Happy New Year! And a very prosperous and peaceful 2018 to all Hereford Times readers.
2017 has been a year of high emotion, in every sense. We have seen appalling terrorist attacks, the dreadful tragedy of Grenfell Tower, and further sabre-rattling between the USA and North Korea, among many other things.
And yet, I would argue, it is quite wrong to despair. Rather, we need to use history to give us perspective, and make us collectively wiser about the way we interpret the news.
Amid all the media noise, who would believe that the Government continues to make steady progress towards an orderly exit from the EU? Not many, perhaps; yet it does. Who would believe that, all in all, there has never been a better time to be alive? Not many, perhaps; yet it is true.
Just read Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s new book Enlightenment Now, out in February. As Pinker reminds us, we are programmed to notice potential danger, and only a fool would ignore the social problems of today.
But the data are clear: human prosperity, health, longevity, peace and happiness have never been higher, both in the West and worldwide. Amid all the bad headlines, that is true cause for celebration.
At a local level, there is also much to celebrate. The commitment of local volunteers remains astonishing, as countless people give up their time to help others and support vital projects and causes. And Herefordshire Council continues to make very modest resources go a long way.
Ours is a team effort, which relies on teamwork, cooperation and mutual support across the county. And let’s raise a glass to £15 million in further Government funding last year for our new county university, as well as £5 million in new funding for local roads, and just last month a further grant in the fight against potholes.
There is, of course, always more to do. For me personally to be elected again as MP last June was a huge honour, and I feel that privilege every day in Westminster. I will continue to provide a strong voice for Herefordshire in Parliament in 2018 and beyond.
Finally, a reminder that BBC Question Time is coming to Hereford on 18th January. Whatever your political views, you can apply to join the audience. Just go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006t1q9 under the ‘Join the Audience’ section of the website. Applications are open now, so good luck!