The most significant events of 2015: Part 2

Tory Landslide Spells Bad News

This week, I enjoyed the final dystopian saga of the Hunger Games, an entertaining (if unsophisticated) conclusion to the series and the year. Outside of the cinema though, a real dystopia of our very own seems to be in the making. This year has been another bloody chapter in the far bloodier epic of history, but something about 2015 I think seems distinctly dark and desperate.

Faith in humanity has surely been tested this year by the horrors of the refugee crisis, the Syrian conflict and all the injustices of our economic order. On the Left, our faith in the British electorate was tested when a very inclusive election resulted in a Tory government. However, a majority of only 12 seats, elected by a mere 24 percent of the electorate is barely a sweeping mandate from the people. Still, the Bullingdon bullies have managed to inflict such significant damage on our economy and national character in seven months of ideologically driven austerity that it could only have worsened if we were taken into another pointless war. They didn’t disappoint.

The Tory victory was combatted by the landslide election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party this September, which caused a stir not only in all the obvious places, but also amongst his own Parliamentary party. This I believe signals the early stages of a reinvigorated progressive politics. A politics that doesn’t fit too well into institutions that have barely seen reform since Oliver Cromwell. But as 2015 closes, and we reflect on our trepidations experienced at the mercy of terrorism, climate change and everything in between, it is in the face of these problems that I feel a new kind of politics, perhaps even a new way of living, is most needed.

By Tim Lewthwaite

Sepp Splattered

Although it may seem insignificant in a year plagued by terrorist attacks, immense political change and the re-emergence of Justin Bieber, something finally changed in football’s world governing body.

On the morning of the 27th of May, seven FIFA officials were arrested. Even though the FIFA presidential election went ahead two days later, it seemed like cracks were appearing in the previously impenetrable FIFA fortress.

Sepp Blatter had managed to claim another term as president, but whatever thin ice he was standing on was rapidly beginning to melt. Jeffrey Webb, Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner were big names to be taken into custody by US officials, and only four days after winning another election, Blatter resigned as president.

Even the previously untouchable Michel Platini has now been investigated, along with Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke, by FIFA’s very own Ethics Committee. Not sure what they’ve been doing up to now, but it’s nice of them to finally make an appearance.

Events are still unfolding as I write this. Earlier this month sixteen FIFA officials, including two FIFA vice-presidents, were arrested in the very same hotel that the seven officials had been in May. How ironic.

As for the future, there will now be a re-election in 2016 (that Blatter thankfully won’t stand in for the first time in over 18 years) where the new president will hope to rebuild the tarnished name of football. World Cup allocations from 2006 to 2022 have all been called into question, but the increased scrutiny this year will hopefully have changed FIFA for good.

By James Sproston

May Elections Yield Surprise Results

The most significant national event in 2015 has to be the May elections which brought about a massive change in politics. Considering these were supposed to be the most unpredictable elections ever, with a number of potential coalitions bandied about from Labour and SNP to Conservatives and UKIP, it was surprising to see a Tory majority – albeit only by roughly a dozen seats. Then the next day, Miliband, Clegg and Farage all resigned as leaders for their respective parties, although for the latter it only turned out to be temporary. While the SNP were expected to be the dominant force in Scotland, the fact that it was almost a whitewash, leaving them with 55 seats out of a potential 58, was also a massive shock. No one expected the Lib Dems to be absolutely annihilated like that, with their 8 MPs now able to fit around a single dining table. At the same time Miliband’s campaign faded at the last moment having previously been neck and neck with the Tories.

On a side note, this election did show us how antiquated the first-past-the-post voting system is, with reform definitely needed considering the fact that UKIP had a 13% share of the vote yet took only a single seat out of 650. Even if you don’t agree with their politics, it is unfair. Now over 6 months later, Labour has lurched back to the left following the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, while the Tories continue their austerity plan with a frenzy of cuts in public spending now unimpeded by the Lib Dems. The 2015 elections weren’t just a shift, but an earthquake in UK politics.

Tim Shrimplin

USA Legalises Same-Sex Marriage

As Williams in Enter the Dragon puts it, “Man, you come right out of a comic book”. This embodies a lot of my feelings about the good ol’ US of A. Often a place that doesn’t seem real, a place so full of exaggerated goodies and baddies that 80s wrestlers would be embarrassed.

It is easy to think of the USA as a parody of itself. At this moment in time, reports concerning America are being dominated by Donald Trump sound bites, racial disharmony and constant gun crime. As such we must be forgiven for our preconceptions that only appear to be reinforced.

However, in June 2015 a moment occurred which might not have filled newsrooms for an extensive period, but will certainly fill American history books in the future. The Supreme Court’s ruling to legalise same-sex marriage was a much needed win for civil liberties in a political climate that is saturated in intolerance.

While the 5-4 score line in the case Obergell vs Hodges was only a narrow win, its importance cannot be understated. A win for those wanting the opportunity to marry; a win for equal rights activists; a win for anyone who likes to see the Westborough Baptist Church disappointed. The slim margin may signal a fracture in American public opinion, but this moment for our generation is a monumental one.

We are generation who have been raised over the last twenty years with central standing governments both in the U.K. and the USA. It is for this reason I believe so many students are looking towards Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, because they offering a different kind of rhetoric. In this essence the ruling on same-sex marriage offers hope to this generation. It is a victory for civil liberties which people can look to as they defend ethnic minorities and sexism. It is a victory which people who have lost faith in the constitution can look to, for providing protection without the use of firearms. This moment is not the biggest simply for what it stands for but the positivity it can inspire for the future.

By Scott Trotter

Climate Talks

There is a political process occuring as I write this article which, depending on the effectiveness of the negotiators, has the potential to be one of the most far-reaching and influential events, not just of this year, but of any year. I am talking, of course, about the Paris UN Climate Conference.

For understandable reasons it is difficult to look beyond the continuing threat of ISIS, worldwide terror attacks and the largest refugee crisis in 70 years as the stories which will define 2015. Unfortunately the outlook with regards to global warming may be even more sobering – if we fail to act.

There is persuasive evidence linking many of the problems in Syria to a prolonged drought, beginning in 2006, which precipiated the civil unrest and mass migration we are seeing today. This is not to excuse the actions of terrorists, but it is a case study in cause and effect.

This may be difficult to process. It is not uncommon for people to struggle to emote with foreign affairs, however violent, since they unfold, by definition, thousands of miles from the places we call home. However, a cursory glance at the news from the last few weeks highlights the problems we face directly, every day, due to climate change. In Cumbria, thousands of people have suffered the loss of their homes in flash floods which have once again devastated the area. Transport systems have disintegrated as they come into contact with an endless stream of rainfall. Of course this remains trivial in comparison with what happens around the world, but it is precisely for this reason that the conference in Paris is so important. Whether the outcome is successful or not, the consequences will live long in the memory, reaching far into our future potential for happiness and security.

At the present moment the signs are encouraging. More than 180 countries have already agreed to curtail their fossil fuel emmisions voluntarily. These include China, India and Russia, massive countries whose reluctance to get on board has had a domino effect on negotiations in the past. But the situation looks very different this time. If the final draft of the agreement reveals these industrial giants have agreed to not only reduce the speed of their planned increases in emmissions, but to reduce them in real terms, the conference should be considered a resounding success.

If the results are less momentous, and if instead of substantial reductions we are faced with more political evasiveness, the outcome could be disastrous. There is every possibility in this case that the discussion will go down in history as the moment we gambled away our futures on petty squabbles, ‘hard bargaining’ and chronic shortermism.

Only time will tell, we may even know by the point you hold this newspaper in your hands, but the optimist in me says we might finally have a coherent and responsible answer to climate change in the very near future, or at least we will finally be heading in the right direction.

By Adam Thompson

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