A depressing year

This week Jim looks back on 2021 a rollercoaster year for business and the Prime Minister, whilst abroad there were worrying signs of future conflict.

Jim Hancock

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I’ll be glad to see the back of 2021, not that I have great hopes that much will change in the new year.

The year ended with the Omicron virus taking business and people for a third time into some form of lockdown and a Prime Minister with an increasingly tenuous hold on power.

The year began with a man wearing a horned helmet invading the American Congress building to keep The Donald in power, and it went downhill from there really.

The pandemic has continued to dominate all our lives. After a hard winter, we hoped the spectacular vaccination programme would ensure a return to something like normal life. Instead at the turn of the year, it feels we may be heading back to square one. The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown is right when he says that nobody is safe until everybody in the world is safe. I do not understand why the international effort to vaccinate has been so poor.

Politically it has been a year of shame and stagnation in this country. The government has been constantly assailed by allegations of sleaze whilst the opposition has hardly laid a glove on them. The behaviour of the Prime Minister is partly conditioned by seeing no threat from Labour and endless years in power.

The bright spot in a dark foreign landscape has been Joe Biden’s first year in office. He may be succumbing to his years, but he is a welcome change after the Trump mayhem. He has initiated an infrastructure programme to rival FDR’s New Deal in the thirties. It is likely to be his biggest achievement as the Republicans are likely to make gains in the mid term elections and create stalemate in Congress.

Elsewhere it was mostly bad news with the Taliban back in charge in Afghanistan and China and Russia flexing their muscles in dangerous ways. The Merkel years in Germany came to an end and although the new German Chancellor has had to build a complex coalition, stability is expected to remain the order of the day.

The UK economy bounced back after the worst of the pandemic had passed but that has created its own problems with labour shortages, supply train issues and warnings about inflation. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is determined not to be saddled with a reputation as a high spending, big state Tory. He is already flagging up that he wants to cut taxes before the 2024 election. He may be in Number 10 by then as well.

The year began with the final moves to sever our links with the EU in respect of the single market and customs union. The pandemic has masked the damage Brexit has done to Britain but the dispute over Northern Ireland tariffs shows that Brexit is far from done.

The North West’s year is best told through the fortunes of various women. Our two big cities have new leaders. Bev Craig took over after decades of Sir Richard Leese leading Manchester. Meanwhile Joanne Anderson’s arrival as elected mayor of Liverpool followed a controversial selection process as the city’s Labour Party was subject to severe criticism in two reports. At least Louise Ellman felt able to rejoin the party she left over anti semitism.

Phillippa Williamson heads up the Conservatives in Lancashire after local elections failed to deliver much midterm cheer for Labour. The worry for Boris Johnson at the moment is coming from the Red Wall seats he won where Tories are unhappy with the non-delivery of levelling up

The big issues of climate change and social care remain unsolved. Like I said, a depressing year.

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