waking to hear that David Cameron had announced that he was stepping down. I reached for my phone – the first thing every politician does when they wake – and there was a text from my sister (who had flown in from Singapore, where she lives, to vote remain) saying: ‘Your leader has resigned.’ I felt terribly sad about that as he was a very good Prime Minister. I did a quick interview for local radio then went for a walk on the beach to clear my head. I got to my office at 11am and the hard work began.
In fact, five out of seven wards in Portsmouth South voted to remain, but the city as a whole voted to leave by 58 per cent to 42. We’re already seeing the repercussions locally – an interior design company had £100,000 of contracts lined up and they’ve all been withdrawn. Things like that are depressing, but now we must simply move on and do the best we can.