A year in politics: has 2016 been the craziest yet?

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political figures
Illustration: Flo McQuibban
Trump
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For all of us interested in politics, this year has been exhausting. Wave after wave of populism-fuelled nonsense and political poppycock, which can only be compared to going twelve rounds with Mike Tyson, has left us all battered, bruised and quite simply baffled.

From Jeremy Corbyn spewing verbal diarrhoea all over the British landscape, to the utterly fraudulent and hypocritical trio of Boris, Gove and Farage telling us not to believe the experts and facts to Jeremy Hunt declaring war on the NHS. Everywhere you look these days, intelligence and competence are being repeatedly being slapped in the face. Indeed, at the time of writing this article, I am left unsure as to whether Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.

This past year in the UK presents a veritable smorgasbord of baloney and indeed it is difficult to know quite where to start. It is all been a bit of a blur. Yet, I feel the slow demise of a once sensible country began on the 12 September of last year.

That was of course when the world learned that a Britain-hating terrorist-sympathiser had been elected leader of Her Majesty’s ‘Most Loyal’ Opposition and the Trotskyist takeover of the Labour Party began. The subsequent few months were a whirlwind of mass resignations by his shadow cabinet, a deeply troubling rise of anti-Semitism within all levels of the party, and an abundance of frankly laughable incompetence.When Corbyn increased his mandate further in the second leadership battle, my belief that the Labour Party has gone completely nuts was compounded. How anyone could expect Jeremy Corbyn and his mates to run a country when they can’t even run a political party is beyond me.

Jeremy Corbyn
Photo: Creative Commons

The only logical explanation I can find is that the Trotskyist takeover of the party is far worse than feared. The kind of chronically angry, sandal-wearing lefties that make up the London Labour Party, who protest regardless of what the protest is about, who despise the working classes because they betrayed the revolution, the kind of people who take days off work to drive up to Manchester to hurl diatribe at people minding their own business at the Conservative Party Conference, the kind of people who complain about globalisation and multi-national corporations, yet eat their lunch at Subway. These are the people who control the second largest party the UK.

The implications of this are not insignificant. I mean I feel it’s reasonable to assume that Corbyn will never be elected as Prime Minister, that would truly be the final nail in the proverbial coffin. And so we will hopefully never have to nationalise our left arm, go back to living in caves and negotiate with a terrorist group that wants to control the world (I wonder how that would go for Mr Corbyn). But in all seriousness, the Conservatives now have an 18 point lead in some polls, and Labour has slumped to its lowest point since 2009. An effective government without an effective opposition is like a car without a wheel – there is nothing to keep it going to in the right direction.

It is partly true that the Tories haven’t been doing much better. On the one hand they have managed to sort of keep the party together (unlike Labour and UKIP) but in doing so have damaged the country. Cameron called for the referendum in order to appease the so-called ‘awkward squad’ – a collection of around 50 or so Eurosceptic Conservatives – despite the fact he knew a British exit from the European Union would make us all worse off.

David Cameron
Photo: Creative Commons

Prior to the announcement of the referendum, Europe was never really a debate outside of the Tory Party. The promise of a referendum was only included in the manifesto in response to the fear that voters and MPs were switching to UKIP (remember them?) Which, as it turned out, they weren’t. But this is evidence of a big problem within British politics, our government has focused on keeping its backbenchers happy at the expense of doing the right thing for the country. As a result we’ve ended up with Brexit.

Meanwhile, the luckiest man in politics, also known as Jeremy Hunt, declared war on the NHS by infuriating every single junior doctor (I mean how that man is still in the job is unbelievable). Whilst I remain slightly sceptical that the health service is truly on the brink of imploding, I do believe the Health Secretary’s handling of the situation has been shameful. But that is not particularly revolutionary, nor is it fitting with the headline of this article. However, the whole fiasco did reveal something a lot more worrying.

It is often the case with disputes between the government and the public sector that as time goes on, the public becomes increasingly dissatisfied, even angry, with those who strike. Teachers are held in contempt by many people, as are firefighters. This is just bizarre. Why is it that we trust doctors when we are ill, we trust teachers not only to give our children a good education but to look after them for six hours a day, and we hail firefighters as heroes when they run into burning buildings – yet we don’t trust them when they tell us they need better pay and better working conditions.

Of course, the mainstream media is very much to blame for negatively shaping public opinion, and the ‘craziness’ of this year has a lot to do with the likes of The Daily Mail and The Sun splashing nonsense all over their front pages. If you were to read the tabloids, you would believe the country is in dire straits, that refugees are terrorists, and immigrants are entering our borders in their millions. The likes of Rupert Murdoch have set the scene for a post-truth era where facts don’t matter, and this has allowed the emotions of the public to be manipulated in such a way that Brexit was allowed to happen.

Jezza Hunt
Photo: Creative Commons

Brexit was undoubtedly the craziest event in UK politics in 2016 [arguably, up until today]. It was never going to happen, but then it did. This was such a crazy event because it showed that logic and rational thinking was in the minority, it showed that people believe lightweight politicians over experts and economists, and it showed that a staggeringly large number of people in this country would rather make themselves significantly worse-off just to keep a few foreigners out of the country.

Of course voters were not informed properly – in fact, they were lied to on an industrial scale from both sides of the campaign, although there were significantly more false claims made by the leave camp.

In short, the referendum was a shambles. Yet the subsequent fallout was equally disastrous. Personally I knew of many people who regretted their vote, and justified voting to leave because they never actually thought we would (I know, it makes no sense). The politicians who had started the fire ran away from the burning building leaving Theresa May to tackle the blaze. However, we are yet to come up with any sort of plan of action for exiting the EU.

Further cause for concern is that the High Court’s ruling last week showed that our Prime Minister has no understanding of the law. It seems that her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ assertion is not necessarily true at all, and she should have known that. What was wrong was the idea that she could trigger Article 50 using the royal prerogative without talking to our sovereign, elected, democratic parliament. All the advisers, campaigners, the ‘geniuses’ that have been lying through their teeth for the best part of this year, they couldn’t even come up with a factual slogan to describe what happens next without effectively breaking the law.

Just when we think this country couldn’t get anymore bonkers, we discover that the people who have been bleating about parliamentary democracy for the whole of 2016 actually don’t know what it means. These ludicrous belches about sovereignty and control have been coming from people who don’t know what it means. You cannot enact a law unless that will of the people is expressed by an act of parliament. Sovereignty, and democracy, demand that the people we elect to run our country and to scrutinise the government have the final say on what the country does, and yet people are in uproar about the High Court’s ruling.

Even UKIP, the party effectively responsible for Brexit, have self-destructed in the wake of the decision they fought so hard for. It is difficult to deny that UKIP still have a role to play, yet they elected a leader who then resigned after just 18 days, and so they again have Farage as leader (except he doesn’t want to be). Leadership favourite Steven Woolfe, the man who promised to restore organisation and professionalism to the party, was ruled out of the leadership race for failing to disclose a criminal conviction and for handing in his form late (how professional). Following this he was attacked and hospitalised by a fellow UKIP member and subsequently quit the party. And so with more and more candidates dropping out of the latest leadership race, the party is about as significant as the average housefly.

I think it’s fair to conclude that 2016 has been the craziest year for politics, an assortment of inexplicable moments topped off by the most scandalous election campaign imaginable. The abundance and scale of such events, some I haven’t even mentioned, suggests the political landscape has changed into something sinister. I wonder whether 2016 was anomalous or the start of a new post-truth era of xenophobia, hypocrisy and bigotry?

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