An advantage of the constituency-based electoral system we have in the UK Parliament is that Members of Parliament represent, and are accountable to, all those who live in their constituency whether or not they voted for the MP. So, if MPs take their responsibilities seriously, they will listen to a wide range of questions and opinions.
There were hundreds of subjects and questions raised during my nine-and-a-half years in Parliament, some several times a week. For instance, questions concerning the state of the NHS, schools, the economy, and taxation regularly landed in my inbox. Others were triggered by major events or decisions, such as the EU referendum, the building of HS2 (which bisected my Stafford constituency) or the conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Alongside these were letters and meetings on the major questions of poverty in the UK and around the world, the environment, and climate change, as well as freedom of speech and religion.
Most of the time, constituents would write expressing their opinions on these subjects and asking me, as their representative, to take some action. This could be by voting in a certain way, by raising it in a question or speech in Parliament, or by writing to a minister.
Sometimes, I would be asked for my own views. This would generally be in questions of ethics where an MP will vote according to her, or his, conscience or beliefs, rather than take a party line, if indeed there is one. While I was in Parliament, we had to take decisions on legislation regarding same-sex marriage, further liberalisation of Sunday trading, and assisted dying. We also had to debate changes to the laws concerning abortion.
How did my Christian faith come into this? One thing is clear. It did not give me clear answers to any of these questions. The fact that many Christian MPs came to different decisions on same-sex marriage and assisted dying, often after much soul-searching, shows that that in most cases there is no definitive ‘Christian’ view. This is not to say that the Bible has nothing to say on these matters, nor that they are unimportant, but that legislating on moral matters is not straightforward or simple.
We need to remember that the role of MPs is to decide on legislation, not to set in stone an ethical code. Laws are there to protect citizens from the most severe of harms. Seven of the Ten Commandments are not on the UK statute book (the exceptions being those against killing, theft and bearing false witness – in certain circumstances).
However, my faith did inform my general approach in Parliament. Firstly, I tried to address the questions of my constituents with respect and in full, even when they were hostile. ‘A gentle answer turns away wrath’.
Secondly, it was important to me to engage with constituents whose views differed from my own. On a number of occasions, I changed or modified my views and decisions after listening to the concerns or experiences of constituents.
Finally, I endeavoured to work with MPs of all parties wherever possible and to refrain from engaging in invective. There are many MPs who were not Christians who also adopted this approach, so I claim no merit in this. But my faith – and the support and witness of other MPs, many of them Christians – helped me to adopt an approach that I might well not have otherwise taken.
Politics is an unforgiving arena. There is nothing that the media like to expose more than a politician laid low by scandal, especially one who professes a faith. Parliamentary politics is also particularly hard on family life. I was blessed both in that our children were older and that Janet, my wife, was so supportive, despite working more than fulltime as a family doctor and university teacher. But the demands on MPs and working hours are extraordinary.
I have the utmost respect for those who – despite this – wish to serve their communities in local or national politics and am always happy to speak with people who are seriously considering it.
 There are disadvantages too. For instance, many MPs are elected by a minority of votes cast which can lead to large majorities for governments which represent a minority of the electorate.
 For the record, I voted against same-sex marriage, further liberalisation of Sunday Trading and assisted dying.