TalkPolitics' Thoughts on 2017

It what has been a tumultuous political year, the TalkPolitics team give their thoughts on 2017, and outline their hopes for 2018. 

"This year has been another fascinating year in politics, with a series of contentious elections across Europe, and the international stage dominated by the inconsistency of the United States. In the United Kingdom, we voted in our third major ballot in three years, in which we saw the government score a massive own goal at a time when international prestige and power has been brought into question with the ongoing Brexit negotiations. Indeed, we have only just moved on to the more challenging phase two of negotiations, a full 18 months after we voted to leave last year and 9 months since we triggered the formal process of leaving. 

Across the channel we’ve seen a revealing East-West split in the European Union, with an enthusiastic French President and a cool-headed German Chancellor taking their bloc in a direction that many in Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries are rejecting. Whilst stability inside the organisation remains, external challenges exist in the form of Russian separatists in Ukraine, migrants arriving on Italian shores from Libya, and a transatlantic partner that is currently reviewing its hitherto strong relationship with its European allies. A resurgence in far-right parties across Europe on a scale not seen since in the post-war era has also brought a new series of dilemmas for most of the people of Europe and their Europhile politicians.

In all honesty, 2018 does not bring me much hope, and I fear that whilst the British government will pull through and negotiate a successful deal with the European Union, the international scene looks a lot bleaker. The mid-term elections in the United States will most likely result in a resounding defeat to Donald Trump’s Republicans as Europe attempts to posture itself as a unified world power - all this, in the face of a resurgent Russia, a rapidly growing China, and a world climate that is deteriorating by the day."

Will Fawcett, Senior Campaign Agent

"In Germany and Austria, 2017 was the year that the too-right-wing-for-comfort celebrated electoral gains, following a surge in anti-immigration feeling in 2016. Immigrants and refugees were some of the most talked-about people in those election campaigns, despite largely not being able to take part in the debate about themselves, or vote. But refugees are becoming active in mainstream German media and on YouTube to raise their own voices and say some really interesting things. To protect democracy and pluralism in 2018, we will need to listen to people that nationalism has decided it doesn’t like, or has decided to ignore."

Charlotte Spencer-Smith, Campaign Agent

"Many believed politics could not become any more unpredictable after 2016, which shocked the world as Donald Trump became the President Elect of the United States of America, Britain voted to leave the European Union, and Turkey experienced a failed coup.

But 2017 proved this wrong. Actions presumed unimaginable a few years ago became the new political norm, as the actions enacted by states continued to shock the world throughout the last 12 months. 

For instance, Trump’s activities on Twitter continued to jolt the fundamental diplomatic foundations of International Relations, most alarmingly, the President nearly escalated affairs with the Rogue State North Korea into nuclear war. The continuously controversial foreign policies of the US resulted in the global population waiting with bated breath over the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Other political shocks continued to occur worldwide; Jeremy Corbyn defeated all odds and opinion polls in the UK, causing a hung parliament during the snap-election held in June, Mugabe’s 37 year long reign came to an end last November, and Catalonia’s independence hopes resulted in the region’s government and autonomy being suspended by Spanish officials. 

So, heading into 2018 may feel more like an ever-continuing rollercoaster of highs and lows, the hope sparked by the election of Doug Jones to the US senate, symbolising a rejecting the hateful rhetoric of Republican Candidate Roy Moore, suggests the roller coaster has many surprises yet, some of them hopeful. My seatbelt is bucked in anticipation of the US House of Representatives and Senate elections, continued negotiations to settle the Brexit deal, and the Russian election occurring in March - all of which hold the potential to shock and shape the International Relations already impacted this year."

Marykate Monaghan, Campaign Agent

"Perhaps one of the most positive political stories to happen over the course of 2017 has been the spike in youth involvement in politics, which helped cause a dramatic rise in popularity and votes for Jeremy Corbyn in June. So much so, the Oxford Dictionary word of the year is ‘youthquake’ which has been recognised, at least in the UK, as meaning ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.  The word ‘Youthquake’ points to the hopes for the future that young people hold, but perhaps could similarly be seen to remind us that it was young people that were initially shocked into political action following the Brexit referendum. With this linguistic recognition of the fact that youth interest and influence in politics is a significant and growing factor in British politics, we are not the only ones to have picked up on its usage. The youth vote which saw massive gains for the Labour party and a surge in popularity for Jeremy Corbyn was mirrored by the considerable interest taken by young voters in New Zealand’s September general election.  It seems then that this phenomenon is an ongoing and ascendant movement that is more than just a drop in the political ocean.  So as a ‘youthquake’ shocked the nation’s political scene in 2017 there is likely to be a long lasting aftershock that could well be utilised the next time the country heads to the polls, whenever that may be."

Luke Jeffery, Campaign Agent

"Although this year is ending as it began - dominated by Brexit - it is the general election that really stands out for me. Certainly the worst Conservative election campaign in living memory, it's astonishing that we're finishing the year with Theresa May still Prime Minister, especially as (after the exit poll was released) many believed she wouldn't make it past 9 June. My hope is that next year the government will regain a sense of purpose, other than simply delivering Brexit, because right now the governing party is stuck in an ideological rut, drifting onwards with no sense of direction."

Matthew Waterfield, Campaign Agent  

"This has been a year of political noise, a lot of it disturbing.  Brexit has been bumpy, Trump’s antics even more so, it is fair to say we have entered a multipolar world.  Russia has continued to ruffle the feathers of other states as it asserts itself.  Tensions between power blocs in the Middle East have become more strained, and North Korea has certainly become more than a thorn in the side of the international community.  Instability has grown with the humanitarian crisis in North-East Nigeria, Yemen, Syria and Myanmar, to name a few, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) looking set to join the list soon.

Yet, let us not forget some of the positive things.  Despite huge concerns, diplomacy has not been cast out yet in the North Korean crisis, the economies in Europe have shown signs of buoyancy, and the US continues to grow, social change has been stirred by the #metoo movement, and stability has advanced to a degree in Iraq and to a lesser degree in Syria.

More importantly, amongst the cacophony we must not forget the trends that shadow the world unanswered.  Populism has barely been held at bay in many parts of the world, particularly Europe, as restrictionist and isolationist politics continue to rise.  The subtle, destabilising effects of Climate Change have continued without substantiated engagement.  Alongside cries of ‘Fake News’, and claims of transnational interference, through social media, in other nations political affairs, the erosion of confidence and credibility in news sources has deepened.  Questions over the effectiveness of supranational bodies, such as the UN, are more pressing as the international community fail to coordinate effective impact on crisis such as the Rohingya in Myanmar, Yemen, Sudan, and the DRC.  The development of significant schisms between the US and other developed nations in the UN, most recently manifesting over the issue of Jerusalem, is a cause for further worry.  

The accelerating growth of new technology and international tech giants is causing social kickbacks, epitomized by the debates over Uber, other impending change, such as autonomy, has significant potential to further divide opinion.  Looking forward into 2018, these developments among others should be at the forefront of the minds of those who seek to understand the shifts in our world."

Ben Abbs, Campaign Agent

"2017 has been a volatile year to say the least, with most arguing it to be a year saturated with bad decisions. Despite Brexit, Trump, and North Korea there are silver linings we shouldn’t overlook - Mugabe’s peaceful revolution, the destruction of ISIS, and the uprising of women who have been harassed and assaulted in the workplace. 2018 has a lot in store for us all, let’s look forward to the changes that will come."

Johnny Wordsworth, Campaign Agent

"2017 was the year politics became the plaything of nostalgia. From Boris Johnson reciting colonial-era poems on a ministerial visit to Myanmar, to Theresa May bombastically celebrating the return of Britain’s “iconic blue passport”, pining for times long since gone is now a defining feature of political rhetoric. The US wasn’t immune either: 2017 began with Donald Trump using his presidential inauguration speech to tell citizens he would make America “strong again... wealthy again... proud again... safe again... great again”, and ended 12 months later with the Alabama Senate favourite, Roy Moore, describing the era of slavery as the last “great” time in US history.

Analysing, learning from and building on the past should not be shunned; history, after all, is perhaps our most fruitful resource. Yet submitting to the emotional power of nostalgia can blind us to historical realities and distort political decisions. Let’s hope 2018 will place progress, rather than regress, at the forefront of the global agenda."

Nick Jones, Campaign Agent

"In 2017 we witnessed the fallout of the political developments that shocked the world in 2016. Some of that fallout has been frustrating, saddening, and life-changing for many. However, some has been inspiring, empowering, and impactful. What stands out for me was the #metoo movement, which gave voice to women facing sexual harassment. In the context of an alleged sexual predator being elected to the White House, the outcry of women across the world, of all ages and cultures, at the heart of the #metoo movement, reminded me that I was not alone, and that experiences of harassment should not be tolerated, but challenged. Most importantly, it has gone great lengths to transforming attitudes and promoting understanding. Whilst there is still much work to be done, for 2018 I hope that others who have suffered in silence will be given a similar opportunity to be heard, empowered, and inspired to take action."  

Guinevere Poncia, Editor-In-Chief

"Elections across Europe made 2017 just as nail-biting and fascinating as 2016. Here in the UK, we witnessed Theresa May give away her majority ahead of Brexit negotiations in a surprising snap election. Meanwhile, US foreign and domestic policy has been fascinating and often frustrating. Russia continued its abrasive actions towards the West, and showed little sign of stopping anytime soon. 2018 will be an exciting year in politics, and we at TalkPolitics look forward to following it critically. Judging by the leaps forward we made as an organisation in 2017, I know I speak for everyone at TalkPolitics when I say we’re all eager to continue our hard work to make democracy more accessible next year."

Carl Sacklen, Co-founder

"Despite the tumult of 2017, I'm ending it with some hope. With Brexit talks finally progressing, fingers crossed we'll have something else to discuss in 2018! 2017, despite a shocking election, will always be characterised for me by how far TalkPolitics has come - and indeed, political education and participation. Young people turned out in overwhelming numbers, and we're seeing political activism unparalleled in recent memory. Here's to 2018."

Matt Gillow, Co-Founder and Managing Director

The TalkPolitics blog will be back with more content in January 2018. 

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