Well what an interesting year it's been. We've had Brexit, and Donald Trump as the President-elect. We had David Cameron as a halfway decent leader of the Government, effectively fall on his sword after miscalculating the true will of the public, a warning yet to be fully heeded by our Etonian political class. We have watched as leaders of some nations bomb and gas children while the rest of the so-called civilised world look because of the mistakes they made in past interventions.
2017 threatens to be every bit as interesting. The serving of Article 50 sometime in March or a considerable loss of face by the Government if it does not, the process of extracting ourselves from the 40-year relationship we have had with the EU and its inexorable slide towards federalism, and the need to temper this with redefining our attitude towards opportunities in the world market.
Then there are the social challenges ahead, dislike of immigration by so many, that in part contributed towards the Brexit vote, will need to be addressed as years of policy around cultural toleration rather than integration come to home roost.
The NHS is without doubt in a difficult position, not well served by government denial in this respect. Our prison service and other criminal justice services are in disarray, and in this respect, as indeed with the disruption on the railways, long term decisions will need to be made about the balance of tenure between public and private enterprise, balanced always, against the profit margins and loss leading activity incumbent in providing services to the public in a neo-austerity world. The health and social care debate remains unresolved, with paltry measures around council tax improvements failing to close an ever-widening gap in the structural locus of services between the NHS and local authorities.
The North East will see continued tension between the organisations that make up at least one of our combined authorities and their resistance to devolution deals that would make such a difference to the region. This, of course, must be juxtaposed with the accusation that Devo-deals are a deception, which obscure and divert the truth of the insufficient and inequitable resource allocation to the North East compared to London, the Home Counties and Scotland.
Across the Atlantic Trump becomes President and we can expect some early decisive action against the so called Islamic State and others to establish his credentials, which will resonate at least with the gung-ho and demonstrate action over inaction for the apathetic. Whether this improves things or simply increases the embitterment is a moot point, Trump is the great experiment in politics to see whether change for its own sake brings improvement when people lose faith with the dynastic style of politics the USA has had for many years.
The key issue in all of this for 2017 is the need for the ordinary citizen to feature more in the minds of the powerful elites. Can we balance an increasing aversion to globalism against a tendency to go the opposite way into protectionism? Can we balance migration policies to sensibly bring skills into the country that reflect actual economic growth and expansion? Can we stop migration being the default answer for the failure of countless government agencies to upskill the population? Can ordinary people be treated with fairness in terms of resource distribution and regional equity while embracing multiculturalism, diversity and equality of gender, and can local authorities overcome their tribalism sufficiently to embrace change?
Can we start to think about leading the world with sustainable policies for the future that do not simply rely on the credo of the economic growth exponential? We need to recognise there are limits to our economic models, and that sustainability has to be fostered in other ways or we will simply encroach more and more on nature, pollute more, and subjugate other species to diminishing habitats and our appalling cruelty as we drag them flesh, fur and feathers into our production processes and excessive consumption patterns.
We are an incredible species, capable of incredible acts of humanity, generosity and technical sophistication, counterbalanced by abilities to selfishly devastate and oppress. As a nation, it's important that we consider our position in the world in relation to this. Real change in 2017 is not about well-intended New Year's resolutions, so much as each individual beginning to consider these factors in their own lives and acting in their own small corner of the world in ways that are consistent with the best that we can be. My wish for 2017, is a truly active debate on the nature of what it is to be human and to the incumbent responsibilities that go with living together, and with other species on a fragile planet that needs us to coexist with it.
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