I’ve rarely been so pessimistic about the future as the year turns, so let’s start this review on an upbeat note with my suggestions on who are the winners.
Let’s start with King Charles. Crowned this year I think we can see how he intends to reign. He had a difficult task following the long and distinguished reign of his mother. There was a feeling that getting a top job at any age when most people have retired, would mean Charles would be an unremarkable interlude until William the Fourth. In fact, he and Queen Camilla have gone about their duties with calm and dignity, despite the noises off from California.
It has been a difficult year for the right in British politics with few winners. David Cameron left behind semi-retirement and some dodgy lobbying for the Foreign Office. Andy Street has proved a doughty fighter on behalf of the West Midlands and HS2 whilst wearing his Conservative colours lightly. We could have no clearer illustration of the debasement of our public life than the appearance of Nigel Farage on “I’m A Celebrity” sparking speculation that he could join the Tories and even become Prime Minister. Both are very unlikely, but the man who initiated the ruinous Brexit process has had a good year.
On the left, two Labour women have done well. The Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has prepared herself for a central role in government, by firmly holding the line on uncosted promises. The fact that in a little over twelve months she could be wildly unpopular for not giving in to demands for increased spending, we can leave till next year’s review. The party’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner, seems to have agreed to be a loyal deputy to Starmer having shaken off her Corbynite friends. She comes over as authentic with shrewd political skills. The big winner has been Wes Streeting. The Shadow Health Secretary is good on telly and brave in telling the sacred NHS it has got to reform.
Turning for a moment from individuals, people traffickers have had a good year, running rings around governments to ply their evil trade and as we turn to losers in 2023, uppermost in our minds must be the people of Israel, Palestine, and Ukraine. No longer do we need to look at grainy footage from the world wars to see the bestial worst and brave resistance of humanity.
It has also been a bad year for people travelling on trains, trying to get a GP appointment, finding a bank branch, or contacting the Inland Revenue.
It has been a disappointing year for Emma Raducanu. One fears that her injuries and inability to keep a coach may mean that her one US Open win, may be her last.
I thought Boris Johnson actually did reasonably well at the Covid inquiry, but his star is gently fading as some Tories turn to an even more absurd suggestion for leader (see above).
On the subject of future Conservative leaders, Suella Braverman’s name is often touted, but I think she has had a bad year. The manner by which she left office suggests she does not have the team player characteristics needed of a leader.
I was sad to see Wigan’s Lisa Nandy lose her Shadow Local Government role. She is modest with quiet authority and that may have done for her. But worry not, Lisa, its never over till its over. Just ask Cameron.
I have not mentioned the Prime Minister or Sir Kier. That is because they are in my neutral category because of a patchy year. Rishi Sunak has brought dignity to his office, but he is beginning to show he lacks political skill as his party falls apart over the wildly ambitious pledge to stop the boats.
Sir Keir is sitting on a healthy poll lead have made Labour electable. But this business of promising nothing but a hairshirt could mean this is the best of his poll lead with the Tories reeling him in to some extent next year. And Keir, don’t mention Margaret Thatcher again.
Have as good a Christmas as the times permits and I’ll be back on Jan 11th.