The past year allowed the UK and wider world an opportunity to build from the rubble of 2017 with a positive outlook. Sadly, the builders never reached British shores due to rejected visas.
It is easy to represent 2018 with a cynical and nihilist approach — so I will. Happy New Year everyone. Try not to trip over each other in the queue at confession.
Returning to the world of news and current affairs after Christmas was a remarkably difficult task. Three days of celebration with family managed to somehow block any thoughts about Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn, opting instead for tinsel and party games. Alas, Twitter in all its obese beauty provided a sufficient catalyst for inspiration. And as we approach New Year’s Eve, many people are pondering the mountains and canyons of 2018 with tinted glasses. But however one chooses to evaluate the meaty shitstack of 2018, the basic events remain the same – and the future will only respond.
Is it weird that whenever somebody says the word ‘breakfast’ out loud, I’m instantly triggered? On Christmas morning, I was asked what I wanted for breakfast, and I nearly propelled into a political soliloquy about the future of Brexit. Instead I chose boiled eggs, much more reasonable.
The ’B’ word has come to dominate our lives. In the latter six months of 2018, it seemed that Brexit was represented on news media every day with varying focuses and topics.
It’s certainly remarkable that at the beginning of the year, Britain was still represented by David Davis in the Brexit negotiations, and Boris Johnson still fumbling at the Foreign Office.
Ironically, both politicians have had more vibrant platforms since resigning in July, than when they were ministers.
David Davis used his resignation after Chequers to launch into a campaign of action against a deal he worked to produce. What a Conservative action, to self-immolate for the good of your misguided principles.
Boris Johnson too was a seriously hot target for comment. His weekly Telegraph column netting him a very tasty wage, whilst in parallel working to bring down his own party leader.
July was the month that changed the Brexit direction as we knew it. It took months for Theresa May to gather her Cabinet and establish an ‘agreed’ Brexit policy.
I vividly remember the look of relief on the Prime Minister’s face as she announced her Cabinet had agreed a position. Unfortunately, the expression was wiped off like tomato ketchup on a kitchen counter when the string of resignations began.
The Chequers Agreement was originally intended as a ‘soft’ Brexit, once again moving the goalposts of what soft Brexit meant. Back in mid-June, a soft Brexit was denied by the House of Commons, after they rejected a Lords amendment on remaining in the single market. And while 100 Labour MPs rebelled against Comrade Premier Jeremy, he whipped for an abstention. With that, a true soft Brexit was officially dead.
Brexit has always been a political policy designed by conservative actors. But it’s chilling to note how the Labour Party and left-wing forces have rallied to support it. The ‘Lexit’ lobby is now, at the summit of 2018, a firm voice in the threads and comments of social media.
Jeremy Corbyn’s official Brexit policy is almost identical to the Government’s, save for a woolly notion about a customs union (but not the customs union).
The Tories have cobbled together their policy to include every possible disgrace to British industry, rights and protections received from the EU. Corbyn’s pledges are made of IKEA furniture and therefore likely to topple if ever they were put to practice.
But it’s not all hysterically depressing. The People’s Vote campaign has blossomed from a dark horse to a firm favourite in the Brexit stakes. Thanks to a mixture of intense grassroots support, online publicity, and the actions of sympathetic MPs, the movement is now performing as a resisting voice against both Tory and Labour Brexits.
My personal hero from this movement is the MP and former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. The soft spoken and mild-mannered MP emerged in December of 2017 as a potentially significant voice for the pro-EU Conservative lobby. Thanks to parliamentary proposals and amendments, Grieve worked alongside other MPs to secure the sovereign right for Parliament to approve/disapprove any final Brexit legislation. He and other backbench Conservatives such as Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, and Sarah Wollaston, have performed as a remarkably strong contingent of a political party whipped to its own destruction.
Speaking of self-destruction, it’s hard to ignore the Labour Party’s critically disappointing methods and image over the past year. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour infrastructure have been crippled by a variety of ailments, Brexit only forming one such criticism.
A notable offence is the anti-Semitism scandal that continues to pervade the Labour movement. For a political party that has built its modern image on equality and diversity, a wizened prejudice came to disappoint and shock. The scandal has typified what 2018 has come to represent for Labour – disappointment and alienation.
The paramilitary forces of social media armed themselves more heavily in 2018, and the New Year will be the reckoning hour for Jeremy Corbyn and his well-meaning but frustrating ideology.
Our Government treated 2018 like the stereotypical image of its core membership: elderly, slow to react, and bursting to the brim with fudge. In the year where the game Fortnite became a media sensation, the more realistic Battle Royale was in the voting lobbies of Westminster. The Conservatives have never truly been a united party; Brexit has only exacerbated a shrapnel wound from a previous conflict. Sadly, this wound is infected and has spread across the entire body politic.
The party has its prominent voices, its ideologues and martyrs. The ERG has developed from an influential group into a Leninist cult, battling against brothers to crown themselves kings. The next few months will be just as chaotic for the Conservatives, and the jury is out so far that they’ve sprinted to the local Wetherspoons for some tariff-free tonic water.
In the year of yellow-jackets, upskirting, Windrush, and Arron Banks: the overture to 2019 is sure to be discordant. Think Arnold Schoenberg but played solely by a twelve-year-old on a plastic recorder. When I started writing, I never thought such an orgy of cynicism could ever be developed into a voice.
I read a Twitter poll on Boxing Day asking which the worse year was: 2016, 2017, or 2018. After some protests, the user added ‘all of the above’ as a final choice. It won by a landslide, which doesn’t happen very often these days.
My hope for 2019 is an end to the Brexit process, and the beginning of a reconstruction period to heal the divisions and infrastructure that has fostered such an unstable society. How that will be accomplished remains to be seen.
But don’t bet on sitting still just yet, we’re still on that road to nowhere – and we’re running out of petrol.🔷
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(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com)