Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Back to the Future

Published Thursday 20 December, 2012

Reflecting on the past year, I guess there are some obvious candidates clamouring for "most favoured status". Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins ... all deserve accolades. They, and many more from the Olympics and Paralympics, have enriched my memory box forever.

The Diamond Jubilee in all its glory still brings a lump to my throat when I remember how proud I felt that weekend in June. 

The release and subsequent visit to the UK of Aung San Suu Kyi restored my faith in human nature's capacity for perseverance, tolerance, forgiveness and sacrifice.

But my Number One Highlight of 2012 was ... the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. The delicious blend of historical reflection and the very best of British irony; the unspoken confirmation of our pride in giving the World the NHS and the Internet, let alone Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Winston Churchill; oh! And The Boss joining 007 in a rather innovative arrival at the Stadium! 

The tears I shed as I stood there in the Olympic Stadium that evening were partly of course of laughter at Rowan Atkinson's antics, but they were more of sheer pride of my Country and her place in the World.

As for the coming year, what do I wish for? Leicester Tigers to do the Aviva English Premiership and Heineken European Cup double of course! Oh, and Aston Villa to avoid relegation!

I wish for all our forces in Afghanistan to be home for Christmas 2013; a year early but bringing an end to wasting lives.

I wish for the USA, Russia and China to step up to the plate in a rare display of unity on behalf of all of us and sort Iran peacefully before Israel does it in a rather less peaceful fashion.

But, above all, I wish that 2013 will be the first year ever when, after 11 years of free, full-time, compulsory education in our Country, those who leave our education system at sixteen can all (repeat all) read, write and count to the standard expected of an 11 year-old. At present, half of those leaving cannot do so. Wouldn't it just be wonderful (and make a massive difference to the lives of all of us in one way or another) if next year went down in history as the first year of universal school-leaving literacy and numeracy!?!

It was Gladstone who said that you will never set the poor free by giving them money; you set them free by giving them an education. Let 2013 be the year our Nation truly liberates everyone.