As we reach the end of 2021 and continue the long journey out of the Covid pandemic I find myself reflecting upon what has been another difficult year for all of us.
The year started with a ray of hope provided by Dame Sarah Gilbert and her team of scientists working out of Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Their Covid vaccine, with research funded by the UK Government, enabled Britain to lead the globe out of the worst of the pandemic; and provided at cost their vaccine became the workhorse for saving countless lives around the world.
As Spring became Summer, very slightly belatedly, the Government announced that all Covid restrictions would be phased out. We have spent 2021 learning to live with the virus, taking our freedom back after a year of living under restrictions.
Of course when it comes to Covid we are now facing the challenges of a new variant, but I know the people of North West Leicestershire – who have learnt so much about viruses of these past 18 months – will work responsibly together as this immediate peak recedes and we move surely back to normality.
Importantly Covid has brought challenges, it has not dominated our lives, and is only one aspect of the important work that Government is doing.
I was delighted to see the cancellation of HS2 through the East Midlands, the announcement of a new high speed line from Birmingham to East Midlands Parkway which will benefit North West Leicestershire, the electrification of the Midlands mainline, and continuing work to lobby for the reintroduction of the Ivanhoe line.
I was pleased that in May North West Leicestershire returned Conservatives in every county council seat in the constituency, two district councillors and a Police and Crime Commissioner. Our PCC has continued to deliver on his election promises including recruiting more police officers to the force and basing even more here in North West Leicestershire.
The Government continues to implement important laws to protect our society. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will see the introduction of powers to stop protestors blocking the path of emergency service vehicles, will prohibit the automatic halfway release from prison for serious offenders, and will provide for illegal gypsy encampments to be moved on much quicker.
The Government’s British Bill of Rights will make it much harder for criminals to abuse human rights law and see more and more foreign criminals being deported at the end of their sentences. I will continue to lobby for much stronger action against the criminals putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk as they try to cross the English Channel. As a Prime Minister once said we must be tough on crime and on the causes of crime.
And I am pleased that the Government’s elections bill will make it much harder for people to abuse our electoral system by introducing a requirement for identification when voting, something which was trialled successfully here in North West Leicestershire as recently as 2019.
Of course, for me, the highlight of 2021 had to be the achievement of finally leaving the EU after so many years lobbying and hard work. We have not completely got over the hurdles of Covid, or fully from Brexit, but we are now in the enviable position of being able to set our path in a global marketplace. In that respect we are at the start of a bright new path.
2021 has brought its challenges but with Christmas around the corner there is room for optimism. Now is the time to make merry and spend time with our loved ones.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
Andrew Bridgen MP
North West Leicestershire