Maybe it’s something to do with my Scottish ancestry, but the New Year always induces a variety of emotions. Sentimental, nostalgic, forward looking, drunken. Its all about saying farewell to all that is past (over the decade perhaps) and making plans for the future. It’s Auld Lang Syne “Now here’s a hand my trusty friend, and gie’s a hand o thine.”); its about sparkle, champagne, handsome first footers with a lump of coal, and a shocking hangover on the 1st of January.
Its been a turbulent year, and one which we are probably glad to see the back of. But there is now a tangible feeling of optimism around. Post- election and post-Brexit, there is a way forward. Talks with people of all political persuasions and views over the last couple of weeks have had one thing in common- a sense of relief that it’s all over; that clear fresh feeling after the thunderstorm; the weight off the mind which comes from the ending of some old relationship that has gone sour.
There’s a great deal to look forward to, and so much to be done after a period of relative stagnation. A majority of 80 in Parliament at long last means that we can start moving. And Boris and team have set about it with vigour and imagination. The Stock Exchange and money markets have been reflecting that renewed sense of optimism. A US President under Impeachment proceedings and locked in a trade war with China; Frau Merkel nearing the end of her time; and President Macron beset by problems. The field is pretty clear for Britain truly to lead the way. And the General Election now makes that possible.
It’s going to a hard work- there is a thick wedge of legislation to be agreed before 31 January. I am to Chair the Environment Bill Committee, which will be challenging. There will be a Budget, a re-alignment of Whitehall Departments; a major reshuffle in February; there are 110 new Tory MPs to settle in; a Labour Leadership battle which is squaring up to be one of the bloodiest on record, as the contestants struggle for the soul of the Labour Party; and a host of new initiatives, committees, Parliamentary battles to come.
So I am so grateful to all of those who have worked with me over the last year; to those who re-elected me (all 32,000 of you), to my friends and colleagues in Parliament. It’s been a tough year; but we have achieved a lot. And we will need that shared work, dedication, loyalty and commitment if we are to achieve all we want to in the year ahead.
So will it be a “Happy New Year”, a ‘prosperous’ one; a healthy one we all hope? Will it be an exciting roller-coaster of a year, or a period of steadying of the ship of state? I personally rather hope that after a pretty exciting couple of years, this one will be positively boring. We need to get on with the real work of Government, of making Britain truly a leader in the world. That should be serious, dull, if altogether more satisfying than the heady whirligig we have endured of recent months.
I rather like the old Scots song:
A guid New Year tae yin an aw, an monie may ye see
An durin aw the years tae come, O happy may ye be
An may ye ne'er hae cause tae mourn
Tae sigh or shed a tear
Tae yin an aw, baith great an sma
A hearty guid New Year!!