Eleven years of the Tories taking the South West for granted. Enough is enough

Chair of the East Devon Alliance, Martin Shaw, writes in this week’s Exmouth Journal

I hope you’ve managed to have a good Christmas despite Covid. I’m sure we’re all hoping that 2022 will be better than 2021. and I want to pick out some signs of hope for the new year.        

But first we have to get through a very serious health crisis-without a responsible government to protect us. In the short term. the Omicron variant has up-ended much of the progress we were making towards normal lives. Its effects on people who’ve been vaccinated and/or had Covid seem to be less than previous variants on average, but because it’s far more infectious. far more people are getting ill.

The numbers being hospitalised are shooting up in London and the South West is likely to follow in the New Year. Local hospital, GP, ambulance and social care services are already under huge pressure. Omicron is adding a new wave of hospital Covid outbreaks which will take doctors and nurses out of action.

While I can’t emphasise enough that health professionals will always try to help you. and you should always call for help when you need it. we’re in a situation where you just don’t know whether the NHS will be able to respond adequately. Take extra care to avoid Covid, and indeed accidents or illness of any kind. Since the South West is behind London in this wave, we could have been saved much of Omicron’s effects if the Government had taken decisive action. Instead they’ve left it up to individuals – and largely abdicated responsibility for the workers and businesses who are financially affected. £6000 grants are better than nothing but they won’t stop many Devon businesses going under.

I suppose the good news with the fact that in 2021 most voters finally saw through Boris Johnson. In 2022. hopefully they’ll realise that Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss or any other Tory wouldn’t be much better. We’ve had eleven years of this party taking the country – and especially the South West – for granted. and enough is enough. Much fuss was rightly made of North Shropshire. where voters overthrew a bigger Tory majority than either of our MPs has. But do remember the sensible progressive politics that we have pioneered in East Devon.

Here, my East Devon Alliance colleague Paul Arnott heads an open and honest local administration. based on effective cooperation between EDA, the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Labour.

Hope can spring from small local beginnings, but it also needs to look out to the wider world.

2021 saw fine words agreed once more on climate justice we must make 2022 the year when these are turned into more radical policies.

2021 saw mass vaccination across the world – we must make 2022 the year that it is really brought to every town and village in every country We don’t know exactly where Omicron originated, but it was probably somewhere where vaccination rates are still very low.

Could next year be the year where we finally realise that none of us are safe until we all are?

2021 was the year where when we realised that Devon’s health, agriculture and university sectors – and the UK economy as a whole – are being progressively damaged by Brexit and the way it has driven away Europeans. Could 2022 be the year when we actually push the government to restore free movement and full UK access to the Single Market?

2021 was also the year when the public revolted against the cruel attitude which would condemn helpless refugees to drown in the Channel. Remember the huge surge in donations to the RNLI when they insisted they would always rescue people at risk in our waters?

In 2022. let’s press for genuine safe routes to allow people fleeing war and persecution to claim asylum in the UK without risking such dangers – and locally, support the admirable Ottery Refugee Response group. A very happy new year to you all!