The following article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News newspaper on 28 December 2016.
In the brief festive hiatus between Christmas and New Year, it is customary to look back on, and assess, the preceding twelve months and to speculate on what the coming year might hold.
This, I have always felt, is a conspicuously futile exercise: the year end is too close to the events in question to permit a meaningful assessment of their significance. Moreover, and more particularly, if there is anything whatever to be learned from what has happened in 2016, it is that you are a brave individual if you try to forecast the future. After all, in the dying days of 2015 most well-informed and respected political pundits were predicting with complete assurance that, in 2016, Britain would vote to remain in the European Union and Hillary Clinton would become the 45th President of the United States.
Nevertheless, I feel safe in saying that 2016 has been the most extraordinary political year most of us can remember. The referendum of 23 June was an event of enormous importance, changing the course of this country’s history. That change will continue in 2017, with the triggering of the Article 50 procedure that will take us out of the EU before the end of this Parliament in 2020.
I can also say that there will be political changes across Europe in 2017, because it will be a year of elections. In the Netherlands, France and Germany – all important EU states – voters will be going to the polls, as they may, too, in Italy. There will certainly be a new French President, and potentially major upsets elsewhere.
There will also be important council elections here in Conwy, with the entire body of councillors due to be replaced. I suspect that value for money will be the key issue; we have experienced year-on-year increases of five percent for quite a while, and voters will be carefully weighing up whether they are happy to see that continue. Past council expenditure will undoubtedly be closely scrutinised.
But enough of this prognostication; 2016 isn’t over yet. I hope that everyone continues to enjoy the remaining days of Christmas and that 2017 is happy, prosperous and, most importantly, peaceful.