Julian’s York Press Column: The Year Ahead
January 6, 2017
The late Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan once remarked that it was a ‘trite observation to say “we live in a period of transition”’. I have been mulling over this assertion throughout the festive period as I recollected the year’s most memorable events. The more time that I spend in politics, the more I find myself agreeing with Mr MacMillan’s sentiment.
Without taking time to reflect it can be easy to see events as unprecedented and unique and I appreciate why many people are alarmed by the pace of change in both Britain and the wider world. However, this is nothing new. Undoubtedly, 2016 will feature heavily in the history books throughout the years to come, what one might describe as an interesting episode in the period of transition.
Whether we find certain periods of transition frightening, exciting or downright bizarre it is important to keep things in perspective and not resort to alarmism. Looking ahead, we can only anticipate the finer details of what 2017 has in store for us but from what we do know, there should be plenty in store to fill column inches and the 24-hour rolling news channels.
Close to home, the Publication Draft of York’s Local Plan will be consulted upon in the coming months, substantial upgrades to the Foss Barrier will be completed, and Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group will publish proposals for the development of a new mental health hospital to replace Bootham Park. I understand the concerns of those who are frustrated that York will not be getting a new hospital until 2019 but we cannot allow vulnerable people to be subjected to an inadequate and unsafe environment – as was the case at Bootham.
Nationally, the Government will be bringing forward an education bill that covers areas addressing Grammar and Faith school reform, the introduction of a National Funding Formula, and the 30 hours free childcare provision for working families. I also think the Government should be applauded for having the courage to tackle Britain’s poor record on criminal re-offending. We are anticipating an imminent White Paper from the Ministry of Justice and this will contain provisions to implement a modern strategy for tackling extremism in our prisons, place a greater emphasis on education and skills, and ensure people are leaving prison reformed and ready to make a positive contribution to society.
In the coming days the Supreme Court will deliver its ruling on whether Article 50 can be triggered by the Government using prerogative powers or whether Parliament will have the final say. The ‘B-word’ has certainly proven to divide opinion amongst my constituents but I am now noticing a further division when speaking with people across York Outer. Some people groan and seem sick to the back teeth of any mention of Brexit, this is certainly understandable with any issue that dominates the airwaves and newspapers for such a prolonged amount of time.
However, there are also many who see a watershed moment for British politics and regardless of whether they backed Leave or Remain, people quite rightly expect that my parliamentary colleagues and I address Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union with the upmost seriousness and believe comprehensive analysis and coverage is unequivocally positive.
On the international stage things are expected to be similarly intriguing. Two weeks tomorrow, President Obama will be handing over to Mr Trump and we should really start to see a clearer picture of the incoming President’s administration and policy direction. I recognise Mr Trump invokes strong feelings on both side of the political divide, but regardless of who is in the White House it is vital that Britain continues to work closely with our firmest ally.
Furthermore, there is heightened interest in politics across Europe this year with polarising candidates featuring prominently in French, German and Dutch elections. Sadly, the Syrian Civil War is likely to continue into its sixth year and Mr Putin’s hand seems to have been strengthened considerably. Despite all uncertainty one thing is certain, Britain’s place at the head of the NATO Alliance is now as important as it has ever been.
I would like to wish all readers a Happy New Year and all the best for 2017.