Monday, 31 December 2012

2012; my highlights

It's that time of the year; time to pick your highlights and bore your friends with your analysis of the big moments of the year. Not to be left out, I have included mine below.

Living in London in 2012 was brilliant and a real privilege. The Olympics and Paralympics were incredible and extraordinarily moving and inspiring. Personal highlights; being in the stadium for the 200m final and the 800m world record being broken; 'super Saturday' (obviously) and watching Mo win his second gold when I thought he was about to be passed. Being a big softie I love the emotional stories and the crying, including John Inverdale at the rowing and the amazing scenes of Sir Chris Hoy on the podium. I also loved seeing so much volunteering and people giving up their time for others. That public service ethos was very moving and dare I say the 'big society' in action. It's a cliché but the Gamesmakers did truly make the Games the success it was and it was great to know so many of them as friends, work colleagues and neighbours.

Overall though my highlight was the opening ceremony. We had friends around to watch it and it really felt like you were part of something very special. A ceremony that said so much about our great country and all the wonderful diversity and ups and downs of our journey together. Well done Danny Boyle!

On a sporting note, two events. Going to Wembley to watch Liverpool win a trophy (I know it was only the Rumblelows Cup but given the state of the rest of our year I am entitled to some joy!) was brilliant. I shared it with a great friend who had not had much final-attending luck until that point. And then to Ascot to watch the greatest racehorse of my lifetime. The fabulous Frankel. A strangely emotional and tense occasion it was wonderful seeing him pass the finish line in front and share in the celebrations.

On the political front, the year was dominated for me by the US election (although at home it was not without it drama; the coalition remains the only show in town for my Party and we need to continue to make it work as best we can for the country. If we don’t want coalitions we need to do better at winning elections outright). The President's re-election in the US was both a source of great joy and a massive relief. The moment that sticks in my mind above all is driving to Heathrow airport on the morning after his election and hearing him emerge onto the stage to his campaign song 'Signed, sealed, delivered' and then his brilliant speech; Not a dry eye in the airport car park!

Speaking of speeches; the speech of the year was Bill Clinton's to the DNC in September. A lesson in oratory and I still believe the argument he made was the argument many in America accepted when casting their vote. Sure, it's bad now but it would have been so much worse without the President;

But undoubtedly for me the highlight of this year and indeed many a year were the tumultuous events surrounding the 23 year fight for truth and justice following Hillsborough. Supporting the families and their campaign as so many of us have for so long- especially those of us from Liverpool with deep connections to the club and that day- we hoped and prayed that the rest of the world would come to know what we knew. But when the truth came out it was more incredible that we could have imagined. The images of the families- especially the faces of Anne Williams and Margaret Aspinall- will stay with me forever. The joy. The vindication for so many.

The speech by the PM was everything we hoped for and more. His fulsome apology and the gasps in the Commons as he exposed the full horror of the lies and cover-up were spine-tingling and took my breath away. The work of Bishop James Jones and his panel was so important. They all deserve our thanks not just for their work on Hillsborough but for a message of hope to all those struck down by injustice. It was so important that at last the world heard the real truth. So important that the families got validation of what they had been saying for 23 years. So important that with the real truth out there is hope that they can at last get justice.

The following weeks have been no more amazing; the High Court quashing the original disgraceful inquest verdicts and the Christmas No 1 were just two moments that had me pinching myself. An incredibly emotional year for all of us who care about our 96 friends and loved ones who left us, and their families and friends left behind. 2012 was truly a year of truth. I hope 2013 will be one of justice for the 96.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Your Honour

This time of year always prompts discussion about the Honours system and whether this politician, sportsman, actor, musician etc deserves recognition for doing their well-paid and often already well-recognised job. There is added intrigue this year with the confirmation that Ken Livingstone- and speculation that Danny Boyle- refused an Honour for their part in the success of London 2012.

I am not a fan of the current system. The lack of transparency and objectivity in the system makes me uneasy as does the continuation of politician's influence over the nominations process. Like most people, I am delighted when an unsung community hero gets an Honour; the local lollipop lady, charity workers, youth or sports club volunteers, etc. But I lose faith in the system when they go to high profile figures who have already been recognised.

The system should be about recognising genuine public service, people going beyond the call of duty and doing something extraordinary in the service of others. As much as I loved the Olympics and the wonderful joy provided by our incredible Olympic and Paralympic athletes- this doesn't meet that criteria. I am sure there are other ways to recognise these achievements.

It always feels slightly uncomfortable when I am agreeing with Ken Livingstone but then I guess he may say the same of me (if he had any idea who I was!). It is
time to modernise the system properly. End the culture of giving Honours to high profile figures for a day or two of good headlines, stop the automatic Honours for some jobs (whatever is said, that still feels like it is happening) and please change their names. History is hugely important but we really do need to move away from the use of "Empire" in their titles!

Back to blogging

I am re-launching my blog today after making some changes.

I now plan to use it now to share views and ideas on a range of topics, including politics, news and current affairs, sport and life in general.

I continue to be a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate and will use this blog to keep you posted on my campaigning work but I wanted to broaden it to cover more than that. I will of course continue to manage any conflicts of interest with my job at the General Medical Council. I will not therefore be commenting on the politics of health or the government or opposition's policies or views on health and health regulation but I will return to commenting (as I do on Twitter) to the events of the day (some important, some trivial!).

As a regular- and my wife would say obsessive- Tweeter I know that the discipline of saying something in 140 characters is healthy. But there are times when more words are needed- that is where my blog will come in.

I have also changed the design of my blog. Amongst other things it now includes a stunning picture of the incredible Portsalon in County Donegal, Ireland. This is one of the most stunning places I have visited and played golf (fairly badly!). The course is worth a visit if you are ever in the area;

I hope you will read my blog, enjoy my musings, agree and disagree and share your views. Thanks.