“A guid New Year tae yin and a’; and mony may ye see; And during a’ the year tae come, O Happy may ye be,” goes the old Scots New Year’s anthem. A GOOD New Year, and many of them as well as happiness, however defined.
For the fact is that none of us knows what lies around the corner – huge success, sublime happiness ‘prosperity;’ as the marginally venal English version hath it; or poverty and distress. Who knows? Some of the richest have the most ghastly lives, some of the poorest the happiest people I know. So just three little rules for life come from all of that. First, enjoy what you’ve got and be thankful for it, and live life to the full. You only get one of them. Second, take all prudent steps to avoid the worst pitfalls which may lie ahead. Keep as fit and healthy as you can; don’t overload the credit cards; avoid stress and arguments with colleagues – we’ve all made those resolutions. But third, be ready for the worst which may possibly befall you. That will both make it less bad when it happens, and perhaps help you prepare in mind or physical matters for it.
So what does the world of politics hold for the year ahead? Brexit will, I think, prove less complex, and vastly more beneficial than people seem to think. We will wake up the morning after going “So what was all the fuss about?” and we will rejoice in our freedom as a nation from the European Court of Justice, from the business-numbing Internal Market, from the total EU failure to agree trade deals with the rest of the world, and from the needless bureaucracy and rules of the Customs Union. ‘Huzzah!’ we will shout as we truly celebrate our recovered independence as a nation. But I would be the first to admit that it may well be a bit of a rocky road from here to there. The EU itself may well start to fall apart, led by Ciao Italia. (Good to see the Italian banks coming to the City of London last week for the largest bond issue - £10billion I think- ever written.)
And I am deeply worried about the whole of the Middle East, Turkey, and Russia’s malign influence in it. The consequences in humanitarian terms, in economic terms and in military terms are too awful to contemplate. The spillover from all of that into the peace and prosperity of Europe, and the increasing and related threat from Jihadi terrorism can never be ignored, and the Government will have its hands full in dealing with all of it.
It’s in exciting and uncertain times like these that we take most comfort from that great old Minnie Louise Haskins poem: ”As I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied: ‘Go out into the darkness and put you hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.’ Great advice for all of us in Government and private life alike.
So I wish you all a very Good and happy New Year.