As 2016 approaches, it’s time to look back on 2015: Its successes and failures from my own point of view and that of the city I have represented for nearly 11 years.
It really has been an incredible year hasn’t it? The motto of the last year in politics has to be “expect the unexpected.” All the things we thought would happen just never did.
I never believed that the Conservative Party would win an overall majority in May’s General Election but we did, increasing the share of the vote and number of Commons seats – a rare historical phenomenon. The election result also caused the resignation of three party leaders, only two of whom stayed resigned (Miliband and Clegg). The UKIP surge came to nothing. Over a year ago on Radio Cambridgeshire I said if they got more than 2 seats in Parliament, I’d eat my hat: They didn’t and nor did I! Likewise, none of us saw the meltdown of the Liberal Democrats from the party of government for the first time in 90 years to a rump and the fifth biggest party in the Commons with only 8 seats?
And really who could have foretold the election of 1970s throwback and Citizen Smith retread Jeremy Corbyn, as Leader of the Labour Party - and by a landslide? He has certainly injected passion, certainty and strong engagement with younger people especially since his elevation but also has officially the worst ratings of any new Opposition leader in polling history. Go figure Corbynmania.
In Peterborough, I was honoured and delighted to have been elected for a third time to represent (most of) the city and truth to tell, the defeat of Marco Cereste allowed a fresh start with relations between myself and the city council, damaged by the Energy Park debacle, amongst other things.
Our area went from strength to strength in 2015. The city centre now looks like one we always wished for and can be proud of (despite the perennial carping of a minority). New businesses have made their way to our area, we have new quality homes being built not just on the outskirts but in the heart of town. Would I ever have imagined a jobless rate of just 2% and youth unemployment down two thirds in my constituency, just five years ago? We have lots more apprenticeships, fewer NEETS and a new University Technical College in the offing. We must make hay whilst the sun shines and make sure people know about our good news stories.
However, many challenges remain: The North Westgate project is stymied, Voyager Academy is still lurching to potential disaster and our schools overall are improving at a snail’s pace (albeit improving) due often to external pressures, we still struggle to punch our weight nationally and our city hospital is yet to be financially viable, even if its clinical care is exemp- lary.
Those issues are for the future and 2016. This is my last Westminster Life of 2015, a column I’ve written every week for seven years! I hope I’ve entertained, challenged, provoked and prodded the pompous in that time.
If I can assist you as your local MP next year, do get in touch via www.stewart.jackson.org and in the meantime do have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.