When I hit my 50th birthday a month or so ago, I had cause to reflect on all that has changed in half a century – the vast majority of it for the better.
As a political system we tend to focus on what is wrong and needs fixing. It’s right that we do that, because we should be impatient for improvement and to correct injustices. But we should also acknowledge what is achieved, to have confidence about what humanity is capable of, what science and technology and research can enable, what countries can achieve when they work together.
As a child I thought peace might never come to Northern Ireland, apartheid never end in South Africa, the Berlin Wall never come down. But with will, sustained work and the human spirit, these things did happen. Massive strides have been made domestically on life expectancy, literacy, cancer survival rates; globally on the eradication of diseases, and lifting people out of the most abject poverty.
Of course, there are still terrible conflicts and abject poverty around the world, deep-seated social problems at home, inequalities of life chance. Yet year after year, decade after decade, many things get better. But not just by chance. It happens through determination, setting aside differences, breakthrough discoveries, hard slog, and the power of individuals to make a difference.
We should be positive as we face the great challenges of the 2020s. Top of the list is climate change; Britain is a leader internationally in decarbonisation, but we’re going to have to go much further and faster. Increased longevity is a wonderful thing, but we need to find a better way on long-term care. So much about technology is enabling and good, but we need a fuller debate about the effects on everything from the nature of work, to new forms of warfare, to our democracy itself.
We had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues in the election campaign – though inevitably, the economy, spending plans, leadership and Brexit were the biggest topics. Once again in East Hampshire, all the candidates and parties ran positive and constructive campaigns – debate here was robust but mutually respectful. Turnout again was above the national average.
The last few years have been a divisive time. Now we can focus fully on to what I know are the priorities of East Hampshire residents: the NHS, the police, education. And we must address those great challenges of our age.
Here and around the country many people have put their trust in the Conservative party who have never done so before. We must and will repay that trust. We now have a government with a working majority, and that brings welcome stability. But my colleagues and I are very conscious that expectations are high. The hard work really starts now.
A very happy new year to everyone.
Article written by Damian Hinds and published in the Herald Group publications