My initial hopes for 2022 are considerably more basic than my usual flights of fancy. Normally at this time of year, I am preloading ready for the inevitable diet in January. The triumph of hope over experience means I usually plan on becoming a January marathon runner, a prudent saver who plans to invest and a skilled musician.
However, this year I just really hope that my kids will be able to safely go back to school in January. The bar, it turns out, is very low in Covid-hit, Tory Britain.
When I was elected in 2015, my husband accused me of accidentally breaking some sort of Marvel style MacGuffin in the House of Commons that has led to a sustained period of political upheaval. Brexit, Covid and three different prime ministers in six short years. He doesn’t blame me for Trump though, which is a small mercy. The political and personal upheaval I have experienced in the last six years should see me praying for a boring 2022. But I am not.
I want this year to be hair raising, but not for the British people. It is frankly a miracle that any of us have hair still to raise. I want it to be a difficult year for the prime minister and his pals because, frankly, they deserve it.
There are a number of schools of thought on replacing the prime minister. One view is that for the Labour Party it would be better if he stayed in place as his clear incompetence, lies and waning popularity make for a perfect opponent at the next general election. I can see this argument has merit, although in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas as I gave out foodbank vouchers, sent sorrowful emails to Afghan families in Yardley, and heard the sounds of despair from care homes that had been forgotten in a global pandemic, I cannot fight the feeling that keeping the best opponent for me is selfish. The people in my city and our country should not have to tolerate this charlatan any longer.
I very much hope that in 2022 I can return to parliament to take part in the work of building an ambitious Labour team that will not simply seek to oppose the Conservatives’ draconian and wrong-headed legislation, but will use the confidence one gets from a polling advantage to act for the future of our country.
It is no secret that I am a confident sort, but I have really struggled in a political era where the Labour Party suffered from a plummeting lack of morale and pride in what it has done, what it can do and what I finally feel confident enough to say, I think it will do in the future.
It is not enough that the Conservative Party are eating themselves alive, completely held hostage by the worst elements of their party. The Tories being crap is not news in Birmingham Yardley, we can see crumbling schools, growing class sizes and long waiting lists for treatment.
My dad always said: “People don’t vote for what they want, they vote for what they don’t want.” So the Tories’ terrible record will inspire the electorate. But in 2022, my biggest hope is that the people in our country have a Labour Party that they truly want to vote for. And unlike my career in marathon running, I really feel this is coming together.
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The last two Christmases were pretty bleak for Labour. In 2019, we had just lost an election by a country mile. In 2020, it seemed as if Boris Johnson was – rightly or wrongly – being cut a huge amount of slack by a population in the midst of a pandemic.
In 2021, as I walked around the supermarket trying to find a gammon, which are apparently as rare as hen’s teeth in east Birmingham, one woman and her little boy walked up to me and said “we are so proud you are our MP” and a woman in the car park who called to me as I wrangled with my trolley (empty of gammon) said: “I feel as if we are on our way to a better government, keep going.”
I will allow myself a moment of hope for 2022. I hope we see an end to Boris Johnson and the beginning of a new era, where people’s expectations grow and the Labour Party can deliver on them.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley and shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding