STEPHEN HEPBURN: 2016 was a strange year for the voters

Ed Balls
Ed Balls

Strictly speaking my old friend Ed Balls didn’t waltz off with the glitter ball from this year’s BBC dance competition but Labour’s Gangnam Style former Children’s Secretary was the show’s big winner.

The same’s true for Honey G who never made it to the X-Factor final yet the rapper was a big hit with fans over on ITV.

Donald Trump will be sworn in as US President next month despite losing the popular vote by 2.6m to Democrat rival Hillary Clinton.

Back here in Britain one Tory, Theresa May, replaced another Tory, David Cameron, in Downing Street without the public casting a single vote.

Jeremy Corbyn, with the backing of Jarrow Labour Party, was re-elected leader with 313,209 votes against challenger Owen Smith’s 193,229 which meant each individually secured more supporters than the rapidly shrinking Tories have members.

Brexit was close, 17m to 16m, but I accept the referendum result and the priority is securing the best deal for the North East and Britain in what threatens to be difficult negotiations.

Theresa May is clueless about where she’s going which might be why nobody in Europe is keen to talk to the little girl lost in No 10.

It was hard to catch your breath in 2016 so I hope you enjoy Christmas whether you are tucking into the turkey, spending valuable time with the family or watching the Snowman on telly.

This is a special time and we all appreciate the one million grafters – everyone from emergency and hospital staff to taxi drivers and bar staff – who’ll be hard at work on Christmas Day while the rest of us put our feet.

Yet no sooner is Christmas over than we’ll be celebrating New Year with 2017 looking as if it’ll be as turbulent as the year just passing.

Our pending departure from the EU and Trump’s success were clearly an unmistakable rejection of the political establishment where the rich get richer and the poor are left on the scrapheap.

I will always have my doubts that Brexit will make the lives better for ordinary, working class families on Tyneside and Wearside.

But of course me and my colleagues will respect and carry out the view of the 62% of the electorate in South Tyneside who voted to leave not remain.

I predict Americans will swiftly regret putting Trump into the White House via a flawed electoral college system favouring conservative states.

It’s easy, however, to see why so many voters opted for change in Britain when I’ve argued for years the economy’s letting them down.

Around a third of people in the UK have experienced poverty in recent years.

Six million workers earn less than the living wage, more than one in five of the total.

And a worrying one million people have no choice but to turn to jobs with insecure, temporary contracts which have rocketed under the Tory radar.

I speak to many people on the street and at my advice surgery where they are struggling to make ends meet or have seen their benefit cut or stopped completely by wicked sanctions driven by this government.

A worrying number of working people are left with no choice but to turn to a foodbank, our local authorities and our local health services are being stripped to the bone with many under serious threat.

Foodbank referrals in South Tyneside have rocketed 400% which is clear proof the Tories are financially bankrupt.

I promise you if we get Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street we’d raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020.

Labour would kick into touch exploitative zero-hours contracts that continue to blight many people’s lives.

In 2017 and beyond we’ll continue to fight against a Government that does not care about anyone except their privileged own.

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a prosperous, Happy New Year.