Opinion: ‘Let’s all raise a glass to a better year ahead for Peterborough’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 1st January 2022, 2:00 pm
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Pixabay

On New Year’s Eve, our television screens cut to Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower.

Our ears wait for the sound of Big Ben. That deep, resonant ‘bong’ announces midnight to the nation.

No-one can see the fireworks in person this year. The Mayor of London, who has never impressed, decided to make them ‘broadcast only’ because of the pandemic… in October.

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He’s one of the restriction-happy crowd. Scotland and Wales have banned parties altogether. Labour demanded restrictions ‘sooner rather than later’ in England.Our Government held firm.

The clock tower at Westminster is emerging from years of renovation. Its dials have reappeared above the scaffolding, newly-restored to their Victorian splendour.

If you haven’t seen them yet, you may get a slight shock – something so familiar, yet different, authentic and better. I can’t help thinking the Elizabeth Tower is a metaphor for our country’s re-emergence after Brexit and the pandemic.

Big Ben will still be struck by a temporary mechanism at midnight, but later this year, its familiar sound will return on the hour, every hour. A return to a better normal.

The clock tower was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in 2012, in honour of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

In 2022, we celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, which will culminate in an extended, bank holiday weekend of celebrations from Thursday, June 2 to Sunday, June 5.

Her Majesty’s 70 years of service is truly astonishing.

Watching her Christmas broadcast was especially moving, given the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh. I hope Peterborough will come together, as it always does, to mark the celebrations.

What else do I hope for 2022? This is a time for hopes and resolutions, after all.

Above everything else: an end to the pandemic.

The UK has smashed it with vaccinations and boosters, which appear to be keeping Omicron under control. Each of my fingers is crossed, hoping the virus will subside into a new flu.

It may take a little longer across the world.

It may take longer here if people refuse the vaccine or don’t get boosted. So please get a jab!

For Peterborough, a big moment will come in the autumn, when our new university opens its first block and starts taking students. This is incredibly exciting. Two thousand students, taking practical, technical courses – almost in the shadow of the cathedral – with direct links to our local industries and employers.

It’s so exciting because it’s just the start.

Bringing more businesses, jobs and investment to our city means opportunity and prosperity. It means our children being able to get on, right here.

It means better pay. It means a revitalised city centre.

Already, we are talking about wider improvements.

A new stadium for the Posh? A rebuilt, modern train station and redevelopment of the Station Quarter?

A lot depends on the city council. We need to keep the new team in place in the May 2022 elections, so we can keep delivering this transformation.

They have their own part to play in tackling smaller things that matter, like antisocial behaviour and flytipping. The arrival of the new laws I voted on this year will help too.

Enjoy the sound of Big Ben on New Year’s Eve – and whether you’re at home, or in a still-open pub, let’s all raise a glass to a better year ahead ... 2022.