As another year of political turmoil comes to a close, the TalkPolitics team reflects on the standout events of 2018.
“Brexit has continued to overshadow British politics in 2018 and the government faces more opposition now than it had at the start of the year; a regression which will be haunting May. In a year where Russia has been accused of the Salisbury poisoning and the volatility of Trump’s economic and foreign policy has continued, our relationship with the EU needs strength and certainty. Our European partners have not been without problems of their own and the ‘yellow vests’ protests in France have grabbed the headlines, with similar movements gaining traction in other European countries. Italy and Hungary have continued down their far-right paths, with Spain, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Austria and Sweden all developing prolific far right movements. 2018 may be the year that Europe looks back on as the ‘beginning of the end’, or events may trigger the start of constructive reform to the way we ‘do’ politics. Either way, it’s been another big year in a volatile era for European politics.
Elsewhere, the power balance in Syria may have undergone a significant shift this year, with the US announcing its withdrawal of troops from the country. Initially, it would seem that this isolates US allies in the region and plays in to Iranian and Russian hands. Again, we may have to wait until 2019 to see the true effects of such a move. The Yemen conflict has also continued to rage on, with the UK still refusing to make a significant move to restrict the sale of arms to the Saudi aggressors. The role of the UK in such conflicts, and in other events on the world stage is changing, and our internal struggles have been conducted in full view of both our friends and adversaries. 2018 has been a year in which questions have been raised, and 2019 must be a year in which many of them are answered.”
Christy Williams, Campaign Agent
“For me, the stand out story in British politics this year has been the staying power of Theresa May. So far this year, she has faced complex negotiations with the EU, the resignations of multiple cabinet ministers and, most recently, a no confidence vote in her own party. Yet she remains in office, safe from her party for another year and unlikely to see her government toppled (for now) due to DUP support and divisions among the opposition parties. The survival of her and her government, while not always enthralling, is spectacular in how it has defied political norms, with the Conservatives retaining a modest lead in the polls, despite the besieged nature of her premiership and the unpopularity of many of her Brexit proposals.”
Matthew Waterfield, Campaign Agent
“A year of stalemate and attrition. We began 2018 wondering how long Theresa May could cling to power, who would replace her, and what our Brexit deal would look like once it was properly negotiated. With Theresa May having just warded off a leadership challenge, and no Brexit deal in sight that could possibly pass the Commons, the future looks blurrier than ever before.”
Sam Jacobsen, Senior Campaign Agent
“It really has been an interesting year for politics and the political landscape; I think it’s easy for us to point to Brexit as being the most memorable highlight of the year. We must, however, also note the other political strides with regards to global politics and international relations - such as the North Korean leader becoming the first to cross the Demilitarised Zone on April 27th, as well as the US-North Korean summit which signalled the beginnings of peaceful relations between the two nations. I also think that the relationship between corporations, data and politics has soured ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal – which subsequently led to the founder of social media giant Facebook testifying in front of the US Senate Committee. Continuing along the same lines, I think that the U.K government – and indeed other governments – are beginning to realise in 2018 that current laws must be reformed or newly created in order to keep up with the future threats to global security such as cyber-crime and as we’ve seen in recent days, drones – which led to the closure of a major port of entry in the UK. Lawmakers globally must keep up with the exploding pace of technology.
Finally, my thoughts on Brexit go something like this: not many people know what they are doing- the U.K and the E.U have been negotiating in bad faith. When you negotiate in bad faith then nobody gets what they want; negotiating in good faith and on reasonable terms is the way forward. There seems to be some resentment and bitterness from the EU which will inevitably lead to conflictual relations with the UK. On a positive note, I think 2018 has been fantastic in terms of political participation, with more and more people seeking to proactively learn more about how politics affects them and why political knowledge is so important in today’s political climate. Ultimately, I envisage that more and more people will look towards news outlets such as TalkPolitics to simplify the complex nature of politics, making it more accessible and digestible for a wider reaching audience – this should enable us to grow exponentially in the next couple of years.”
Samuel Rhydderch, Campaign Agent
“2018 has been characterised by inconsistency in the values of political tribes in order to protect their own. The Owen Jones’s of the world went up in arms to protect Katie Osamor over her son’s drug dealing conviction, when they almost certainly would have condemned the same behaviour from a Tory MP. Usually free-trading, swashbuckling Brexiteers have condemned free movement to keep in line with what they now see as their tribe – though to do so goes against their very ideology. Though it’s starting to change, hundreds of politicians have kept quiet over the UK’s trade links with Saudi Arabia but would angrily condemn the actions of the Crown Prince should he hail from Iran. Ultra-Remainers crow about re-running the vote in order to reflect the wishes of the next generation, but slam right-wingers such as Darren Grimes and Tom Harwood for their Brexit views on the premise that ‘they’re too young to understand!’
That’s my wish for 2019 in politics; think what you think, but based on the merits of the idea and the conviction that consistency in what you believe is important – not because some in your tribe think that you should think it, or because you’re ‘protecting your own.’ That’s my New Years Resolution, and why, reluctantly but based on a new push to be consistent in what I say and what I think, I’m coming out as a republican.”
Matt Gillow, Founder
“Alongside the absurd (Theresa May’s rendition of ‘Dancing Queen’ comes to mind), 2018 has been a year of stalemate and frustration, but also one of progress and revelation. Brexit aside, something which stood out for me was the results of the US midterms, namely the number of women and minorities who gained representation. There will be a record number of women sworn in to the 116th Congress on the 3rd January- including two Muslim-American and two Native American women. This, coupled with the extraordinary protest and conversation surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, signals a wave of resistance- which will not tolerate being ignored. Amongst this, the revelations concerning the level of data surveillance, and Vote Leave’s still murky links with Cambridge Analytica, have brought to light issues of free speech in the age of big data. The sort of political campaigning caught up in these inquiries moves beyond ‘post-truth’, to a point where voters can’t even be sure if they are voting of their own free will. Let us not forget the attacks on the media which have been voiced in various corners of the globe. Such salient issues, which speak to the core of our democracy, demand attention as we head into 2019. TalkPolitics looks forward to addressing these questions and many more in the year to come.”
Megan Field, Editor-in-Chief
Image: ilirjan rrumbullaku @flickr