So we’ve been through the festivities, we’ve dealt with the hangovers, and we can now look forward and plan for the year that is to come. So here are a few of my New Year’s resolutions.
In Wiltshire I will closely monitor developments at the Lyneham site; I will continue my long-held battle against unwanted and unnecessary development; I will do what I can to help and encourage business; I will keep close tabs on health and education; and on public services. And I will try to help people with their personal and public problems. Those and so many more are the everyday tasks of the constituency MP.
But alongside all of that is my profoundly held belief that neither the local MP, nor the government, nor the wider state, has solutions to so many of the problems which face us. The state should be there to provide overall structures of society, and to provide a safety net for those who need it. But what makes our lives better (or in its absence worse), is action and activities by you, the people. If we want to live in a decent, caring, active, enjoyable, relatively prosperous and peaceful society, then it is down to us all – MPs, councillors, businesses, police, community leaders, heads of organisations and clubs and school teachers to make out of our lives what we want them to be.
Rather than getting the government to do things, my overall preference is to get the government to stop doing things which prevent all those people and organisations from doing it themselves. (And that includes taxing them less so that they make up their own minds how they spend their money.) The great philosopher Edmund Burke, who was celebrated in this year’s Philosophy Weekend in Malmesbury, talks good sense. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little,” for example. “By gnawing through a dyke, even a rat may drown a nation,” and, most famously, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
And it was Burke who praised the “small battalions”– small groups of ordinary people who can make a greater change in society than all of the great battalions put together.
The fact is that no man can save the world, and few can have even a noticeable effect on it.
But together, each doing our own little bit, we can make society and government better or worse, the same or mediocre. The future is in our hands.