What a Liberal Democrat PM’s 2020 New Year’s message might say

Five years ago, in response to very different political currents, I wrote an article for this site called “What a Liberal Democrat PM’s Christmas message might say”. It was grounded in the idea that our ambition as a party shouldn’t just be to offer better policies, but to offer a grander and more purposeful political language to the electorate, conveying a vision for the country.

With the ongoing confluence of crises, and the Government’s inability not just to respond to them but to mobilise language to inspire us all to pull through, it seems to me worth a go hazarding a guess at what a Liberal Democrat PM’s New Year’s message in this year of years might say. Think of it not as a counterfactual but as food for thought, as for it to be relevant it assumes that almost all these crises are still facing our imagined PM.

So here it is:

In the years that have led us to this moment in history, it has been easy to forget those rare and sombre occasions in which our country has faced awful hardships like the ones we now face. In fact, it has been tempting to treat them as extremes of the past, troubles of a magnitude that modern life had confined to history.

As your Prime Minister I have learnt the same lesson as you in this terrible year; that challenges to our resolve as individuals, to the spirit of our communities, and to the courage of our nation, never lurk far beyond the horizon. The very sense of freedom and opportunity that this government has fixed as its north-star has been rocked by all our experiences of being isolated from the people and places that give meaning to our lives.

For many families, this government’s best early efforts have yet to reverse decades of neglect. Parents are still tonight sleeping with tears of anxiety, having done all they can to give their children the best possible festive period in spite of financial insecurity and uncertainty. Beyond our economic crises those who have found no solace in the home this year, who found not care but rather cruelty simply for asserting who they are, or for no reason at all, will be lying awake dreading, not dreaming of, the future.

But the festive period, of this strange sort or the normal, is about hope. The spirit of the season is rejoicing at the coming of a new year, a new life, imbued with the dream of a chance to overcome our hardship and embrace a fresh start.

It is in that spirit that this government resolves first and foremost to guarantee a smooth and swift transition in 2021 to the terms of our negotiated deal with the EU, pursuing the closest possible meaningful relationship. With equal urgency, we are committed to the fastest and most efficient roll-out of the Coronavirus vaccine possible, so we can rediscover lives that we lead ourselves.

But the spirit of the New Year is reflection too, and the lessons of this year are clear. In the continuing fight against this virus, this government will continue to provide support where it is needed most – and will keep its commitment to ending the trauma of insecurity by introducing a Universal Basic Income. We will also continue to pursue political reform to achieve true common purpose and collaboration, not crisis, at Westminster. A post-Covid world demands a new, more empowering politics.

As we do all this, be under no illusion as to this Liberal Democrat Government’s source of inspiration. It is, as it has always been but more so now than ever before, in you.

Once or twice in a generation a moment arrives in which we are woken from a stupor to remember our remarkable capacity to act as a national community. This individual heroism (and that is what it is) encompasses all acts of charity, kindness, ingenuity and service – be they big or small.

Everything you have done this year, no matter how seemingly small, in the effort against the virus, is remarkable. One of the few great novelties of this year has been recognising and appreciating the great acts of everyday service in our country, not least the NHS staff we cheer on. With that in mind, I want to tell you the observation that has been burning pride into my heart since the very start of this struggle; that in this year of years, on each day, you have all been heroes.

There is still a long road out of this crisis, but I have never been as confident in your resolution to finish the task, nor as determined for this government to deliver for this country.

I want you all to know that as we see in this New Year, whether you be with your loved ones or still apart from them – and especially if you are alone – in the eyes of this Liberal Democrat Government you are a cherished member of our national family. We remain committed, amidst this gloom, to building a brighter future for you.

A Happy New Year to you all.

* Guy Russo was the Parliamentary Candidate in Enfield North at the General Election and is an Ex-President of the Queen Mary University of London Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Antony Watts 2nd Jan '21 - 9:33am

    Not what I want to hear. We have a couple of simple problems we must face

    1. Balance of wealth and poverty
    2. Chucking out Brexiters and rejoining the Europea Union family of nations.

  • David Garlick 2nd Jan '21 - 12:03pm

    Very intetesting attempt at looking at what might be possible.
    Only if we can challenge ourselves and our Party with the ‘What If’?’ questions that give full scope for new and inovative ideas will we give the public what they don’t yet know that they need and would benefit from…
    Recommend Rob Hopkins book ‘From What Is, To What If’ for the how to go about it.

  • Michael Cole 2nd Jan '21 - 1:06pm

    I can’t imagine that any ordinary voters will understand this, let alone remember it.

    Our message must be very clear, simple and focus on (say) three main objectives.

    I would suggest:

    1. Electoral and constitutional reform.

    2. Stop political corruption and cronyism.

    3. Close as possible relationship with Europe.

    This is not to ignore other vital issues, such as global warming and UBI, but this is a headline statement not a manifesto.

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