2016- The Year which changed everything

The last of the christmas presents has been opened, the turkey is now only fit for leftovers and everyone has fallen asleep.

As we approach the end of what has been a year of great change and turmoil, it’s customary to look back at the events which have shaped 2016.

10. The Year of the Reaper.

Carrie Fisher, George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Prince, Robert Vaughan, Anton Yelchin, Victoria Wood, Nancy Reagan, Doris Roberts, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Glenn, Fidel Castro to name but a few. It seems 2016 was the year that took so many famous and prominent individuals.

But as a wise Vulcan once said, how we deal with death is as important as how we deal with life, or what ever that means.  I choose to remember them for their unique contribution to shaping the modern world, however small or large.

9.  The Migrant Crisis Deepens

With the escalation in the Syrian Civil War and brush fire civil wars springing up all over Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring, Europe has never seemed a more attractive and safe place to live.

Massive numbers of migrants made the land crossing from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, with their destination Europe and safety, fleeing death and persecution by Islamic state and the Syrian Government.

They found countries unable or unwilling to cope with a massive influx of vulnerable individuals and families, as Europe seemed to collectively shut its doors. Lack of collective strategy and action at all levels of European government created conditions where the sheer numbers coming in had nowhere to go.

All the while ever increasing numbers made the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean, with just the clothes on their backs and on what could at best be described as boats and at worst rafts. Preyed upon by unscrupulous people smugglers, they all too often became casualties of the crossing and the Mediterranean became a sea of tragedy.

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8. Nice Terror Attacks

A man drives a lorry down a crowded beach front. It seems so simple, but it was a tragically effective means of striking terror into the heart of one of France’s top beach destinations.

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87 people lost their lives that night before the police stopped the lorry, which travelled all of 1.7km. The driver was later found to be a supporter of Islamic State.

France mourned, as did the rest of the world.

7. Brussels Terror Attacks

Belgium joined the long list of countries affected by the scourge of terrorism when three separate terrorist attacks rocked Brussels.

The attacks, which later proved to be a coordinated by the same terror cell which struck Paris in 2015 were the deadliest in Belgium’s history.

An airport and underground station were attacked, claiming 35 lives, including the three perpetrators and injuring up to 300 people.

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6. Coup D e’tat in Turkey.

With any sort of insurrection, it is important to achieve your aims as quickly as possible before your enemy has a chance to react and counter your moves.

The speed and organisation by which elements of the Turkish military attempted to seize the reins of government from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was remarkable and clearly showed months of prior planning and forethought.

But in their haste, they counted on one thing that all uprisings count on: popular support.

Support which just as quickly eluded them, as the presidents forces quickly regained control of Turkey and instituted a bloody campaign of reprisals against the plotters.

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In trying to put down a seemingly dictatorial regime, the coup’s plotters ultimately unleashed him on a country in which legitimate opposition is now a dangerous thing to be.

5. Russia takes a front seat in international politics.

Following its suspected involvement in the Ukrainian civil war in 2015, Russia has pursued a more active role in international politics with the eventual aim of recovering its former status as a superpower (lost since the fall of the Soviet Union).

Its support of the Syrian government both militarily and politically have proved decisive in allowing Bashar Al Assad’s forces to regain control of large parts of Syria. While Russian backing has prevented the western powers from acting decisively against Al Assad’s government, for fear of Russian reprisals.

Russian based computer hackers are widely suspected of attempting to hack the email accounts of prominent US politicians to try to influence the recent US election result and interfering in the European Union referendum here in the UK.

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It’s athletes have faced suspicion and scrutiny after allegations of state sponsored doping, prompting the withdrawal of many Russian athletes from their Olympic team in Rio.

While it may be just bluster and hot air, it is becoming more and more difficult for the nations of the world to ignore the spectre of the great bear and its ringmaster, Vladimir Putin.

 4. Theresa May becomes UK Prime Minister

The political turmoil that engulfed the UK after it voted to leave the European Union in the 23rd June Referendum, claimed its most high profile victim when Prime Minister David Cameron tendered his resignation.

Many prominent Conservatives circled the job, all making lofty claims that they could effectively lead the UK into the unknown territory that is Brexit.

The successful Brexiteers, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove turned upon each other in a display of backstabbing not seen since Brutus showed Julius Caesar the proper way to carve a steak. In the case of Michael Gove, this betrayal ended a stellar front bench career condemning him to the backbenches.

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Amidst the loud voices and press coverage, the campaign of Theresa May began. With her good record as a public servant in her time as Home secretary and her position as one of the most prominent remainers aside from messrs Cameron and Osbourne, the quiet and unassuming Ms May became the only realistic choice for the top job.

And so it proved, when her only remaining rival, the engaging but ultimately error prone Andrea Leadsom’s campaign succumbed to the fallout from explosive and costly gaffes.

In the six months since her ascension as Prime Minister, Ms May has led the Conservative party relatively safely through this time of transition and has benefited from a largely infighting Labour party to form a successful and well respected government.

3. Syrian Civil War

I know it may seem a little funny to call this one of the political events of 2016, given that it has been a conflict since 2011, but 2016 has seen some of the Syrian civil wars worst moments as the conflict intensifies.

The war, which seemed locked in a deadly stalemate, has been pushed decisively in the Syrian government’s favour by the support of the Russian federation.

Support on this scale has exacerbated the humanitarian disaster which has pushed hundreds of thousands of people into neighbouring Jordan, Turkey and on into Europe.

We’ve watched as the regime has exacted a deadly toll on its people, most notably in the city of Aleppo where thousands have died and the city itself has been essentially flattened by the conflict.

Defeated Rebel forces in Aleppo have been forced to flee and a seemingly endless tide of refugees have exited the besieged city.

The longer the war continues, the more lives will be lost and that remains the tragedy of the conflict. If 2017 is remembered as anything it should be the year when the Western powers take action to end the violence and bloodshed.

2. The EU referendum- Britain votes to leave

One story dominated the summer political scene in Britain, the European Union referendum. It was a watershed moment in both the politics of the UK and of Europe, still dominating the headlines even today.

From the moment Prime Minister Cameron returned from meeting with the other members of the EU with the compromise deal, a tide of feeling was unleashed upon the British people not seen since we first entered the union in 1973.

The Conservative party split into two factions: one pro leave headed in part by the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson and in the other camp, the remainers headed by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

The other parties in general chose to remain with the EU, which would cost them dearly when the result was revealed.

A polarising, punishing campaign followed which forced the British public to choose a side, making them fearful of the consequences of either choice.

Leavers were accused of racism, while remainers were accused of being EU cronies and all the while it was the truth which suffered. Vociferous debates pitted politician vs politician and supporter vs supporter, which indirectly resulted in an upsurge of violence and had tragic consequences in the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox.

No one, least of all the leavers could have predicted the result which was staggering to say the least. Britain voted to leave the European Union 51.9% to 48.1%. It was a result which cost David Cameron his job and completely changed UK politics forever.

  1. Donald Trump elected President of the United States of America.

It was a no brainer for Americans, choose a respected public servant from a recognised political dynasty in Hillary Clinton or choose a brash, inexperienced man of indeterminate political views in Donald Trump.

If you thought the EU referendum campaigning was an exercise in mud slinging then the US presidential campaign was a virtual mudslide of epic proportions.

Mr Trump showed very extreme political views, bordering on casual racism and a willingness to throw insults at his opponent. It seemed a strategy doomed to fail, but as the campaigning went on , Mrs Clinton found herself increasingly using similar tactics as she could not deal with the Trump political machine.

The extremist views of Donald Trump provoked a wave of protests across the USA, with violent clashes between Trump supporters and latterly racist violence on both sides.

In the final months of the election, events took a sinister turn when a video capturing off camera derogatory remarks made about women by Mr Trump was made public. It marked a very ugly period in which the election became about the person rather than the politics.

Hillary Clinton didnt get off entirely scot free as allegations of the leaking of state secrets in private emails exploded across the American media.

With both candidates seemingly not winning over the American people decisively, election night came with Clinton holding a slender lead over her New York rival.

Initial counts placed the candidates level on votes, but then Trump won the seemingly certain democratic seat of Ohio and an inexorable tide of wins followed to push Donald Trump over the required 270 seats for an unexpected victory and the Presidency.

With a certain amount of hesitation, we watched Trump give a speech which sounded notes of unity and talked about healing the wounds which the campaign had exacerbated. Mr Trump praised Mrs Clinton as an exceptional individual who fought a very hard campaign.

So, Donald Trump is President of the United States. What he does in that office will shape the destiny of the United States for good or ill. I’ll leave the final word to the President elect.

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