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On New Year’s Eve, do you look forward or backward? My Scottish Father, who took Ne’erday more seriously than Christmas, had a series of little rituals. At five to midnight he used to open the back door to let the old year out, and then as Big Ben struck twelve ‘First footers’ used to arrive at the front door. He always paid off any bills, and even had a haircut before 31 December.

Others pay not a thought to what has gone before. “We are where we are, and there’s not much we can do about it”. They would focus entirely on the year to come: resolutions, plans, forward looking thinking.

The Roman God Janus- from whom January takes its name- had two faces, looking backwards and forwards at the same time. Maybe he has something to tell us. Ignore history or you will be condemned to relive it.

It’s been a tough year or two. Covid, two wars, economic turmoil; perhaps unsurprisingly, political turbulence to boot. It’s no good forgetting all that (although I do think that the Covid Inquiry is a questionable use of time and money.) Those things happened: some good, some bad. And there are lessons to be learned. It’s only right to admit that not everything in Government has been perfect over the last few years.

Predicting the future is a tougher – and riskier - intellectual discipline. All of my predictions have a 24-hour self-destruct mechanism. For me, 2024 will see falling inflation and interest rates; a sharp reduction in illegal migration of all kinds; improvement in every aspect of the NHS (not helped by junior doctors strikes), an end to the tragic deaths and warfare in both Gaza and Ukraine; and at some stage a General Election. There are plenty of pundits who will have a view, and all kinds of dire (or less so) predictions will fill the media for the months to come. I will make only one prediction: it will be either a Labour Government by this time next year, or it will be a Conservative one (and I know which I prefer). I hope that the voters of the new South Cotswolds seat will recognise my longstanding commitment to the constituency and I will still be your MP.

Even without predictions, resolutions are a good discipline. It’s also good government to spend time in detailed and radical thinking about the future. If you don’t plan, you lurch from crisis to crisis; New Years resolutions sharpen the mind to what we’ve done wrong last year, and how we plan to do better in the year to come. Even if they don’t last, they’re worth making just as a psychological exercise.

I love the old quote “I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”. And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of the God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way”.

So whatever the past may be, whatever 2024 may hold, I wish you – all- every single person of every kind, of every political persuasion and none, the Very Best for Happy New Year.

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James Gray
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December 29, 2023