2022 has been a dismal year. It began with Covid still around. It ended with the President of Ukraine visiting the United States with his country at war. Winston Churchill did the same in 1941 with the Nazis at the gates of Moscow, the capital of….Russia. The bitter irony is there for all to see.
The Ukraine war is frequently blamed by ministers in this country for being the main source of our woes. The truth is it has been the mismanagement of the country’s affairs over 12 years (and more in the case of social care) that has brought us here. But it is in 2022 that people’s faith in the Tories evaporated. Nothing seems to work. People’s living standards are going down. Inflation is roaring away. Immigration is out of control. The effects of Brexit are really being felt and sleaze has never been far away.
The turbulence of the year can be seen in the varying fortunes of the Prime Minister. Rishi Sunak began the year as the obvious successor to Johnson. Then his family was hit by the non-doms row, and it was speculated he would soon be off to make a pile in America, unsuited to the rough and tumble of British politics. Then Johnson was forced out, partly by Sunak’s resignation as Chancellor and he became the choice of Tory MPs to fill the post. Conservative members had other ideas and Rishi was on the backbenches. Finally, the wheel of fortune took another turn, and he was projected into Number 10 by Tory MPs desperate for the unedifying drama to end.
The events of the last few years could have been conjured up in an improbable drama, when one act closes the next begins. We leave the EU in 2020 just as Covid starts. As the pandemic dies down, Russia invades Ukraine. Two days after Liz Truss becomes Prime Minister, the Queen dies. A month later Truss is out.
This would have been a challenge for any government. As I have written before Johnson got two things right, vaccination and the immediate aid to Ukraine, but he was utterly unsuitable to manage the massive problems of social care, immigration, poverty and Levelling Up. They all require serious concentration. He was unable to provide it and his involvement in Partygate, Patersongate and Pinchergate debased our public standards.
The fact that his successor was even more incompetent is almost unbelievable. The only thing we can say about our shortest served Premier, was that she was right that things can’t go on like this. The country needs growth indeed but alongside it decent services, secure borders, and a new relationship with Europe.
In 2022, the Labour Party have ridden the wave of the government’s spectacular incompetence. It sometimes has given the impression that it thinks this is enough.
What would you do about the strikes, interviewers ask Sir Keir Starmer. Get round the table is the answer. They never press Labour on what the pay settlement figure should be between 4% and 19%. They would get an evasive answer.
It is possible that inflation will disappear in 2023 and the Tories will begin to recover. Then Labour will need a positive set of clear policies to win.
Happy Christmas and a better New Year.