May I wish all your readers and my Wansbeck constituents a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year.
It is going to be a challenging one, but I hope also a year that will bring some welcome opportunities for us all.
As we begin 2019 our country stands at a crossroads in history. We are just 78 days away from when we are supposed to leave the European Union.
The result of the 2016 referendum was divisive and opinion has remained passionately divided. In truth, almost three years on, we are really no closer to knowing how, when or if we will leave Europe.
Quite what the outcome will be of the ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament next week to decide whether MPs back or reject the deal the Prime Minister has negotiated, no one really knows.
Whatever the outcome, the overriding challenge for politicians of all colours must be to bring our country back together. Brexit is going to dominate the agenda, but we must not take our eyes off other pressing issues.
We need to sort out sustainable funding for the long-term future of the NHS, as well as consider how we can fund other public services we all rely on, including local government, police, fire services and education.
We need more houses that are affordable to the many, not just the few, and our transport systems and networks also need overhauling.
Locally, I hope we can make progress on the redevelopment of town centres in Ashington, Bedlington and Newbiggin, which will be key to their future trading viability, as well as attracting the new jobs our economy so desperately needs.
2019 is going to be a challenging year that will shape the future of our country for generations to come. But I am confident that as a nation we can rise to the challenge of making Britain a better place for each and every one of us.