Well, 2012 is almost over and it seems as though the world didn’t end in some Mayan catastrophe. So let’s have a look back at some of the highlights of what was an action packed year in so many fields.
Why not start with sport? And what a sporting year 2012 was, with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, Andy Murray taking his first Grand Slam title, Spain adding another international football trophy and Europe producing an incredible comeback to pinch the Rider Cup. Then there was the London Olympics, with more success for Wiggins and Chris Hoye on the track, new heroes including Jess Ennis and Mo Farrar emerging and more brilliant performances from the incomparable Usain Bolt.
Chelsea won their first Champions League trophy, Manchester City took the EPL in injury time of the very last game and Celtic won another league as well as reaching the last 16 of the Champions League with a great campaign that included a win over Barcelona. What an achievement for Sky Sports’ manager of the year Neil Lennon.
It was quite a year for sports then. But it did have its darker side too. Lance Armstrong was stripped of many titles after a doping scandal, racism in football remained a massive issue in many countries and Rangers FC went bust owing millions. (It’s the season of goodwill, so after a lot of debate I decided to include this here rather than the highlights …)
In world politics, we saw uprisings in the Arab Spring, Palestine admitted to the UN, a new leader anointed in China, the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy and Obama beating Romney to the US Presidency. But the year ended with the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School that bought gun control back to the top of the American political agenda.
Here in the UK we saw the phone hacking scandal, which led to the exposure of police, political and press collusion. The Leverson Report eventually recommended a new system of press regulation, but it remains to be seen if this will be implemented in full. And more banking scandal news saw the exposure of rate fixing as well as many more large bonuses.
It was not a good year for the British state, with many controversies that were once dismissed as left wing conspiracy theories being exposed as reality. Security service involvement in the murder of Irish lawyer Pat Finucane was finally confirmed, as was the torture of prisoners in Iraq. And the Hillsborough families finally saw official recognition of police cover up and lies in the aftermath of 96 Liverpool fans’ deaths.
Allegations of police conspiracy during the miners’ strike also refuse to go away, with many bogus charges and unsafe convictions being challenged. The full story of police behaviour and army involvement during the strike has still to come out.
In UK politics it was the year of the double dip recession, more government cuts and a proposed benefits freeze. But there is no economic plan B and so austerity will continue. The budget was a complete mess, with pasties and caravans suddenly in the news as Chancellor George Osborne was forced into a series of u-turns as his plans unravelled. The tax cuts for the rich remain in place though. And Tory divisions on Europe and marriage equality continue to dog David Cameron.
The Tories under Cameron and Osborne have continued to lose support while Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems remain trapped in the coalition knowing than an election would lead to massive losses. Labour has a large poll lead, but has Ed Miliband really captured support, or is this simply a protest against an unpopular government? For me he has still to set out a real alternative to the current shambles – but he has time to do so.
In Scotland the big news was the announcement that agreement had been reached for Westminster to transfer the power to hold a single question independence referendum to the Scottish Parliament. But the vote won’t actually take place until 2014. Strangely, given that success, it was actually a pretty bad year for Alex Salmond, who was forced to apologise to Parliament over wrongly denying education spending cuts and caught out by giving a misleading impression over the lack of legal advice on the EU. New Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont caused controversy by beginning a debate on universal entitlements, but overall she has made a decent start in her new position.
There were other big news stories in 2012. It was a bad year for the BBC with details of the Jimmy Saville abuse scandal emerging, to be followed by criticism of the Corporation’s role in the whole affair. Meanwhile the discovery of the Higgs Boson pushed scientific understanding forward, while the Olympics as an event were a massive success, but only after security failings almost derailed things.
The weather was even more of a talking point than ever, with everything from early droughts to late floods recorded. Who can say that there is not something to climate change? And, amongst the showers, much of the summer was spent on a series of events to try to persuade us that being ruled by the same person for sixty years is a good thing.
Abu Qatada finally left the country while Andrew Mitchell left the government after the Plebgate scandal, which won’t go away. Louise Mench left the Commons while Nadine Dorris left for the jungle, although unfortunately this was only temporary.
Several famous names did leave on a more permanent basis. Celebrity deaths in 2012 included first man on the moon Neil Armstrong and veteran actor Jack Klugman. Singers Levon Helm, Davy Jones, Robin Gibb, Donna Summer and Etta James all took a final bow, as did musicians Jon Lord and Ravi Shankar. Jack Ashley, MP and tireless campaigner for the disabled and architect Oscar Niemeyer also died, as did other big names such as Larry Hagman, Vidal Sassoon and Gore Vidal.
So 2012 was quite a year – and I’m sure there were a few other stories that I missed out on. Whatever your particular highlight was I hope it has been a good one for you.