As 2016 draws to a close I have been looking back at an often tumultuous and surprising year in Westminster and indeed the world.
The first six months were taken up by the EU Referendum Campaign, with different arguments being put forward in an attempt to persuade the voting public. As regular readers will know, it was my preference to remain in the EU, however I didn’t feel it was appropriate to tell my constituents how to vote. This was a very personal decision for many, with some holding long-standing Eurosceptic views and others being very pro-EU. Ultimately, as we now know, in a shock result not predicted by the opinion polls, the voters narrowly decided to instruct the Government to begin the process of leaving the EU.
The immediate aftermath was even more surprising as the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, immediately resigned, triggering a leadership election, resulting in the election of the second female Prime Minister. Theresa May has the difficult job of leading the first EU nation to leave the Union.
For me it was a great honour to be promoted as a Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions. This has been a steep learning curve but, I hope, having listened to many of my constituents’ experiences, it has given me the opportunity to help make the welfare system work for those who need it.
Finally, the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the US was another poll-smashing political upset and his unique way of working is certainly going to cause diplomatic waves worldwide.
I cannot begin to predict what will happen over the next twelve months, so instead I will simply take this opportunity to wish my constituents a very Happy New Year.
December 23rd 2016
The lead up to Christmas is always busy for me; filled with wonderful events about which I have written in the last few weeks, Carol concerts, Nativities, Christingle, the switch on of the lights and the annual rescue of Father Christmas. These are more than just opportunities to have fun and celebrate, they also give me the chance to speak with the many constituents who play such an active part in the life our town.
It was a pleasure to meet with staff at Romsey’s Royal Mail sorting office on Wednesday. I always pay a visit in the weeks leading up to Christmas to thank the staff for their hard work and never fail to be fascinated by how things work ‘behind the scenes’ in the sorting office. I have also been to visit Affinage on the Abbey Park Industrial Estate, and to the providers of the Work Programme in Southampton.
This year, having been promoted, I have become accustomed to speaking at the despatch box, and with 6 years as an MP, I don’t often get nervous before speaking in public. I must admit, however, whilst I enjoyed reading “Christmas Thank Yous” during the Carols by Candlelight service at Romsey Abbey I did have a touch of the nerves. It is a real privilege to be part of Romsey’s Christmas celebrations but I am still one of those people who can be relied on trip up steps when everyone is watching.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my warm wishes for a merry Christmas to readers and I look forward to seeing many constituents in the Abbey on Christmas Day.
December 16th 2016
Friday night saw the enchanting and increasingly busy lantern parade in Romsey. As ever it concluded with many young families watching in anticipation of the traditional rescue of Father Christmas from the Town Hall, performed by firefighters from Romsey Fire Station. The event is always well attended and marks the beginning of the Christmas late night shopping in the town.
The George’s Trust concert on Saturday at Romsey Abbey was another triumph for the charity and showed just how talented the many musical groups in Romsey are. For those who may not know, George’s Trust was set up in memory of George O’Brien, a young man who tragically passed away from cancer aged just 17. The Trust does fantastic work in his name and raises money for the research into and treatment of cancer, provides grants to youth groups and supports choral scholarships for Romsey Abbey Choir.
On Sunday I was very pleased to join staff from Heart Valve Voice at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton where I, along with many other local people, were tested for a heart murmur – an indication of Heart Valve Disease. The disease – which is caused by damage to one or more heart valves – causes a variety of symptoms such as chest pain and fainting. The test consists of a doctor listening to one’s heart sounds with a stethoscope, it’s quick and painless and I would encourage constituents to have the test if they feel it is appropriate.
The Romsey Abbey Christingle service later on Sunday was, as ever, fun, inclusive and festive and this year included the Canon Tim Sledge’s slightly unorthodox, yet innovative, broccoli Christingle. The Christingle service is a firm favourite in my Christmas calendar as it is for many others judging by how busy it was.