I POSTED THIS AT 10.30AM ON SUNDAY 1 APRIL 2013. NOT FOR ONE MOMENT DID I BELIEVE THAT ANY OF MY FRIENDS WOULD FALL FOR IT, HOWEVER I WAS INUNDATED WITH EMAILS AND CALLS OF CONGRATULATIONS. BY THE TIME I ANNOUNCED IT WAS AN APIL FOOL SPOOF, ONE COLLEAGUE HAD STARTED A COLLECTION FOR MY LEAVING PRESENT, AND SOMEONE ELSE HAD CALLED MY BOSS AND ASKED TO BE CONSIDERED FOR MY JOB. SERVES ME RIGHT!
Many friends and colleagues have commented that I have not been myself in recent weeks.
The truth is I have been contemplating a huge change, which will deeply affect not only my life but also my partner's. I am also conscious that in making this change I will be letting down many people who have come to rely on me for help and support; my friends and colleagues in the Conservative Party.
It is also difficult when you are in a job you love, and thoroughly enjoy, to take a leap of faith and start something new, especially in your mid 40s.
But that, readers, is what I have decided to do today.
I have always advised others that they should follow their dreams. I can hear myself saying, time and time again, "imagine getting to your 70s and looking back over your life and asking, "if only...". Well, now is the time for me to take my own advice.
Like most people in my area of political administration or public affairs, I am often approached by head hunters with job offers, all of which I have, up to now, rejected. The only job I ever seriously contemplated was working for John McCain's 2008 Presidential Campaign. I have always admired McCain, but I knew he would struggle to win against Obama after eight years of George W Bush, and was I relieved to have turned the offer down once Sarah Palin came on board.
My new job will, therefore, come as surprise to many of you, as it has to me. So it is with trepidation that I can this morning inform you that from May 2013 I will be taking up a new position as Deputy Director of Communications for the European Commission. The irony of this is my UK office will be at 32 Smith Square in London - the old Conservative Central Office building where I started my political life 25 years ago.
I can hear the gasps of astonishment from those who know me best. Why would an arch Europhobe like me, and a supporter of Better Off Out, make such a move at this stage in the political cycle. I can hear some of most fervent Eurosceptic friends accusing me of being "a rat joining a sinking ship..." And there is little I can say other than 'guilty as charged.'
So why am I making such a move.
Well, firstly, I need to see for myself, from the inside, if the EU bubble is as ghastly as I believe it to be. Secondly, there are plenty of lobbyists who convincingly promote causes they clearly don't believe in. If they can do it, why not me? And thirdly, a salary of £130,000 pa. We all have our price; this is a huge sum for a boy from a council estate in Merseyside!
So there we are! (stand back and wait for the barrage of abuse and hostile comment).
To those of you who are disappointed I would ask you to understand my decision this morning. I have not gone native, and have no intention of doing so, but these opportunities come about very infrequently, and as I have advised so many others, I would hate to reach retirement, look back and say, "what if..."