Gale`s View - Wednesday 19th December
In this, my final column before Christmas and the ending of the year, it is perhaps worth looking back over the events of the past twelve months. While it is easy to gloss over the very real economic difficulties that the Country still faces and the suffering and personal tragedies experienced by too many individuals and families it is also, sometimes, equally too easy to dismiss very real and positive achievements and reasons to be both proud and cheerful.
Unemployment is far too high and if you are one of those who may have been out of work for a long time or if you are a young person who has, to date, not been able to secure a first job, then to say that things are getting better” is not of much comfort. The fact is, though, that unemployment is falling, that more people are in employment than ever before and that, contrary to the views expressed by the doomsayers, the private sector is generating jobs to replace those that have, inevitably, been lost in the public sector. That may not suit the politics of the Opposition front bench but it is good news and we ought to welcome it.
Notwithstanding the best efforts of the BBC to deny the Queen`s Diamond Jubilee pageant adequate coverage the events surrounding Her Majesty`s quite extraordinary sixty years on the throne have marked an occasion the like of which nobody alive today is likely to ever witness again. As a curtain-raiser to the London Olympics, during which the BBC redeemed its reputation, the Jubilee put the Great back into Britain and reminded the world that we still punch far, far above our weight.
Just about every superlative known to the Oxford Dictionary, and some invented specifically for the occasion, has been used to describe the success of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
From the time that the Olympic flame first landed in Cornwall and throughout its progress around the Country those who make a career out of talking the United Kingdom down must have been wringing their hands in anguish. Stunning opening ceremonies gave way to escalating success in the medals tables, culminating in the athletes` triumphant parade through Central London. We have been handed a legacy that we now have a duty, in the interests of future generations of young athletes, to protect.
I do not know how many trees have been felled to generate the newsprint to provide the coverage of the prospect of a Royal baby but the impression is that whole forests must have been cut down to satisfy a worldwide coverage of the story from every conceivable and some highly improbable angles. Setting aside the excess, though, it is good to know that a happy event for a happy young married couple can still generate well-wishing and goodwill. Those of us on the curmudgeonly wing of politics take comfort from the fact that we still have, as 2012 has so clearly demonstrated, traditions around us that are the envy of the world and that those less-fortunate countries can only begin to try to imitate or re-invent.
We sometimes feel, with a sense of massive frustration, that a Coalition government is determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by embarking on half-baked, ill-thought-through or unnecessary political adventures. Happily, though, on the big issues we remain on course and sound.
A personal high point of the year? Well, aside from all of the aforesaid and the birth of our first grandson, now a miraculous nine months old, the performance of the Military Wives` Choir in the Speaker`s House. We try very hard indeed, on both sides of the House of Commons, to honour our military serving in harm`s way overseas and to pay tribute to their dead but it is, of course, those left behind that carry the day-on-day burden of hope mixed with anxiety and also deserve our respect and appreciation for the support that they and their children give to our men and women on active service. To them all, and to all of you, the very best of wishes for a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas from Suzy and myself.