At this time of year, the traditional dates can seem a bit strange depending on how one interprets them so although it is nearly a week since the 2020 New Year began, on the other hand a New Year does not really make sense until after the traditional day for taking down Christmas decorations which took place yesterday. That said for the people who celebrate Christmas in an even more traditional way, the end point is actually the 2nd February when Candelmas takes place. However I am not sure that makes sense for most of us, and a wide range of people who had a long break have returned to work today, having stopped work on the 20th December, so welcome back and Happy New Year if you are one of those people. I hope your email pile is not too significant! Certainly the people who were elected as our representatives back on 12th December, only managed a week in Westminster before the doors got closed and so here they are back again for week two of a new Parliament that may well end the fixed Parliament arrangements, but cannot remove the five year limit so our MPs are already less than 1803 days away from their next general election. It remains to be seen how close or far away from that limit they get, given how many of their votes we have experienced in the last five years (or 1827 days). In the meantime we as their electors are left with little to do apart from raising our questions and concerns. It was noticeable in the Conservative party manifesto that one of the words which occurred very few times was that of accountability. One of the references was on the subject of railways and so as many people are facing an increase of nearly 3% on fares that are delivering no more than they did before Christmas, this must seem particularly concerning. Perhaps the 16 MPs across Sussex, all of whom presumably will have travelled by train to their Westminster Offices over the last few hours will be willing to explain why such a change has taken place, given the fact that at least 13 of them used that manifesto as their election criteria. A second theme which the same manifesto focuses on with the phrase accountability was the parole system and given how chaotic the Conservative Party have made the parole and probation service over the last 9 and three quarter years, it certainly makes sense for the party to call for a Royal Commission on the whole Criminal Justice Service. Let us hope that they do this in a manner that allows all of the elements including the Police Services to be included. All of our 16 Sussex MPs need to call for this. The third and final element that is referred to in the manifesto under accountability is the Police and Crime Commissioner role which begins as “We will strengthen the accountability of elected PCCs and expand their role. People must have an accountable local leader delivering on their crime and justice priorities who they can vote out.” So their claim is that PCCs will become more accountable although it is hard to understand how, given that they are already elected every 4 years unless there is some additional element in their selection process and if there is to be such an element, what will the impact be on Members of Parliament who are elected every five years (or more often when Parliament makes its own decisions). Perhaps we can persuade all MPs to make themselves more accountable if this is a theme that the Government is keen to consider?
Because today is in effect the beginning of the New Year, particularly for our MPs perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves of some of the words that emerged as part of the New Year speech from the Prime Minister. Perhaps we should treat some of them with respect whilst we test them for their credibility. “I will be a Prime Minister for everyone, not just those who voted for me… I want to work with you, as friends and equals… We can turn the page on the division, rancour and uncertainty which has dominated public life and held us back for far too long. We can start a new chapter in the history of our country, in which we come together and move forward united, unleashing the enormous potential of the British people.” Given that our potential is recognised by people like Mr Johnson who wants to be our friend and treated as an equal and given he concedes that division and uncertainty has dominated the work of his Parliament perhaps he and his colleagues will apologise as they turn the page over and start work!