May I wish all your readers, as well as my Wansbeck constituents, a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year at the start of what is certainly going to be a challenging one for Britain.
I hope it will also be a year of great opportunities not just for our country, but for all of us, our families and our friends.
As we begin the New Year our country stands at a crossroads in history. In 2016 we voted to leave the European Union and we are just 78 days away from when that is supposed to happen.
The result was divisive — 51.9 per cent of people favouring leaving Europe with 48.1 percent wanting to remain. Opinion has remained passionately divided right until now, just weeks away from the March 29 deadline when we are due to leave the EU.
Yet we are no closer to knowing how, when — or indeed if — that will happen.
Next week MPs are due to take part in the “meaningful vote” to either accept or reject the deal Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated with other European leaders for setting out the terms of Britain’s withdrawal. What the outcome of that vote will be, no one truly knows, but if the pundits are to be believed MPs could well reject the deal.
Quite where that leaves us is anyone’s guess, with Parliament and the country continuing to be divided over the best way to manage Britain’s ongoing relationship with Europe. Whatever happens, the overriding challenge for politicians of all colours has to be to bring the country back together again.
Brexit is going to dominate the agenda for the foreseeable future, but we can’t take our eye off the ball with regard to pressing domestic issues.
This week a report has been published about the future of the NHS, which is critical to all our lives. We need to sort out the long-term future of our health service not just because we are living longer and will likely need services more as we grow older, but for so many complex issues and services, such as mental health, the need to treat more people in their own homes, and the rapid development of technologies and treatments that could benefit patients in a way previously thought impossible. All this needs sustainable funding to make our NHS services fit for the 21st century.
We also need to consider the funding of other public services — police, fire and rescue, education and the day-to-day local government services we all make use of.
We need more new houses, affordable to the many, not just the few.
Our transport systems and network need an overhaul to make sure we can travel safely and at a cost we can afford. Once again the cost of rail travel has gone up, and we also need to deal with the punctuality and reliability of trains.
Locally, I believe there are some exciting developments and opportunities we can look forward to in 2019.
Morpeth town centre continues to look attractive and welcoming, and efforts must be made to ensure that those moving into homes around the town are aware of just what it has to offer.
I look forward to the improvement to Morpeth Railway Station that the Greater Morpeth Development Trust is leading on, as well as the new school being built at Loansdean, which should provide excellent modern facilities in which youngsters can develop and learn.
We are blessed with the wonderful natural facilities our coastline, countryside, parks and open spaces offer for getting out, exercising and enjoying ourselves, and I hope more people take advantage of what is on their doorstep.
It is going to be a challenging year that will shape the future of our country for years to come. But I am confident that as a nation and individuals we can rise to that challenge to make Britain a better place for each and every one of us.