With all the parliamentary ping pong over Brexit going on at the moment, is Neil Carmichael feeling left out?

“I’ve been fiercely watching Parliament these last few weeks,” the ex-MP for Stroud says over the phone from London as the Government's Brexit bill makes it way through the House of Commons.

Neil, one of those rare beasts of British politics - an unashamedly pro-European Conservative - lost his seat in 2017, just under a year after the referendum.

“I fought hard to keep Britain within the EU,” he says, hinting he may attend a march for a second vote in London on Saturday.

“Stroud came out with a really good Remain vote, and I'm sorry that we didn't win outright.

“But we didn't, and now we have to deal with the consequences.”

It’s not just Brexit that sees Neil out of step with his old bosses.

In a rare moment of agreement with David Drew, a long-time rival for the Stroud constituency who ousted him last year, Neil thinks the Government’s headed in the wrong direction with announcements like more funding for grammars.

"I don't think we need any more grammars schools,” he stresses.

“I think that's a distraction from what's really important, which is basically the primary-secondary arena.

“We need to focus on the children who are struggling to make the transition from primary to secondary school.

“And I think we need to give more choice, a wider curriculum”

Education, education, education - it's an interest that clearly dominates Neil’s post-Parliament life.

He is chairing a commission for education publishing giant Pearson and, last summer, he landed a job advising for political lobbying firm PLMR, which boasts major players in education as clients.

And, having just celebrated his honorary appointment as a professor of politics and education at the University of Nottingham with fellow pro-EU Tory Ken Clarke, next for Neil is a book.

Entitled ‘Productive, Progressive and Proper’ and pencilled in for autumn, he argues that the UK’s economic woes are inextricably linked to some Brits being unable to climb the economic ladder.

“The argument I'm making is that the lack of economic productivity is really the other side of the coin of social immobility.”

“A big problem we've got is not to do with how many people get to university, but what happens to those who don’t end up going and might need encouragement to go head into technical and professional opportunities.

“We have to work out how to give people the appropriate equipment to contribute to the economy, and therefore increase social mobility.”

Despite his divergence from his party since the days of David Cameron, Neil insists his decision to rule out another stab at being Stroud’s MP is not because of disillusionment.

“I think that politics is one of those activities where you have to take victory with defeat, and vice versa.

“I still feel passionately about those issues, including the environment.

“But if we get a decent deal with the EU, then at least the damage to our economy will be limited.”

In between solving the productivity puzzle and mitigating Brexit, Neil still has time for Stroud.

“I was just there this morning - my three children are all back from university.

“You have to call somewhere home.”