This is to wish everyone a happy Christmas and a merry New Year (it’s usually that way round, isn’t it?). As usual, it’s important that we all take the time to think whether we know anyone who feels lonely or isolated, as the general festivities make it an especially hard time for them – looking in for a friendly visit can make a big difference.
Politically, let’s hope for a rather less exciting 2017. We have to live with both Trump and Brexit, whatever our personal views, and it’s possible that 2017 will see Trump turning out less appalling than some of his statements implied and a serious Brexit negotiation which makes the best of the situation. It would be helpful if Britain actually had a negotiating position, rather than a series of contradictory off-the-cuff offerings from Boris Johnson and his colleagues in Mrs May’s team, but by March I hope that something coherent will emerge. From the Labour viewpoint, I think the priority is to challenge any attempt to make Britain the free-market nightmare that some in the Cabinet might like: a low-wage, low-regulation offshore tax haven with minimal environmental protection. If we’re to make Brexit work for our future and our children, it needs to be on the basis of giving us the chance to forge a better path, not merely a haven for speculators and polluters.
Further afield, perhaps the Syrian conflict will finally wind down. If so, the refugee pressures will lessen, and I hope that will allow our essential decency to come to the fore. At present, we are taking in children, but with the explicit threat to throw them out as soon as they reach 18. I don’t think that makes sense – if someone lives here from when they’re 10 years old after the Syrian nightmare, sending them back to Syria (which isn’t likely to be a stable, healthy society for many years) after 8 years growing up in Britain seems to me both cruel and a waste of opportunity. We shouldn’t confuse a widespread wish for migration controls with a wish to stamp on any chance of a decent future for those refugees whom we do take in.
At a personal level, I’m now settled back in the area, and enjoying seeing so many old friends. Even in Eastwood, which isn’t part of my former constituency, I’m meeting as lot of people who I know personally, and it’s good to be back in local politics.
With all good wishes for the holiday and 2017,