2016: what a year that was. When I last posted on this blog, David Cameron was sitting pretty as UK Prime Minister, having pulled off one of the biggest electoral surprises of modern times the previous year. Hillary Clinton was going to coast to victory in the US Presidential Election following the self-destructive spasm the Republican Party had suffered by selecting loudmouth businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump – Donald Trump!! – as its nominee. Oh and Europe was an issue obsessed over only by the likes of Nigel Farage and the lunatic fringe of the right wing of the Conservative Party. Whilst the “Vote Blue, Go Green, Greenest Government Ever” schtick had long since been ditched along with other “green crap”, there was a feeling of cautious optimism that a global consensus was building around the importance of taking urgent action on the climate, which was further strengthened with the signing of the Paris climate deal.
12 months later and we are hurtling towards a Brexit that nobody voted for (the referendum question having been framed in terms of “In or Out”, not “Hard of Soft”) with all the leading figures of the Leave campaign having conspired via a bizarre political suicide pact to leave Theresa May, who was almost totally invisible during the referendum campaign but was generally reckoned to be a moderate Remainer, driving the country towards the cliff-edge of the hardest of hard Brexits.
If the environment has been overlooked in all the hysteria regarding immigration and debates about what scraps in the way of trade deals the UK can scrape together having voluntarily left the world’s largest single market, on the other side of the Atlantic the new occupant of the White House is busily burning the books of climate orthodoxy and promising renewed investment in the type of carbon-intensive industries the rest of the developed world has been busy divesting itself of.
This rise of the right seems to be accompanied by a hardening of public attitudes towards minority groups and a general lack of acceptance and tolerance of others generally. We even seen this in our visitors at Bradgate – a greater selfishness and reduced willingness to compromise in the case of disputes or disagreements with other people.
If 2016 has been a year of seismic upheaval, what is 2017 going to bring?