Wednesday, 29 December 2010

That was the year that was

And so I've come to write my look back at 2010 – a sort of between Christmas-and-New Year special – in which I pick out the things that have made an impact on me this year from the political, to the personal, and the things that just didn't quite make sense. Or just or made me laugh.

As 2010 dawned I think I can safely say I was one of those people who would have put a bet on a hung parliament being the most likely outcome of the General Election. Six months on from that political soap opera in May I think the electorate probably think that overall, they made the right decision – namely, refusing to vote for any single party to have a whopping majority. Although the polls are looking positive for Ed Miliband's Labour with a backdrop of savage cuts to public services, most people aren't quite ready to trust them with government again just yet. They may even be prepared to give them a further drubbing with the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election early in 2011 – but for what it's worth, I don't think it matters. Labour's still my party and I want it to do well but Miliband is a wise man to play the long game, and not be forced into the sort of short-term tactics that damaged his predecessor.

Whereas, at the beginning of the year most people would have wagered on David Cameron becoming Prime Minister one way or another, I'm not sure many would have envisaged the stratospheric journey of Nick Clegg and his subsequent appointment as Deputy Prime Minister. It was hard to make sense of a new sort of Liberal Democrat party, half of them parachuted into ministerial positions by Cameron's 'open and generous' offer. In one bold move, Cameron enacted Blair's pre-1997 dream, except this time it was the Tories and not Labour who were joining forces with the third party in the 'national interest'. I'm still not sure whether LibDem ministers could quite believe their luck at being able to play with the big boys at last, but it's clear that there were many more of the so-called 'Orange Book' free market types able to work with some decidedly Thatcherite Tories in government. The Labour party has enough ideological baggage to permanently put them at odds with the Conservative view of the world – not so for the LibDems who didn't take too long to decide whether they wanted real power, and after all have happily worked with Tories in local government for years.

Despite the cosying up and the rose garden love-ins, we've already witnessed some of the bloodiest battles already and the next year could highlight more dividing lines in the Coalition.

The certainties of politics and I think, the nature of democracy have been called into question in other ways. We now have a spontaneous, radical student movement, united in opposition to tuition fees that has taken politics in protest to a new level. While it's fair to say that this movement haven't quite agreed what they're for – there may be a few disagreements down the line over the extent to which education should be funded by general taxation – there's a renewed engagement in ideas and the way in which debate is framed. Politicians themselves seem ever more terrified of the prospect of having to have a genuine conversation over these 'policy outcomes'. The only comparable 'movement' of any kind I can think of was the poll tax riots in 1990 – and possibly the anti-war movement, in which over a million people marched against an invasion of Iraq in 2003. The UK Uncut campaign will be interesting to watch too. I've already boycotted the January sales at Topman in solidarity.
Technology – and in particular the web - has been a bigger part of my life this year than ever before. The edge-of-your seat political blockbuster of 2010 has been accompanied by a revolution in the media. Although the 2010 General Election was by most accounts a TV election, the part played by social media can't be ignored. I followed every development of the election campaign – and plenty of other big news – through the all-knowing Twitter and Facebook and many other sites through my trusty laptop, not to mention the background distraction of rolling news. And when you're me, it really is a terrible distraction. I love 'microblogging' and the conversations of the Twitterati, but I must learn in 2011 to focus my creative efforts on more than 140 characters. But cats in wheelie bins, Chilean miners, rogue Geordie gunmen and bigoted Daily Mail columnists all make up the rich tapestry of life and I suppose the media would have even more space for DFS adverts if these things didn't make the news.
I got engaged in July. Andy caught me completely unawares, since I'd always assumed it had been my responsibility to pop the question. It all happened in a quite beautiful location on 2 July, in the garden of a pub overlooking the Millennium Dome – or the O2. There's nothing quite like that place to represent an exciting new beginning, marking the transition from my relationship with Andy over the last three years – to the beginning of the rest of our lives. It was lovely, and beautiful, and a bit soppy! Plans remain at what I call the 'storyboarding' stage but once I've got this MA out of the way I'll be in full wedding mode. 

Talking of the MA, I took a bold decision to apply for a Political Journalism course at City University in May, and subsequently got offered a place, accompanied by a generous bursary which was a much appreciated reward for my written efforts. It's going well so far, and I can't say I've ever been bored or unmotivated during the week-night lectures which have included some fantastic guest speakers. Over Christmas I became the proud owner of a new digital voice recorder (thanks, Dad!) which I think symbolises me becoming a 'proper' journalist at last – even if I'm not being paid for it just yet...

The next year presents just as many questions as the beginning of the last one, and I'm not going to make any more predictions here. Except to say that it won't be dull – and I hope that everyone who reads this blog will continue to read my occasionally thoughtful analysis of what's going on in the world.


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