Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

Reflecting on 2017

Reflecting on 2017

I started and ended this exhausting year in Washington. It was only in January 2017 that the inauguration of President Trump took place.

I watched from the Canadian Embassy as the President, his wife and son walked down the Mall with few people in the viewing stands. Washington was odd, it felt as though the city was empty as the streets were almost deserted.

The following day, millions of women wearing knitted pink hats arrived and the city woke up. Presidential speeches and tweets prepared us for a bumpy ride for the world.

No one was expecting a bumpy ride on March 22. I was chairing a delegated legislation committee when the division bell rang. I announced the suspension of the committee so that we could vote.

A quick conversation between the Minister and the opposition front bench spokeswoman and they decided they could conclude quickly.

The committee session resumed for 30 seconds, the business finalised and we went to the Commons Chamber to vote.

We had no idea how long that vote would keep us there. Outside on Westminster Bridge a car made its murderous way along the pavement as its driver destroyed the lives of pedestrians and a brave police officer.

Momentous events take place turning your world upside down and the next day it’s business as usual, except that ‘usual’ has changed for ever. The next day, the Chamber was full of MPs who came to listen to Theresa May give an account of the attack and its aftermath.

The people who died on the bridge were of many nationalities, including British, Romanian, Australian, South Korean, Chinese and French.

Berlin flooded the Brandenburg Gate with the image of a Union Jack in solidarity and it felt as though there was a coming together against terrorism.

Unity didn’t last. Twenty-six days later, a snap General Election was announced. Council elections were still to be concluded before the General could start. Party members and volunteers who are the unacknowledged backbone of the democratic system were already exhausted.

Memories of the two election campaigns merge into one, but events stand out. The death of Rhodri Morgan came as a shock to everyone, no matter what their party politics might be. A good and decent man who loved and worked for his country, gone far too soon.

Then came the dreadful slaughter of children and their parents at a concert in Manchester and later the London Bridge attack and the country was in mourning over mindless killing.

An election in the midst of these disasters felt like an indulgence, but there is no way to stop an election once one is called.

The election result was still a shock to everyone – a hung Parliament. The deal with the DUP and the battles over Brexit were ahead of us when a fire consumed a block of flats in Kensington.

As the numbers and nationalities of those who died rose, the country was in mourning again. The attack on worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park mosque brought in more emails to my office asking where the country was going.

So much death and destruction had people despairing. This is the aim of terrorists, to create fear and uncertainty, distrust and division.

These are feelings well known in South Korea. Every day the battle is played out in tweets and counter abuse between Trump and Kim Jong Un – a battle that could bring annihilation, not only to the people on the Korean peninsula.

Standing on the border between North and South Korea and feeling the tension between the military personnel based there is unnerving. Talking to nurses and medical staff, while in hospital in Seoul with double pneumonia, I heard of how they live with the constant threat of war.

In reviewing the year, two words keep coming up. Two words I heard a lot in Westminster and in Washington in December where I met with politicians from across NATO and its partner nations: social media and exhaustion.

The need for an in-depth analysis of how we manage and regulate social media is clear. Too many people think opinions expressed on social media have the same value as facts.

Too much evidence has emerged of political interference in the democratic processes of the West by those who want to undermine our way of life.

Too much hatred, fear and prejudice has been allowed, and even encouraged, to spread unchecked. Many people are exhausted by the search for truth, common values, hope and prosperity which seem so elusive.

But 2017 cannot end on a negative note, especially after my visit to the Parliamentary archives. There you see the physical manifestation of British Parliamentary history.

The rolls of parchment in the archives play out the legislation required for the dissolution of the monasteries, the Civil War, the loss of colonies in America, the development of canals, roads and railways.

The fighting of many wars, opening the vote to all men and women, education to all children and the development of the NHS are on the shelves in the archives. The Rolls tell the turbulent history of this country.

We have fought and divided over so many things. Religion, the power of birth and wealth, rights and responsibilities, sexual identity and personal and press freedom.

Conflicts, tensions and divisions of opinion are part of our history and will continue into 2018. But so too has been the drive to accept difference, diversity, human rights, religious tolerance and kindness.

In troubled times these are the causes that keep us going.

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