2012 – That Was The Year That Was

sunsetparlSo the sun has set on 2012. Seems to have gone in the blink of an eye. I’ve been personally busy with work and home stuff and not really posted as much in the last 12 months as in previous years. Hopefully I’ll be able to rectify that in 2013, but I’ll not make any promises or resolutions here.

To make up for the lack of blog posts, I thought a review of our political year might be a sensible thing. I can’t write about everything that happened, that’d take forever, but I thought I’d write about the bigger moments – the gamechangers. As MacMillan is often quoted as alluding to by writers reaching for a cliché, politicians fear events. Events drive the ship of state off course, often toward rocks. And it’s events that make up the bigger moments. So here are a few events from 2012.

Osborne’s budget was probably the biggest event of the year and not a positive one for the Tories in the end. Cutting the 50p top tax rate was a controversial decision which was widely seen as nothing more than a gift to Tory donors and Osborne’s rich friends. Labour went from tying in the polls to a big lead by the end of it. Partly, because of Ed Milband’s leadership and his great conference speech, but mostly because of Osborne’s inept budget.

In April, we went into the double dip recession which Cameron was unable to even find an excuse for. The weakness in Labour’s dealing of this is that we didn’t have a specific set of policies showing what we would do instead. There are only so many times Ed Balls can point to a growth downgrade and say the Government’s plan is failing. I think 2013 will see a move away from Balls’ lack-of-growth case toward a closer examination of fairness and justice.

2012 has seen more turmoil in Europe than for many decades with two general elections in Greece, with debt continuing to pile up there as the rest of the Eurozone searched for a solution. The rest of Europe had it’s share of change as another incumbent was unseated with Sarkozy roundly beaten by Hollande. Though France has not been terribly hit by austerity, 2013 will find President Hollande making some tough choices over the Channel.

Back here in Britain, 2012 politics has been heavily dominated by Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into press ethics. It was fun to see the prime minister made to squirm over Rebekah Brooks’ admission of their close friendship as well as the texts between them. Fun for us, at least. Not sure about Cameron.

Leveson got around to reporting in November and Cameron responded within hours, coming out against recommendations I doubt he’d had time to fully contemplate. It was interesting to me that the Tories supporting him were the Eurosceptics. Those who think of themselves as libertarians and traditionalists. It’ll be even more interesting to see what happens if Labour bring forward their vote on the matter later this month. Leveson may have dominated 2012, but I suspect it’ll be around for a bit of 2013 too.

Last year saw the Police in the news a lot for the wrong reasons. Firstly, they were implicated heavily in their relations with the press during the Leveson inquiry, and South Yorkshire police were found to have acted in a disgraceful way over the Hillsborough tragedy all those years ago. Justice for the 96 will be a big part of what 2012 is remembered for.

The end of the year had the Met caught up in a very odd and somewhat ham-fisted attempt to conspire against Andrew Mitchell over ‘plebgate’. That’s not to say that Mitchell was the entirely innocent victim in all that, despite what he’d like people to think. He still eventually had to admit to swearing at on-duty police officers after denying it for a fortnight! Reports of his resurrection may well be exaggerated.

Speaking of police reform, 2012 will also go down as the year nobody cared enough to go out and vote for the new Police and Crime Commissioners. Nobody’s quite sure yet whether people didn’t know about the vote or just didn’t care that much.

In London, other elections saw Boris again beat Ken Livingstone to the Mayoralty of London and continue his rather unashamed climbing toward the top of his party and number 10. I’m unconvinced he’ll ever get there and think his popularity will wane in 2013 and beyond, even in London. But it’s interesting to watch him and how David Cameron handles his challenge on his leadership. Or fails to…

As well as Boris Johnson did, then Nick Clegg did as poorly, crashing to all-time lows in the party polls. Clegg’s big moment in 2012 was when he tried to say sorry. Sorry for making a pledge, rather than sorry for breaking the pledge, but it was a start. I’m not sure the apology washed with anyone except the group of people who made it into a record. I believe it charted at 38. Clegg is likely to feel the heat from his party’s grassroots in the coming 12 months.

Cameron has already been feeling the heat in 2012 with the right-wing of his party piling pressure on the PM leading to the reshuffle of September with centrist Ken Clarke out and right-wingers such as Owen Patterson in. The PM span it that he had the party moving to the right. But that wasn’t through strength from Cameron. It’s more to do with him being bullied by his party. It’s fun to watch the Tories beat each other up before Labour even lift a finger.

As incumbents fell across Europe, Obama was reelected to the Presidency in the US. He fought Romney and won a decisive victory. A victory I felt was even more important than the one in 2008. And now the Republican Party are falling apart and taking their country over the fiscal cliff.  Now it looks as though the fiscal cliff will be avoided this time, but the Republican Party falling apart is definitely something which will feature as a big part of my review of 2013…

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