Luke Pollard MP Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
Each year I make 10 predictions about the coming year. You can read my 2021 predictions here – 9 out of 10 is not too shabby. In these turbulent and testing times predicting the future can be a fool’s game. Sadly, our country has a lot of fools in positions of responsibility and so perhaps it’s not such a silly thing to do.
The past year has been hard on our city. The pandemic, the economic consequences of Brexit, wayward politics and the double tragedies of the murder of Bobbi-Anne and the shooting in Keyham have left our city hurt and still recovering. None of my predictions relate to how we bounce back. I’ve written elsewhere about that.
So, in the spirit of crystal ball gazing, here’s my ten predictions for 2022:
- Boris Johnson will be gone and there will be a Conservative leadership contest
I frequently said in 2021 that “it doesn’t matter until it matters” when confronted by yet another example of Government incompetence, corruption or sleaze. The British public have been enormously generous in giving the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. Giving PPE contracts to Tory donors costing the taxpayer millions, breaking rules to suit them, holding parties in Downing Street while the nation was locked down have all contributed to the inalienable truth about Boris Johnson’s government: there is one rule for the PM and his chums and another for the rest of us. Britain has the worst possible Prime Minister at the worst possible time and the party is stoon to be over for him. The public are no longer giving the PM the benefit of the doubt. While scandals and sleaze were water off the proverbial duck’s back in 2021, they’ll be another nail in the coffin for Boris Johnson’s time in Number 10. The Tories will want him to take the blame for a hammering in May’s elections, so expect to see him limp on until then. The Conservative Party are brutal when their leaders become a liability and they’ll have the knives out for Mr Johnson soon enough. Bye Bye Bojo. It has not been fun.
- The virus will surge and economic measures will still lag behind public health measures
Britain must learn to live with the virus. That much is clear. But that means we must all make adjustments to our daily lives to live with Coronavirus and its latest variants. Doing nothing or pretending it isn’t there isn’t living with it – that’s burying your head in the sand. The anti-vax extremes will grow louder as their case becomes even more hollow and weak. The extremes of politics will latch onto the latest conspiracy theory and social media platforms will shamefully continue to serve up this fake news cess pit to millions of unsuspecting users. We start 2022 with Omicron surging. It may well be another variant by the time the year ends. We need a much better response from Government if we are to start living with the virus. I do not believe living with the virus means selling out our values or sacrificing those with vulnerabilities – it means creating a new deal between state and citizen, new rights and new responsibilities. But it also means where painful steps are taken to protect public health Ministers must follow them up with proper economic support.
- Cost of living crisis will hit families on low and middle incomes
Britain has the highest tax burden in decades. Poor economic management, a failed experiment with austerity and incompetent Ministers meant Britain went into the pandemic worse off than our competitors. The consequences of a botched Brexit deal has hit sectors like manufacturing, farming, fishing and exporters hard. Those lies have economic consequences but now we must make Brexit work. It is everyday families now suffering from higher taxes, steeply rising energy bills, high fuel costs at the pumps, broken promises from Ministers and more insecure work. Sadly, I expect utility bills to rise further, wages to stagnate and evictions to continue to grow. The cost of living crisis is not a theoretical scenario in economic text books, it is the daily lived experiences for many families on low and middle incomes in our country and I fear the crisis will only worsen as Ministers – who have never experienced poverty themselves – look on uninterested in the plight of ordinary families.
- More people on their bikes
Plymouth needs to make 2022 the year of the bicycle. We need more people to get on their bikes, leaving their cars at home. It’s better for the environment, helps clean up our dirty air and gets you fit. For a bicycle revolution to happen we need the City Council to start investing properly in improved infrastructure – decent cycle paths down Embankment Road, a new cycle route along the A386 to Yelverton, removal of weirdly located street furniture and an extension of Plymotion’s funding is all necessary. I want to see more people get an e-Bike to help with our hills, but that needs to be accompanied by a city-wide effort and perhaps a generous starting subsidy. Modal shift, to borrow the policy wonk’s language, is possible but it happens when decisions are taken to make it happen. So, let’s see those decisions from the City Council that seems to favour the motorist over pedestrians and cyclists by a country mile.
- Second homes crisis gets worse in the SW
Working from home means more people looked afresh at high city living costs, ridiculous house prices in the capital and moved themselves and their families to the south west. And who can blame them? The quality of life and value for money of the south west is incredible, but the race to the westcountry has not been accompanied by increased house building of genuinely affordable homes. The pandemic has turbo-charged the housing crisis. A quarter of all of England’s second homes are in the south west and that number is rising as renters are turfed out of family homes by landlords cashing in on the staycation boom and charging a fortune for an Airbnb in the region. It’s time policy makers looked afresh at this and I predict there will be more energy and enthusiasm building behind the campaign I launched with south west Labour councillors calling for First Homes, not Second Homes. Find out more about the campaign here. https://www.lukepollard.org/news/2021/12/09/luke-announces-first-homes-not-second-homes-manifesto-for-the-south-west/
- Climate crisis deepens
COP26 was a disappointment. Carbon emissions are not being cut fast enough and too many vulnerable and precious habitats are being lost to urban sprawl, unchecked pollution and the lethargic pace of political leaders. We are in the middle of a climate and nature crisis. We have a choice about solving both together, or neither of them, and so far the action is too paltry and pathetic to achieve what is required. Last year I was proud to lead Labour’s opposition to raw sewage being routinely pumped into rivers. This year, I’ll be doing more on this, but we need to go faster and further if we are to tackle the urgent crisis. Our home is on fire and nothing really is happening. More extreme weather events, more species lost, more icesheets separating from Antarctica, more habitats destroyed. The warning signs are there for us all to see, so let’s make 2022 the year action is no longer an optional extra but a requirement.
- Go slow on electric vehicle charging points challenged.
Plymouth needs electrification. We need our trainline electrified – especially at the steep Devon Banks – and we need to replace polluting petrol and diesel cars with electric cars. But for that to happen we need more electric vehicle charging points. The Tory Council seems painfully slow in rolling our these points where people actually live. It’s good we have some in the city centre now, but where are they in Stoke, where I live, or in Peverell? Or in St Judes or Devonport? Where are they in Efford or Lipson? Why don’t we have them in Mount Gould or North Hill? I want an electric car, but to get one I need a charger, so let’s have a roll out of chargers across Plymouth and an end to the excuses as to why we can’t. We need to get serious about electric vehicles and the City Council’s go slow on the roll out of EV charging points must come to an end.
- Argyle into play offs
Plymouth Argyle are a proper club again under Simon Hallett. Under his ownership our club has grown in confidence and competence. The fans are getting more from the club and it seems Argyle have restored themselves at the very heart of our city, in no small part to hosting the incredible team at the vaccination centre at Home Park. Argyle are a club to watch and as long-suffering Argyle fans next year will be good for us. We’ll be into the play offs and I want to see us eyeing the promotion we so rightly deserve by the time the Jack Leslie statue is unveiled at Home Park. A fitting tribute to an Argyle great.
- International tension rises: China and Russia
International politics is not benign. Our friends and allies in Ukraine, the Baltic states, and indeed our friends in SE Asia need our friendship and support. The threat to Ukraine is most urgent as Putin rages against his inadequacies on the international stage. Britain needs calm, cool and collected leadership to help rally international coalitions to defend democracy and human rights. Sadly, we have a Cabinet that looks more interested in who will be the next PM than preserving our national interests. Outside the EU, Britain must make our mark and that, in my mind, is an unapologetic force for good in the world. We need a new settlement aligning our hard and soft power, our economic influence, our trade policy and our international commitments on aid to redefine our role in the world. If the Government can’t do it, I predict that Lisa Nandy’s time as Shadow Foreign Secretary will give the country this alternative to the mess we have today.
- Plymouth’s role in the Falklands conflict will finally be properly recognised
2022 is the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict. I was two years old when ships left Devonport to fight for the freedom of the Falkland Islanders. I was lucky to visit the islands for myself in 2018 and I know that the bond between Plymouth and the Falklands is strong. The anniversary is a chance for us to tell our story as a city. The national story about the Falklands is often told through a Portsmouth lens. That means Devonport and Plymouth’s role is often left unexplored. This will be the last major anniversary for many of the Falkland veterans and it is important their story is told. The Falklands are British for as long as the Falkland Islanders want to be British. Only half of Britain’s population was alive in 1982 – so let’s retell and rediscover the contribution of Devonport and ensure that, unlike the days after the conflict ended in 1982, Devonport’s contribution is not overlooked in this anniversary year.