Happy New Year! I wish everybody in Hartlepool a very peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2017. I hope that everybody was able to enjoy Christmas. 2016 was a monumental year that will be remembered for a long time- the decisions made in the past 12 months will reverberate in our own country and across the world.
Donald Trump will become President of the United States two weeks tomorrow, having been elected in November. This will have a huge impact on the world. If Trump turns his rhetorical advocacy of far-reaching restrictions on US imports into a reality – and there is good reason to believe he will - it would spark a global trade war, disrupting the existing economic structure, which is built on very complex international supply chains, and cause a global downturn. Aside from economics, worrying questions are raised by the new President’s ambivalence toward NATO in the face of an expansionist Russia.
As I have said before in this column, much depends on whether Trump the President of the United States will be the same person as Trump the paranoid, immigrant-baiting, conspiracy-mongering candidate. With his continued outbursts on social media, insulting opponents and even attacking major US companies, the signs do not look promising. Whatever happens, the whole world will be watching with some degree of anxiety.
Closer to home, the Government will have to come up with a plan for Brexit which respects the country’s wish for Britain to withdraw from the European Union. While I campaigned to remain in the EU I respect the outcome of the referendum. However, I also think the government has a responsibility to must make sure that the terms of the deal ensure stability, prosperity and improved living standards.
The Government also needs to ensure that the focus on Brexit does not eclipse everything else on the policy agenda, as it clearly has the potential to. Underfunding in the NHS and social care is putting strain on local services and Hartlepool, like all parts of the country, is facing further uncertainty on health provision. People from Hartlepool want to see a well-funded NHS with sufficient resources and staff capability to be able to return hospital services, including A&E, to the town. It is becoming increasingly clear that under the present Government this is simply not going to happen because there is not enough money in the NHS to allow it. As NHS providers have said, the gap between the services they are being asked to deliver and the funding they have been given by the Government is not only too big but is growing rapidly. This needs to change in 2017.
The rise in zero-hours contracts and agency employment is seeing greater insecurity and precariousness for people in work. I want to see people in work enjoy the stability and rewards that should come from being in work, which means looking again at whether employment law protects enough the rights of the worker.
In 2017, my focus remains the same: challenging the Government on matters that affect Hartlepool and making representations in the Commons and to Ministers on behalf of the people of the town.