When I look back at 2014, I recall in particular the moments when we looked back much further. This was the year we remembered significant anniversaries of the start of World War One and the D-Day Landings during World War Two.
We remembered individual acts of heroism and sacrifice and episodes of huge collective loss. November 11 had added significance last year and I was privileged to attend a profoundly moving service on Armistice Day itself at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. No less moving though were the local commemorations where many people, of all ages, came together to contemplate what these anniversaries mean to each of us. I found it impossible to escape the symbolism of the two anniversaries so close together – sobering proof that the cry of ‘never again’ raised at the end of the First World War went unheeded, but there is a much more positive message too. The many who died did not die in vain. They died to protect a way of life we still enjoy, a democracy and rule of law which continue to guarantee our freedoms. This year sees more significant milestones which reinforce this point. 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the foundation of much of our constitutional settlement. The two world wars we remembered last year represent only part of the high cost of defending the principles of that settlement. This year is also the 750th anniversary of the first English Parliament, instigated by Simon de Montfort in a field not far from the centre of Kenilworth. 750 years on, 2015 will also see a General Election for its latest successor and, whatever the complexion of that Parliament, we should all take pride in the continuation of free and fair elections to decide its composition. We should also continue to be grateful for the many sacrifices made to ensure we can vote in them.