It feels every year, at roughly the same time – usually last minute – I try to come up with 10 big stories from the previous 12 months and I am overwhelmed with how much happened. All 10 spots this year could be consumed purely by Brexit news, or Trump tweets. Instead, I have tried to offer some variety and include at least a couple of upbeat, positive news stories in an otherwise mostly dour year of uncertainty.
Happy new year.
People around the world demand climate action
Inspired by the actions of 2019 Time Person of the Year Greta Thunberg, people all across the world have picked up the torch and gone out onto the streets to demand that governments take immediate action to stem the climate crisis.
First it started with an estimated 15,000 students walking out of school to protest. Then the Global Climate Strike took place in September, with action witnessed in an estimated 185 countries, and was the largest climate mobilisation in history. Further movements were made throughout the year by Extinction Rebellion, a non-centralised group who use non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction.
With leaders of Western countries such as America opting out of the Paris Agreement and rolling back environmental protections, it will be increasingly important that every single one of us do everything we can to minimise our impact on the environment.
Loot boxes deemed to be gambling
2018 was the year of the loot box, but as with most things technology it took a while for governments around the world to really perk up and take note. In 2019 the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport started an investigation into the video game industry’s use of the loot box and in-app purchases, with public hearings that resulted in the pathetic but hilarious soundbite from EA trying to get loot boxes rebranded as ‘surprise mechanics’.
In its final report, the DCMS recommended that the government take steps to prevent the sale of games that contain loot boxes to minors, and work with PEGI to make sure games with loot boxes are labeled as having gambling mechanics. It further suggested that the government regulate games that include loot boxes under the Gambling Act 2005, which would restrict their sales.
Turner Prize awarded to a collective of artists
The Turner Prize has frequently made waves in the art world for its choice of winner, and 2019 it delivered another first. The prize was awarded to all four shortlisted artists after they came together to ask the jury to consider awarding it to them as a collective. The four artists released a statement explaining their decision:
‘At this time of political crisis in Britain and much of the world, when there is already so much that divides and isolates people and communities, we feel strongly motivated to use the occasion of the Prize to make a collective statement in the name of commonality, multiplicity and solidarity – in art as in society.’
In another first, the host for this year’s Turner Prize is the first outside of London to have a direct connection with Turner. Hosted at the Turner Contemporary, the gallery stands on the grounds of Turner’s lodgings in Kent.
Read more: Voice
Simon Armitage named UK’s new poet laureate
Simon Armitage took over from Carol Ann Duffy to become the UK’s 21st poet laureate. An ex-Probation Officer – now Professor of Poetry at Leeds University – Armitage received a CBE for his services to poetry in 2010 and has published 28 collections.
The West Yorkshire poet, who describes his writing as “no-brow”, says he wants to use the honorary role to ensure poetry embraces global issues and a diverse range of voices, adding in an interview for the BBC that, “although the monarch is my line manager, for want of a better word, there are no expectations or obligations in that direction.
For his services, Armitage will receive an annual stipend of £5,750, along with a traditional butt of sack (600 or so bottles of sherry).
Read more: Voice
England comes fourth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup
After the FIFA World Cup last year saw the meteoric rise, and rather sudden collapse of the England men’s team, all eyes were on the female team this year to see if they could go all the way to World Cup glory. Hosted in France, the team won every single match of the qualifiers, and hopes were high for their semi-final match against the USA. Unfortunately, due to an off-side and a missed penalty, the Lionesses were piped to the post 2-1. They then were outperformed by Sweden in the match for third place, again finishing 2-1.
Although the team finished fourth – the same as the male England team did in Russia – the support generated around the country, and the rising interest in female football more generally, hopefully indicates a change in attitude towards female sports, and I hope the Lioness’s performance goes on to inspire a whole new generation of female athletes.
Jeffery Epstein scandal drags the Royal’s into disrepute
American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein exploded back into the news this year when he was re-arrested for the sex trafficking of minors. On 10 August he was found dead in his cell, and an autopsy found multiple broken bones in his neck. All criminal proceedings were dropped as a result of his death.
Prince Andrew, who has long been friends with Epstein, was brought into the news cycle following Epstein’s death and the release of court documents suggesting he was present at one of his parties. In November he went on Newsnight to discuss his friendship with Epstein, and denied ever meeting Virginia Roberts, who has accused him of having sex with her while she was a minor. At the time of the party where the event was alleged to have happened, Prince Andrew claims he was at Pizza Express in Woking, and dismissed suggestions they sweatily danced as impossible because he had temporarily lost the ability to sweat.
The interview was described as a “car crash”, and following its airing Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Andrew was suspending all public duties for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, businesses and charities started distancing themselves from him.
Brexit Party wins big at European elections...
After Theresa May vowed that the UK wouldn’t participate in the European Elections in May, it was almost a certainty that we would. It was also a near certainty that the Tory’s would be punished at the polls – and they were. They came fifth after losing 14.8% of their vote share, and won just four seats. The vote was also a disaster for Labour, who lost 11.3% of their vote but came third overall.
The big winners of the election though were Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, which won 29 of a possible 70 seats with 31.6% of the vote.
Read more: Voice
...But Conservatives win general election
The Brexit Party, however, failed to make any inroads in the UK General Election held on 12 December, winning none of the 650 seats available. In part, that will have been as a result of their one-sided pact to not challenge any Conservative safe seats, while trying to pull disillusioned Labour voters away. That ultimately succeeded as Labour saw their vote share collapse at the hands of the Conservatives, who picked up 66 extra seats across the country, giving Boris Johnson a comfortable majority and a clear mandate to ‘Get Brexit Done’.
Read more: Voice
Knife crime hits new record high
Knife crime has hit an all time high for 2018/19, with some areas seeing a 50% increase within a single year. The number of serious knife crimes for 2018/19 were recorded at 43,516, an increase of 3,301 from the previous year. At the same time, the number of offences solved has fallen to a low of just 7.4%.
However, there was a 14% fall in homicides where a knife or sharp object was used. This is in part as a result of a decrease in London, where the Metropolitan Police has stepped up its stop and search usage and kept knife crime levels at bay, with just a 0.1% increase.
Knife crime has seen a 38% increase since 2010/11, and campaigners have suggested that there is a correlation between the increase in knife crime and austerity cuts to youth services.Read more: The Mirror | The Telegraph
Trump gets impeached
Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, was impeached by the House of Representatives on 18 December for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Nearly all of the Democrats voted for impeachment, while every Republican voted against. The impeachment charges will move up to the Senate where a trial will decide whether he remains in office, but as the Senate is controlled by Republicans, it is likely that he will be acquitted.
Support for impeachment among Democrats first grew after the release of the Mueller Report found that Trump and his election campaign had welcomed Russian assistance, but lacked sufficient evidence to press charges. That support ballooned after a whistleblower leaked that Trump had pressured Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter in exchange for military aid.
Trump is only the third President to be impeached.