A Christmas message from David Johnston, MP for Wantage and Didcot

At the beginning of 2022, the country was still in Covid restrictions; Boris Johnson was Prime Minister; Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was on the throne; Russia had not invaded Ukraine; and inflation was at 5%. At the end of the year, none of these things remain true.

Events at Westminster have at times been unedifying but I can honestly say that, despite the big issues on the Government’s plate at the moment, the atmosphere in parliament is probably the calmest it has been in the 3 years I have been an MP. The focus is very much on the policies we need to solve problems and not on personalities.

Like many people I felt a little unsettled as well as upset in the days after the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Although deep down we always knew the day would come, it felt like she somehow would be with us forever, having been a constant presence for the entire lives of most of us. While we will never see someone like her again, we are fortunate to have in King Charles III another dedicated servant to our country.

We hoped we would not see war in Europe again, but it became obvious early in 2022 that Vladimir Putin was determined to invade Ukraine. The destruction and lives lost are entirely the fault of him and him alone and he clearly did not expect the tremendous resistance the brave Ukrainian people have shown.

In Oxfordshire we’re very familiar with the situation in Ukraine as we’re one of the counties that has taken more refugees than most places in the country. Through helping with visas and other issues, as well as visits I’ve made to English lessons, group visits I’ve hosted in parliament and the like, I’ve gotten to know some of the personal stories of individuals being hosted.

Many are now working locally and some have gone off to university (a couple will be joining me for work experience next year). Some are even running their own businesses: Alyona and Lara have opened The Cake Bar in Wantage, for example. While none of us wanted the situation that has brought them here, the refugees are determined to make the most of their time.

The knock-on effects of the war have – together with pent-up demand as a result of Covid lockdowns – led to a considerable increase in the cost of living for us here at home. The Government has taken extensive action to support people with energy costs, in particular, and thanks to the other actions it has taken on the economy, inflation should halve next year which will thankfully bring costs for us back down again.

Aside from the national and international events, I’ve continued campaigning on things like the lack of GP surgeries and the need to reopen Grove Station; as well as to champion the local AEAT pensioners and highlight concerns over the reservoir proposal. I held my annual climate summit again but also did some things for the first time, including a crime summit and a campaign to help local young people get work experience. I’ve handled thousands of cases from local people on everything from health and housing to driving licenses and passports. Helping people with their individual problems remains the most rewarding part of the job.

This is the first Christmas since 2019 where we can see our families unimpeded – with, to the relief of everyone (including myself!) no general election in the run-up to it, as there was that year. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.