2019 was a bit of a crazy year on all fronts. A lot of things happened that weren’t predicted and where I ended up at the end was, in many areas, very different from where I started.
We had a lot of ups and downs with the health of our youngest (daughter, 1). Around Easter we found out definitively that her health problems would be likely to be ongoing for years, not months, and throughout we had a large number of hospital visits and stays, both planned operations and unanticipated entries due to illnesses (which always hit her hard). The vast bulk of dealing with this has fallen on my wife, who’s had to give up work. On the positive side, we’ve been looked after very well by the NHS: the many hospital visits have been successful and we’ve had great treatment; shortly before Christmas she had a tube put in her tummy which will be more of a long term solution than what she had before. And in other ways, she continues to develop normally, walking, playing, screaming incessantly at us when she doesn’t get what she wants and all that you’d expect of a 1 year old (except talking where, like our son at this age, she understands a lot but doesn’t speak).
It’s been a very good year with our eldest (son, 5) who has continued learning, having fun, making friends, getting obsessed with dinosaurs and many other fun things. He became confident at swimming (with a woggle or float) this year which was nice. Personal highlights include reading the Chronicles of Narnia to him, playing and completing Scribblenauts together and exploring ‘The lost city of gold’ in a forest in Sweden.
Outside of family, we had to move out of our house for over four months due to flooding and stayed in three different flats during that period, which wasn’t ideal. Although insurance covered all the core costs (repairs and our accommodation) there was a lot of hassle, inconvenience and minor expenses from moving a family four times during six months. Also, our car had some major break down issues over this period, which felt like a complication we didn’t need that summer!
On the plus side, we had some great family times, whether that was just the four of us locally or visiting friends. We had some very fun holidays, particularly Sweden where we went to a friend’s wedding and then had a very lovely time relaxing in a remote cottage in the woods rambling, playing games and eating lots of golden potatoes. So there have been plenty of good things amidst the chaos.
I began the year working in a job I enjoyef at ACCA. I broadly expected to finish the year there also.
But then in August I was contacted by Jo Johnson, who I’d worked for previously as a civil servant, and asked to come into government as his special adviser (SpAd). I duly did so, after a period of working two jobs at once for two weeks (not advised!) and it was fantastic, but unfortunately ended rapidly when he resigned. I moved on a temporary basis to work as a SpAd for Kwasi Kwarteng in energy, and then moved to my current role in Policy Exchange shortly before the election was called.
A side note, but a pleasing one, was having a book chapter published for the first time in a book on Higher Education Policy.
Overall the process was quite turbulent, but it was fantastic to have the opportunity to be at the heart of government in those crucial months and, though I enjoyed my former role and learned a lot from it, my current job back in public policy is more where my true passion lies, and I’ve been able to get there without loss of salary or other sacrifices.
Politically, I stood (and lost) in my first election, for the Borough Council in my local ward. It was a great experience and one I hope to do again more successfully, though not this year as there was too much else going on. I also made it on to the Conservative Party’s candidate list, which may or may not lead to anything further in the future.
Overall some ups and downs along the way, but professionally it’s been a good year.
We’re all clearly aware of the wider national events. So suffice it to say that as the year began I was looking on with increasing despair at a paralysed Government and Parliament, with it seeming increasing likely that our historic vote in 2016 would be set aside by an unholy alliance of the political elite and vested interests of the status quo. This only got worse from then on, with the way forward increasingly becoming more narrow and fraught.
The year ended with Brexit secured and a new government with a Conservative majority not seen for three decades. To have played a (tiny) part in that, both as a SpAd and through the less glamorous but equally necessary work of knocking on doors and delivering leaflets was a privilege. The overall situation and landscape couldn’t look more different than it did at the beginning of the year. At one stroke, it’s been demonstrated that, in Britain, democracy still means something and that, however they do things on the continent, being made to vote again until we get the right answer, is something up with which the British people will not put(2) – and with the added benefit of dealing a firm rebuke to the hard left, and securing a solid Conservative government until 2024. But more importantly than any of those, we end 2019 with a significantly greater likelihood that Britain in 2100 will remain an independent sovereign nation.
2019 was a good year for this blog. Despite a couple of months where I barely blogged at all (amusingly, I got more hits on 6 January than in the whole of October!) the total number of visits was up more than 50% on the year before, at just over 16,000. Most full-length posts get over 100 views, with a small number gettting considerably more.
I was pleased with my blogging during the election period, which a number of people said was useful/enlightening, including some who ultimately didn’t vote the way I was advocating. The GuestBlog programme went well, with some great contributions – though my aim would be to have about 1 a month – and I kept up the book reviews, which I enjoy writing even if they get much lower readership than almost anything else I write, including writing a couple of longer pieces on the Chronicles of Narnia and The Last Battle.
There were the usual heated debates on controversial subjects such as Brexit, World Book Day and Watership Down. I also wrote a number of longer posts that I was particularly pleased with and seemed to attract a lot of positive discussions, including Endless Surrenders (on why both the left and right feel they’re losing). No Car is Better than a Bad Car (on the Brexit negotiations), Prorogation, Salisbury and Self-Denying Ordinances (on the growing constitutional semi-crisis), On Communists (on the meaning of the ‘first they came for the Communists’ quote) and on Human Fallibility and Robust Institutions (on why we shouldn’t optimise systems for perfect humans). And my favourite light-hearted piece was the one assigning D&D classes and alignments to biblical characters (Elisha was a Druid and other hypotheses).
If you value reading this blog and would like to make a contribution, I have a Patreon which allows you to do so. The principle is that as you might pay for content in books or music, you may wish to also for a blog that you read regularly. Tiers begin at about £2 a month and carry various benefits, including the ability to request a post on a specific subject(1); if I get a lot of supporters, that may prompt me to be more imaginative in that vein or put more effort into doing exciting things, though core blogging will always be free. I should emphasise that I am not in any financial difficulty so no-one should feel any obligation to support in this way – but it is an option there if you find what you read here enjoyable, insightful or useful.
It’s been a tumultuous year, particularly for one which opened with no anticipation of major life events (marriage, birth, house or job move). And at times it has felt very busy and more happening at once than was desirable, particularly when the confluence of house, job, health and car issues coincided. But there have been many high points too and overall a year ending, across a wide variety of areas, in a better place than where it began.
(1) To be more precise, that I will write a post on a specific subject – anyone can request anything from anyone!
(2) As the Rees-Mogg style guide might put it.