“Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you?”, the late Tony Hancock famously asked, “Did she die in vain?” It’s a few centuries (over eight to be precise) since King John put his mark on that famous Charter at Runnymede and I’m just wondering whether it was all worth it.

Joking aside, I really am in despair as to the direction of travel that western ‘democracy’ appears to be taking. In particular I refer to the ‘democracy’ on both sides of the Atlantic, although the situation in many parts of western and eastern Europe does not fill me with joy either.

I suppose that most of you, except, possibly, our friend, Barry Turner, may not be familiar with the word ‘anocracy’. To be honest, neither was I until recently and, every time I type the word into a text, my rather ancient iPad doesn’t recognise it, insisting on underlining it in red. Well, it’s apparently a form of government, which Wikipedia tells me “mixes democratic with autocratic features”. As Teresa May famously asked: “Sounds familiar?”

In both the USA and the United Kingdom our ‘democratic’ institutions have moved little since the 18th century. In the former, its much vaunted written constitution, designed when the country was still a collection of small colonies clustered on the eastern seaboard of the continent, is now struggling to accommodate the aspirations of the changing population of a superpower. In the latter the parliamentary system, which may have worked on a severely limited franchise, when Britannia ruled the waves, is now failing to cope with the UK’s demise as a world power and its inability to find a way of living in relative harmony with its near neighbours let alone with the rest of the world. The judgement of the late Dean Acheson is as valid today as it was back in the 1960s. Put simply, “Fings ain’t wot they used to be”. I reckon that, after the past few years of upheaval, most of us would agree.

Both the USA and the U.K. have something else in common. Both are in grave danger of becoming an anocracy, where compromise and bipartisanship are becoming impossible and could continue to prove a fertile ground for populism and those who profit from it. The fact that such characters as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson could ever have achieved high office is surely an illustration of this worrying tendency. That both politicians still enjoy loyal support from a large section of voters and that their respective parties appear afraid to distance themselves from them does not give me confidence that the kind of democracy I favour will be able to push back against the demagogy that continues to hold sway in places like Beijing and Moscow?

I shall be watching with great interest to see how true democracy fares across the channel in the next few months. There would appear to be several states, including Hungary, Poland, Italy and France, where it would seem to be on trial. As for us over here, let’s see whether Johnson, to save his neck, continues to scatter policies about rather like the Labour Party did daily in the run up to the 2019 General Election. Defund the BBC? Militarise our coastal waters? Redraw our parliamentary constituency boundaries? Make voting harder? Ban any form of protest? What next? The ‘big dog’ is still barking. When are we, or rather perhaps his handlers, going to put him out of his misery?

Judging by the events of the past few days, it would appear that ‘big dog’ has morphed into a cat with nine lives, currently on number eight or even nine, depending on your politics, and, of course, the Sue Gray Report on the goings on in No 10. My guess is that a certain Mr Cummings is also awaiting the findings of the report on ‘Partygate’ before he decides whether or not to throw some more petrol onto the bonfire of standards in public life, which this dysfunctional government represents.

John was a councillor for thirty years, finally retiring in 2017. A schoolteacher by profession, he served on the North Hykeham Town Council (1987-2011), the North Kesteven District Council (1987-1999, 2001-2007) and the Lincolnshire County Council (2001-2017). He was also a County Council member of the former Lincolnshire Police Authority for eight years until standing down in 2009. In 1997 he was the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham. He is currently not a member of any political party.

For many, the start of a new year signals an opportunity for new beginnings. We look on in anticipation, and dare I say optimism for the year ahead. I, for one, am excited for 2022 and beyond.

Later this month, I will be officiating at my first graduation ceremonies as Vice Chancellor at the University of Lincoln. I am truly honoured to be involved – graduation is not simply a formal tradition, but the celebration of an academic journey and a real milestone in any student’s life. It is a recognition of all they have achieved and marks a new beginning for them. I am looking forward to the ceremonies in the magnificent cathedral. It is one of the few places of sufficient grandeur in the UK that matches the scale of our graduates’ achievements.

These new graduates will be joining global family of tens of thousands of Lincoln alumni from a vast variety of countries, backgrounds and professions who are all united by a shared experience. These alumni have a rich collection of stories to tell of how being at university, and particularly at Lincoln, has transformed their lives.

Their experiences range from those who were first in their family to go to university, to graduates who have continued their journey with post-graduate study, to people who have spent years in employment before making the decision to go to university and start a new chapter. They are from all walks of life and of all ages and have gone on to do great things and make a real difference to their communities.

Independent research continues to show that being a graduate increases lifetime income and accelerates career progression with respect to those who do not have a degree. Lincoln graduates continue to look forward to better career prospects. However, the nature of careers and patterns of employment over a working life continually change and we prepare our students for that.

As a new resident of our city I continue to learn about its rich history every day. After 11th century heights, Lincoln suffered post the Reformation, only to grow again and accumulate wealth in the agricultural and industrial revolutions. And although the mid-20th century saw a downturn in industry, I believe that we could now be driving new growth for the region through the next industrial and agricultural revolutions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a phrase that encompasses how increased digital interconnectivity and smart automation of the 21st century is changing how products are produced, distributed, used and serviced. There is need to use some of the technology driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution to significantly improve the productivity, efficiency and sustainability in the way our food is grown, harvested, and distributed. This will drive the next agricultural revolution.

Our Schools of Engineering and Computer Science in Lincoln, the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology at Riseholme, and the National Centre for Food Manufacturing at Holbeach are all providing education through apprenticeships and degrees, driving research, and supporting industry in starting this new revolution. These efforts will result in increased prosperity in Lincolnshire where, as a university, we are already contributing over £430 million a year to the economy.

I’m committed to ensuring the university continues to develop and lead the way in upskilling the region in these areas. We continue to develop new courses that will grow the pipeline of talent. We are working with schools to help them prepare their students for the workforce or for further and higher education and, at the university, we provide short courses for local industry and undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programmes.

If you, or somebody you know is thinking of starting a new chapter in their lives by studying for a degree, I’d implore them to come and visit the university on an open day. It’s a great way to see the huge range opportunities we have available. Beginning on January 22, we will be hosting several postgraduate open days. We know that having a higher-level qualification such as a master’s degree is becoming increasingly important as the UK economy develops post-pandemic, and it can provide people young and older, with an opportunity to get ahead in their chosen profession, or to retrain and begin a new journey.

I feel we can look forward with optimism in 2022, because, and it’s the same thing I will say to our newest graduates celebrating this month, what makes this moment so special is knowing opportunities will only grow from here. The trick will be to make the most of them as they arise.

New Year Honours:

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all in our community mentioned in the Queen’s New Years’ honours. A special mention goes to the University’s Chair of the Board of Governors, Diane Lees CBE who has been awarded a Damehood for services to museums and heritage, and former Lincoln student and Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Wells on her OBE for services to equestrianism. I also congratulate our most recent University of Lincoln Honourand, Professor Jonathan Van Tam on his Knighthood for services to public health.

Professor Neal Juster is Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln

By City of Lincoln Council Leader

Labour City of Lincoln Council leader responded via The Lincolnite to Grimsby Conservative MP Lia Nici after she “wholeheartedly” defended the Prime Minister following No 10 lockdown party-gate.

Ric Metcalfe wrote:

“Lia Nici’s verdict on Boris Johnson is that we should remember that he is ‘a renegade’ [“What we’ve got to remember is that he’s a renegade”].

“She obviously thinks this can be made to be seen as a virtuous quality, perhaps she should have checked the meaning of the word first.

“Renegade means: ‘A person who deserts and betrays an organisation, country, or set of principles.’

“How true!”

READ: Grimsby MP “wholeheartedly” backs PM, despite lockdown party-gate

Councillor Ric Metcalfe is the Labour Leader of the City of Lincoln Council.

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