The following is the piece posted in todays Argus followed by a few extra words: The year ahead is going to be one of many challenges for all of our society and in the USA. We face at least 3 months of wrangling over Brexit with what at the moment appears to be a constant tension between the Prime Minister with some of her colleagues in the Government and the rest of Parliament as arguments rage about who decides on the route of the journey ahead. For those who believe a second referendum is necessary, the tension is spreading far beyond Parliament and on social media the debate has not subsided since June 23rd. Meanwhile on more domestic matters the issues surrounding rail franchises, running of our prisons and education ‘policy’ appear to be matters that will continue to dominate our thinking and newspaper headlines for many weeks to come. The reality is that many of these issues are not matters of worked through policy, but rather reflect the way in which individual Ministers have responded to specific circumstances or events. Across the Atlantic President elect Trump appears to be swaying from one promise or claim to another and the idea of his Presidency beginning to impact decisions from the most powerful nation on earth shows the weakness of their democracy, just as much as the actions of May, Grayling, Truss and Greening show how vulnerable our democracy has become. More locally the issues that are emerging in our Council Chamber and those of neighbouring Councils are not without their own problems. Although there are no elections planned for 2017, the issue of what our votes achieve is likely to be a vital topic of discussion.
One of the books I was fortunate enough to receive this Christmas was “The Leveller Revolution” by John Rees. The book focuses not just on the well known names of the levellers such as Lilburne, Rainsborough and Overton but looks in more depth at the lives of the others who attempted to create a republic as Charles 1 was being executed and there was a move to abolish the House of Lords. The resonance with 2017 as the Royal Family comes under challenge and not just the Lords but the Commons is under threat from people who cannot be bothered to vote because they don’t believe their vote matters. Meanwhile powerful men like Eric Pickles and Chris Skidmore want to deny the vote to people without evidence of their identity which seems a very heavy handed approach to prevent vote fraud and is laced with threats to the franchise for the poor and chaotic. We may not be at a point of revolution, but certainly need some form of evolution in our democracy if it is to survive.