Jim O’Neill returns to the fray with a look back on the lows of 2016 and a look forward to what we can expect from 2017.
2016 in political terms was a bit of a disaster for those of us with a left leaning disposition. First, we had Brexit, the fallout of which was the replacement of Cameron with the even more right win Theresa May, with a Cabinet which includes Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson, who continues to go off message and insult our allies.
Then we had the shock of Donald Trump winning the US Presidency despite Hillary Clinton getting more that 2 million more votes, thus confirming how broken American democracy is. His cabinet is filled with oligarchs, somewhat resembling Yeltsin’s Russian government, and we now know how that turned out, with the systematic privatisation of state assets.
In our own party, we had a wholly unnecessary leadership battle brought on by crazy behaviour by Labour backbenchers. What happened to our old habit of washing dirty linen indoors? And in Scotland, we had the loss of more Holyrood seats, which has not stopped Labour being the real opposition in the Scottish Parliament.
So, how have governments responded to this? In Israel, the right-wing Netanyahu government has decided to go ahead with settlements on occupied Palestinian land. This has brought a reaction even from the outgoing Obama administration who refused to block a critical UN resolution, and Secretary of State, John Kerry, calling the Netanyahu government the most right-wing Israeli government ever.
This itself brought a reaction predictably from the Israeli government, and somewhat less predictably from a spokesperson from No.10. This is a clear attempt by Theresa May to align herself with the incoming Trump administration, but throws aside the long-standing British stance on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. It endangers the two state solution and will undermine any Palestinian trust in the UK as an independent broker in the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
Meanwhile, Putin has played a very effective hand in, first, brokering a ceasefire in Syria, and then refusing to respond to the expulsion of 35 diplomats from the US and even inviting the children of the US diplomats to a New Year party in the Kremlin. This is a blatant grab for the moral high ground, knowing that in three weeks he will have a much more Kremlin friendly president in the White House. Watch out for the early reinstatement of the 35 diplomats.
Two polls in Scotland have shown the difference in the quality of polling methodology. An internet poll carried out over the holidays purports to show Labour’s vote falling to just 15%. However, we all know who are most active on the internet, while most normal people are actually enjoying the holidays. This has clearly influenced the numbers which make them very suspect.
Meanwhile more traditional methods have been used to produce a poll which shows that 61% of Scots oppose a second independence referendum in 2017, and that the figures in support of and against independence have changed very little since the referendum. Maybe these new figures will convince Nicola to refocus her work on running our country rather than making every speech about independence. There is clearly a lot of work to be done in sorting out the problems in our health service, our education system, our rail service and our housing. Somehow, I hae ma doots.
I will return to these subjects as a proper opposition commentator should but meanwhile, a guid New Year tae yin and all.