Reasons to be hopeful for the new year in UK politics
PUBLISHED: 05:30 02 January 2020
At the start of a new year (and decade) I can't resist taking a look ahead at local and national politics that awaits us - and I'm not convinced 2020 will be a total disaster for the country.
On a national level things are very different now to what they were at the start of 2019. For a start we have stability in Whitehall.
Boris Johnson's decisive election victory means we now have a government in place with a stable majority in parliament - a situation that has existed for the vast majority of my adult life and one that parliamentary democracy has evolved to serve.
This means we won't have knife-edge votes night after night in the House of Commons.
The government should be able to get on with implementing the policies it was elected on - and to suffer the electoral consequences of its actions at the next election in four and a half years' time.
It might not be as democratic as what we've seen over the last four years - but it will have no excuse for not getting things it wants done!
The Labour Party and its members have a tough decision to make over the next few months: do they want to be a radical protest movement galvanising popular support to oppose everything the government tries to do?
Or do they want to be seen as a serious alternative party of government?
I know many people believe they can be both.
Having spoken to "true believers" who would follow Jeremy Corbyn to the ends of the earth and to ordinary voters and those who have canvassed ordinary voters (volunteers from both main parties) I don't believe it is possible for a radically Socialist agenda to sweep Labour to power.
When selecting a new leader, party members have to decide whether to support the person who most closely reflects their world view - or the person most likely to lead them to power. That will not necessarily be the same person.
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Speaking to local politicians here, it's clear that many in Ipswich Labour Party feel that Angela Rayner would be their best leader - and they fear that front-runner Rebecca Long-Bailey will just be seen as the continuity candidate carrying on the failed Corbynista experiment.
Interestingly, Tories I've spoken to seem quite happy about Ms Long-Bailey leading their opponents. They would be much more worried about Ms Rayner or a more centrist candidate like Jess Phillips.
So far as the government is concerned, I'm not sure 2020 will be as bad as some may fear.
We'll come out of the EU officially at the end of the month, but we'll still be subject to many regulations until the end of the year while trade negotiations continue.
I'm not convinced these negotiations will be as difficult as many seem to think. The UK isn't Canada. Our trade is already inter-linked to a major degree with the EU. It will be an imperative for negotiators on both sides to come up with a deal by the deadline.
I suspect there will be crises, there will be walk-outs, and there will be angry press conferences. But I really wouldn't bet against a deal being cobbled up in the middle of next December which can be pushed through the House of Commons just in time to avoid a cliff edge.
Like most people I didn't expect Boris Johnson to get an amended deal from the EU in October. The fact is, it is both sides' interests to get a deal.
When it comes to our local councils, we wait to see what the actual impact of the new government will be. We're promised that the Town's Fund will offer great riches to Ipswich, but we still don't really know how this will be administered or how much it will actually be worth.
One thing that is worrying local councils - both the county and boroughs/districts - is the fact that the government's financial settlement is only for 12 months. Recently they have had settlements lasting three years at a time allowing councils to make longer-term plans.
The fear is that if government finances become tight towards the end of this year then local authorities might find their budgets are squeezed in 2021/2.
The county council still doesn't know what the funding for its social care budget is likely to be in the years ahead - and that could still prove a real headache in future.
And all the indications are that the new government will prioritise spending in its new heartlands of the midlands and north - so perhaps we shouldn't expect much from it!