THIS has been an historically difficult year for us all. It’s hard to believe that it is only 12 months ago that we were allowing ourselves a brief period of celebration after Boris Johnson’s election victory.
Yorkshire rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of Islington Marxism as traditional working-class communities sent a clear message that they were sick and tired of being taken for granted.
Moreover, their patriotism and support for our Armed Forces was despised by Labour.
The final straw was Brexit.
Many Labour supporters here had voted to leave the European Union, but they had seen how, for example, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer had conspired with Conservatives like Dominic Grieve to frustrate the Brexit process every step of the way. People felt they were being patronised and deemed too stupid to understand what they voted for in the referendum.
Conservatives like myself and my new colleagues in South and West Yorkshire were looking forward to “Getting Brexit Done” and then moving on to delivering our ambitious manifesto.
We never anticipated that we would have to “Get Covid Done” first! So, what are our priorities now?
Firstly, we must win the battle with the pandemic.
Vaccination is under way in Scarborough and Whitby and around the region.
The most vulnerable are being prioritised along with health and care workers and, as more and more people become immune, life will return to something approaching normality.
Many businesses in sectors like hospitality have had a tough time and they will continue to need help and the nation’s battered finances will have to be fixed at some point too.
Secondly, we need to make a success of Brexit.
Independence provides many global opportunities, but we also need to mend some bridges with our EU friends and neighbours after what has been a bruising process for all concerned.
The economy needs to be rebalanced to give the North its fair share of investment.
Outside the Common Agricultural Policy there are challenges and opportunities. Our Environmental Land Management scheme will continue to support farmers, but they will need to adapt to deliver environmental ‘public goods’.
This isn’t only about planting trees and hedges or extending public access, but in areas like the Moors and Dales it should be about conserving what is there already and supporting the communities that are integral to our most precious open spaces.
Finally, we need to grasp the nettle of how we fund our care for the elderly.
This is a political can that has been kicked down the road for far too long.
The current system is a lottery. If you save hard all your life, build up a pension pot or pay down a mortgage and you have to go into a care home then your house may have to be sold and you will have to pay for everything until only £23,250 remains. If you die at home, then the generous inheritance tax allowance means most of your estate can be left to your children.
If, however, for whatever reason, you have no assets then the taxpayer will step in and fund your care. This is quite simply not fair on people who have tried to do the right thing all their lives.
Let’s hope 2021 is a far better year than 2020 – it would be hard to think how it could be worse.
Happy New Year to you all.