What a year in Westminster and in Lincoln.
I have been involved in politics for over 30 years now and I have never seen such a momentous 12 months, let alone been involved in it.
If in January you would have told me we would have a new Prime Minister, Donald Trump as President-elect in the US and Jeremy Corbyn would be overwhelmingly re-elected Labour Leader, I would have shook my head in disbelief. It is different on Brexit of course - I always believed a resounding Leave vote would happen.
What these events show is a general disenchantment with the direction of politics with a growing void between the public and the “Establishment” – government, big businesses, ‘experts’, media and trade unions (I still find it staggering that no one in the ‘labour’ movement has questioned the TUC specifically, who urged its members to vote Remain and were roundly ignored). I am confident that the new Prime Minister will bridge this gap over the coming years but it does show that politicians should never take the public for granted.
On Brexit, I always felt that if there was the opportunity for a Referendum, the British public would be brave enough to vote Leave, and so it proved. My key reflection is that the public are far wiser and more independent than the “Establishment” gives them credit for. You can only scare people into supporting your opinion, if you already have them on side. This is why Project Fear did not work because many of those (not all) did not have the credibility to frighten voters. Having Tony Blair and Lord Peter Mandelson promoting a Remain vote was a gift that kept on giving and I see that Labour’s Mayor of London has now appointed Lord Mandelson as a Brexit advisor…
The fact that the economy is still growing and unemployment is falling shows those who predicted economic meltdown did not have the good sense that the British public has.
From a local perspective, Lincoln is now the jewel in the crown for the whole of the East Midlands, if not, the whole Country. Business is booming, tourism rising, universities thriving, unemployment falling and crime tumbling. We also have a fantastic civic community with charities and volunteers playing their full part in making Lincoln an exciting, vibrant and welcoming place. This is all before we recognise the fantastic heritage that we have with our magnificent Castle, Cathedral and Magna Carta.
It is worth reflecting that after years of constantly knocking on the right doors in Whitehall and raising my voice in Westminster, it does pay off in the end.
This year, we have seen the successful completion of the Lincoln East-West Road Link, a vital footbridge over the railway line in the City Centre and last month we had the re-confirmation of the full funding of the single carriageway Eastern Bypass - a project that will start in 2017. I was able to help the City and County Councils and others obtain the permission and funding they required to make all these projects happen. In the case of the Eastern Bypass I have always said a dual carriageway is the best, and needed, solution. It is a shame County Councillors in South Lincolnshire do not agree with me. These infrastructure projects, with many more to come, are vital to keeping our County and City moving and growing. Perseverance pays off.
I am already excited about 2017 for both the Country and Lincoln. Next year, we will be taking the next vital steps in regaining control of our Country and the City will continue to bloom. I also hope that after what seems to have been a turbulent 2016, next year will be calmer…
Finally, I would like to say thankyou to everyone who has played a part in Lincoln’s success story and also to those who have helped me play my part. A great City like this only succeeds with everyone working in partnership together. Thankyou.