As I contemplated this New Year’s article, I foolishly looked back over 19 years of similar columns and find that what I wished for remains depressingly similar.
To illustrate that point I unashamedly reprint my personal wish list for 1998.
1. A transport system that makes it more desirable to travel by public transport; in other words one that is cheaper, quicker and at least as convenient as using one’s own car. Currently, I have no alternative but to use my car for all but a tiny percentage of the journeys I make. Caning the motorist incessantly without offering a viable alternative is pointless.
2. The proper funding of Education. No-one wants to pay more taxes; but I believe the majority would support an increase in taxation, if it delivered smaller classes and better facilities. The consequent benefits to the country, within a generation, could be dramatic and reduce the number of young people who feel disengaged from society and, as a consequence, turn to drugs and crime.
3. A fresh look at the whole question of drugs and the political courage to set up a commission to examine whether criminalisation of the user rather than just the supplier is really the answer to reducing drug abuse and dependency. Is the present system working?
4. Preparation for parenthood and the responsibilities of citizenship as an integral part of school life. However useful algebra and geography may be, the world of parenthood, mortgages and employment is one that everyone has to live in. They might learn, for instance, that to tell children not to do something several times and fail to follow through appropriately, in the event of continuing disobedience, results in not just wilful, but confused and unhappy children. I am talking about discipline; but discipline with love and support.
Nothing much has changed, though now I would add to that list a properly funded health service available to all and a supported and adequate police force.
This year I would also love it if, as a nation, we really made ‘them’ earn our vote in May and if we all forced them to be honest with us and we turned up en masse at the polls. I can dream.
I cannot in fairness exclude myself from this long list of disappointment. I am still overweight and grumpy. I also still wear crocs and shorts all year round to the confusion of right minded people.