This has felt like the longest and most difficult of years. Whilst every year brings its challenges, 2016 has had an extraordinary ability to surprise, confound and disturb.
Just when you came to terms with the latest challenge, you peered round the corner only to be confronted with another helping of uncertainty, conflict and loss.
For all of us in Parliament, and many others beside, the loss of Jo Cox was (and is) a devastating blow. I will never forget her and what she stood for. My thoughts will be with Jo’s family this Christmas, and particularly her two little children.
So at the end of this long year, it is even more important that we take the opportunity to pause over the Christmas holiday. I know many people will be working – some on Christmas day itself – but where possible it is important to take the time to step back from the pressures of everyday life, enjoy the comforts of home and make the most of time with family and friends.
If there are moments when you have loved ones close, and worries can be put aside, then do make the most of them. The ‘good times’ are often not about highs and excess, but those fleeting moments of contentment when all feels right with your world. Cherish those moments.
Every day as the MP for Barnsley Central I see and feel the challenges my constituents are facing, and witness some heart breaking stories. But I also see the best of us – those who volunteer, who sacrifice their precious time to help others, who concern themselves with how to make our communities better. Those whose jobs take them away from their family at Christmas, as they work tirelessly to keep us safe and sound.
I have come to learn that when you serve in politics you have to work out – as Stella Creasy once described it to me – where you get your energy from. For me, the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is working to ensure that every young person gets the best possible start in life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.
My child poverty campaign has provided me with the opportunity and privilege of meeting people who are at the sharp end of supporting those most in need. From running much needed breakfast clubs and parent support schemes, to providing children with life-changing opportunities that broaden their horizons and lift their aspirations. It gives me hope that there are so many decent people out there who are committed to ending the cycle of poverty that blights more than one in four of our children.
In January I will be highlighting this work, in the run-up to the second reading of my Child Poverty Private Member’s Bill in Parliament on Friday 3rd February. I will try and persuade the government to make a life-changing commitment for the New Year – to support my bill and increase the life opportunities for our young people. They are our future.
So to everyone – my profound thanks for the support, generosity and good humour over the past tough twelve months and I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2017.