BEFORE we get into it, I want to quickly say – I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas, with lots of laughs and a great time spent with loved ones. Also, a big thank you to the carers, policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses and everyone else who works hard over the festive period making sure we are all able to enjoy our time safely.

As the New Year comes around I am sure you, like myself, find yourself looking back before looking forward.

2017 has been a very intense year. We started with the inauguration of Donald Trump who, in case you have forgotten, is currently under investigation over allegations of collusion with Russia to sway the election he won and has had countless women accuse him of sexual assault, some of which he partially admitted in a tape that leaked in 2016 where he said he could walk up to women and “grab them by the pussy” because he is a “star”.

A couple of months later Theresa May, giving no thought to the devolved administrations, wrote a letter to the EU declaring that she’s making it official and we are leaving the EU in two years. Then, in a moment of sheer arrogance, decided to hold a General Election.

We will all likely remember 10:00pm on June 8 for a very long time. When the results of the exit poll were announced and it showed the Tories’ majority was gone it didn’t quite seem real – could it be possible that the Tory election campaign was so alienating, so flung together, that they had taken themselves from predictions of a hugely increased majority into a minority? Was it really possible that the Prime Minister’s plan to increase her majority and steamroll through the Brexit process without having to gain Parliament’s consent was completely foiled? Yes. It absolutely was possible, and it happened.

This year we also witnessed tragic terrorist attacks – extremists attacking this country and seeking to divide us. They never succeed though, and there was no finer an example of their failure than the One Love Manchester concert which was arranged to take place just two weeks after the horrific bombing at the Manchester Arena. It’s important to once again thank our emergency services for all they do to keep us safe. Our emergency service personnel are some of the bravest men and women.

The events I have mentioned do not even come close to covering the full list of truly hectic and sometimes just plain mental goings-on that have taken place in the past year.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un throwing playground insults at each other while in possession of the most dangerous and abhorrent weapons that have ever existed; accused paedophiles running for the US Senate and being endorsed by the President of the United States; a billion quid for the DUP to buy the Tories another few years in government; two underwhelming and uninspiring UK Budgets from an out of touch Chancellor of the Exchequer; the Universal Credit shambles that is still ongoing; no resolution for WASPI women; the explosive stories of sexual abuse in Hollywood that reached all industries and knocked down seemingly untouchable men; the absolute mess that was the first stage of the Brexit negotiations, including the DUP throwing a spanner in the works at the last minute and nearly derailing the whole thing.

It really has been an eye-opening and gobsmacking year. But once we’ve finished looking back we must begin to look forward. I don’t know if I would say I’m hopeful for 2018 – but I know what I hope for.

I hope that the sexual abuse allegations of 2017 force a real conversation about ending this systemic abuse that women, and some men, have faced from those in positions of power. I hope the #MeToo movement will continue to open people’s eyes so they’re able to see this isn’t something that can just be shoved aside. As I said in a previous column: “Treat people with the respect you would wish to be treated with, and keep your damn hands to yourself.”

I hope the UK Government will have a change of heart on their policies which hurt the most vulnerable in society. End austerity, stop punishing the poor just because they are poor and least able to fight back, fix the mess that is Universal Credit and deliver a real solution for the WASPI women who have suffered needlessly due to negligence from UK governments of all shapes and sizes, from both the Tories and Labour. I hope the midterm elections in the US show that Americans roundly reject the poisonous politics of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and their ilk.

Finally, I hope you all have a wonderful year, where you are able to achieve everything you hope for.

Happy New Year.