2016 is nearly over, thank goodness. The Chinese curse ‘may you live in interesting times’ has never seemed more relevant; Brexit, Trump and a new Prime Minister have meant that decisions which would usually have filled the airwaves with democratic debate (like Heathrow or, more locally for us in Weston and the villages, Hinckley) have had much less impact than you’d normally expect.
Most worrying is that we’re still a pretty divided nation. The 48/52 Brexit result means we’ve got to re-unite the country, because we are stronger together than divided. Now we’ve made a collective decision we’ve got to pull together and make it work as best we can.
So last week’s Parliamentary vote about Brexit was pretty important. To be fair, it was Labour’s idea; they proposed a vote about triggering Article 50, which is the legal process to fire the starting gun for leaving the EU, by the end of next March. The Conservatives decided to toughen the wording a bit and, in the end, it went through with a thumping majority. All but 89 MPs voted in favour.
Why did it matter? Well, not because I’m a huge fan of endless Euro-debates; we’ve had quite enough of them in 2016 thanks very much. But because there was such strong cross-party support it created a huge show of unity. It means that most MPs have understood that, no matter which side of the referendum they were on in June, the decision has been made and it’s time to start healing the divisions it created instead.
Incidentally, about a month ago I tabled a Parliamentary Motion which proposes pretty much the same thing as last week’s vote. Whether it was the inspiration behind last week’s motion I don’t know but, either way, here’s to 2017 being a bit more normal, and a bit less mad, than 2016!