The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 24th December 2020:

Christmas is a time of cheer and celebration, but it’s also a time for considering others – and as we all know, this will be a Christmas like no other.

Sadly, it will be a more isolated Christmas, where we cannot spend time with many of the friends and family that we hold dear, as we had hoped.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Many governments across the world, with decisive leadership, took the steps that they needed to early on, without dither or delay, and they are now enjoying a normal festive season.

It is with great sadness that we find ourselves here in what is the worst of all worlds.

But I know that our communities will overcome the challenges that we face.

In spite of everything, we have seen exceptional acts of kindness across our community, with people supporting their friends, family and even strangers in times of great difficulty.

I want to thank everyone who has kept our country running, when so much of it ground to a halt, from key workers and our hospital staff, to voluntary organisations and the council, who have done an exceptional job in supporting people who are isolating; delivering food parcels and keeping our vital services running.

And, most of all, I want to thank you – the residents of Barnsley. We have all made great sacrifices this year to protect one another and keep each other safe.

This has been the greatest act of kindness. And it has made a difference. It has saved lives.

We still have some way to go and we cannot let up yet. But the New Year brings us hope.

The Covid-19 vaccine is now being delivered in our area, and this will be rolled out further in the New Year.

With a wide vaccine delivery, we not only have the chance to return to some form of ‘normality’ in the not too distant future.

But we cannot simply go back to the pre-Covid world. We need to fundamentally re-build our country in a way that works for everyone, not just the South and a privileged few.

This is something that I will be picking up and fighting for in the New Year.

But, in the meantime, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone across our community a very Merry Christmas – and a Happy New Year.

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