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Archive for December, 2014

2014 And All That

The year 2014 will surely be remembered for the publication of my first novel, Calling Cards. Well, by me anyway. But for everyone else there have been an awful lot of other significant events over the past twelve months.

And it has often been the horror stories that have dominated the news this year, from floods and other weather related disasters to missing planes and ongoing wars in various parts of the globe. 2014 has also seen the Ebola outbreak, slaughter in Palestine and school shootings leaving hundreds of children dead, as well as ongoing wars in many countries. The year ended in tragedy much closer to home with six people killed in the centre of Glasgow as a bin lorry caused carnage.

Sports have provided many of the happier moments – well unless you are Brazilian of course. World Cup winners Germany’s stunning 7-1 destruction of the hosts in the semi final will live long in the memory. Glasgow hosted a fine Commonwealth Games while golf’s Rider Cup was also held in Scotland. I’m sure the Americans will have enjoyed the trip, if not the final score.

Money means success in many sports, and football leads the way. The top Spanish sides continued to flash the cash, while Manchester United joined in by breaking the British transfer record, paying £59.7m for Angel di María. The Red Devils also added loan Columbian Radamel Falcao on a reported £265,000 per week. That’s around 500 times the average weekly wage. Obscene is the only word to describe it.

Mind you, farce of the year probably came in motor racing, when billionaire Bernie Ecclestone found that the best way out of a bribery charge was to offer the court a large one off payment – and all the charges disappeared. All perfectly legal of course. But FIFA might just put in a claim too: the decision to play the 2022 World Cup in Qatar remains under investigation, with all sorts of allegations being made.

Scottish football had its moments too in 2014. In the top division, Celtic ran away to another league title, the last of Neil Lennon’s reign. After four years he moved south to Bolton, where he will have only football to worry about, rather than all of the trials and tribulations that sections of Scottish society threw at him. The cups went to Aberdeen and St Johnstone, giving many long suffering fans a taste of glory. Hearts’ administration and relegation was inevitable it seemed, but Hibernian’s slide to the second tier was more unexpected.

And the Ibrox soap opera continued to entertain, with tax cheat Dave King initially hailed as the latest saviour of Scotland’s newest club. Or was it to be the Easdales? Or maybe Mike Ashley? To the apparent surprise of many this genuine billionaire seemed intent on taking as much money out of the three year old club as possible. What a shock! Still, there are new saviours aplenty waiting in the wings, as the Three Bears join the pantomime. Oh yes they do. And the former quiz show captain’s time finally ran out, as the world renowned Petrofac Cup proved beyond his oh so limited abilities. So not so super Ally McCoist left to spend more time in his garden – although the man who loves the new club so much continues to take his large salary for doing nothing.

The biggest UK political story of the year was the conclusion of the lengthy Scottish independence referendum campaign. The contest became closer than many people expected, but in the end Better Together did just enough and the final 55.3% to 44.7% victory for the No side was decisive. The turnout of 84.6% was the highest in many years, surely a good sign whatever side of the argument you were on.

In the end many previously undecided Scots simply saw independence as too big a risk. The unanswered questions on currency and economic issues were too big, the Yes side’s unsubstantiated assertions of prosperity to come and dismissal of any questioning as scaremongering were unconvincing. And the recent collapse of world oil prices showed that Better Together’s critique had substance – an economy that relies heavily on one product is always susceptible to market fluctuation.

Alec Salmond responded to the defeat by resigning as First Minister, to be replaced by his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon. While Salmond planned his return to UK politics via the Gordon parliamentary seat, Sturgeon reshuffled her cabinet, with several long serving ministers reaching the end of the road. Labour also lost its Scottish leader, with Johann Lamont being replaced by Jim Murphy, who will now look to move from Westminster to Holyrood.

In the year before a UK General Election the major parties struggled to convince the electorate that any of them are worthy of support. David Cameron and the Tories continued to cut and cut, supported by the Lib Dems. Clegg and co tried to move away from their coalition partners, but it is hard to be part of a government for four years plus and then claim no responsibility for its actions. Labour continue to look for a convincing line of attack, while media attention concentrates on Ed Milliband/s supposed weaknesses. But are we really that interested in how a politician eats a bacon sandwich?

Nigel Farage and UKIP made gains in the European elections and also secured a couple of by election victories in the south after two Tory MPs defected. But the price of their success is greater media attention on both the incoherence of their policies and of the assortment of political oddballs behind the bafflingly popular Farage. Perhaps the shine has gone off UKIP a little, but the party remain a headache for those seeking to form a majority government.

In the US, the Republicans made mid term gains while attention is already shifting to the 2016 Presidential election. Hillary Clinton is favourite for the Democratic nomination, seeking to become the first female President, while the Republican field is a lot more open. And the year ended with civil rights back at the top of the political agenda, as the deaths of several black men at the hands of while police caused major controversies.

As ever, the year saw some big names take their leave. Veteran politician Tony Benn was a great loss. Musicians Pete Seeger, Joe Cocker and Jack Bruce all exited stage left, while two great footballing names, Eusebio and Alfredo Di Stefano, also perished. Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes died two days after being struck on the head by a bouncer at the Sydney Cricket Ground aged just 25.

Other celebrity deaths in 2014 included comedians Robin Williams and Joan Rivers, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and writers Maya Anjelou, PD James and Jeremy Lloyd. So much talent …

The fall out from revelations about Jimmy Saville’s despicable history of abuse continued to grow. As more and more details came out many other former personalities found past misdeeds catching up with them. Rolf Harris and Dave Lee Travis were among those to find themselves jailed, and there may be more to come. And evidence of an abuse ring involving senior politicians continued to bubble under the surface, with suspicious of a cover up still growing.

So that was 2014. The year of a referendum and a World Cup. Of selfies and ice buckets. I’m sure there were many other public or personal highlights for many people too. But for now let’s say goodbye to 2014 and bring on the new year. I wonder what 2015 will bring us?

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