It’s been a rollercoaster ride. Except a rollercoaster ride where you threw up on yourself at the start. But, let’s take a trip down memory lane; there are a few nuggets of joy to be found amongst the pile of crap that was 2016. Promise.
So it didn’t really get off to the best of starts did it? Big Ben had barely finished striking midnight and there was still faint, drunken, chanting of Auld Lang Syne by the time the shit first hit the fan. January was when the Zika virus kicked up a notch and also when Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan and David Bowie all passed away. The three of them were, each in their own right, entertainers and have left a lasting legacy both in the UK and further afield. Bowie in particular captured the hearts of many around the globe and thousands attended a street party in his honour in Brixton. From one spaceman to another, the more uplifting news of Tim Peake and the first spacewalk by an ‘official’ British Astronaut (is an ‘unofficial’ astronaut just like a stowaway?) Oh, and the Junior Doctors struck for the first time over disagreements with their new contracts. Remember when Jeremy Hunt was the most hated person in politics? How naive we were.
February was hardly a ray of sunshine either: the Junior Doctors struck once more, North Korea launched a pretty big rocket and David Cameron kicked off the EU referendum, finally setting the date for June 23rd. Harper Lee (the author of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird), Boutros Boutros-Ghali (former UN Secretary General and classic pub quiz answer) and BBC Three also died this month. The latter is still available online though. Slightly closer to home was the debacle surrounding the Imperial RAG Mag after it was accused of sexism. It was pulled from circulation and copies are now rarer than a fun night in Metric. The US Presidential campaign kicked off too, with primaries for both the main parties being held in Iowa. Donald Trump was still a dark horse. How naive we were.
I’ll be honest, it doesn’t really get much better here either. Two sets of bombings in both Brussels and Lahore together killed over 100 people and devastated both the cities as well as the wider world. Elsewhere, in a bizarre show of love, an Egyptian man hijacked EgyptAir flight 181 in order to try and win his ex-wife back– the plane landed safely, thankfully. Probably should’ve just gone with the flowers and chocolates route in hindsight. Notable deaths included the footballing legend Johan Cruyff and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. (Here is where some uplifting news would be, had we any).
Some small bits of solace could be found in April, unless you’re anti monarchy that is. Queen Elizabeth II turned 90 and held a pretty big party, christ knows how bad her hangover was the following day. In other news, surprise, surprise, some rich people don’t like paying taxes and instead funnelled it through Mossak Fonseca in Panama. High ranking officials and politicians worldwide were affected, even our then-Prime Minister Cameron, who profited from a trust had avoided tax that way. Naughty Dave. Prince also left us in April, he probably could foresee what was coming. I wouldn’t put it past him.
This month contained one of the feelgood stories of the year, Leicester City’s Premier League title win. Yes I’m clutching at straws but I can only work with what I’ve got, and everyone loves a good underdog story anyway. Back to politics, and to the London Mayoral election. Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith to the position (Zac would later go on to lose a second election in December, poor him) which meant that Boris Bikes legally became Sadiq Cycles. EgyptAir carried on having a horrible year, with flight 804 crashing and killing 66 passengers. One small silver lining is that 2016 is still due to be one of the safest years for flying on record. In meme news, this was the month that yielded the tragic and untimely death of Harambe. People worldwide were in uproar at his death and it all eventually got a bit out of hand (understatement of the year).
June decided it wanted to take British politics and shake it up (read: fuck it up). This came in the form of the eagerly anticipated EU Referendum, whose fallout hit pretty much all the main political parties in Westminster. Unless you’ve managed to repress it from memory you’ll know that Brexit happened and then caused chaos. Long story short, David Cameron quit, Michael Gove stabbed Boris Johnson and himself in the back, Labour decided Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t fit to lead (until the voters decided he was, in September) and the hunt for a new Prime Minister started. Prior to this was the tragic killing of MP Jo Cox by a man associated with far-right groups. Hate crimes similar in motive spiked after the referendum result too, primarily xenophobic and racist attacks. Orlando, Florida was also the scene of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub, the year just kept getting worse. Heavyweight World Champion and activist Muhammad Ali, Imperial Physics legend Sir Tom Kibble and Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin passed away too. And we’re barely halfway through the year.
Turkey had a failed military coup in which hundreds were killed and over 15,000 supporters of the coup were arrested and detained. President Erğodan was out of the country when the uprising from members of the army happened and had to Facetime a news network in order to make a plea to citizens to back his leadership. France was yet again the scene of a terrible atrocity, this time in Nice. 86 people were killed and hundreds more injured as a truck was driven through crowds celebrating Bastille Day. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Brexit fallout carried on too, with the pound and the FTSE rising and falling due to even the faintest of whispers on what on earth the UK planned to do if/when Article 50 was invoked. The Government has greenlit two massive projects during all this chaos, the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant and the renewal of Trident. Good news if you’re planning a career in the nuclear industry, slightly worse news if you’re not a fan of paying for electric above the market price, or of global thermonuclear annihilation. Farage also decided to stand down as head of UKIP (don’t worry, he’d be back) and the Chilcot report into the Iraq war finally came out (basically Blair had other options to use before war).
Sports was again a small respite for the UK, Andy Murray won Wimbledon again (and cried again) and Chris Froome won the Tour de France. Across the pond, the Republican and Democratic National conventions happened, putting forward as their candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton respectively. Great job guys. Oh, and after not a single vote was cast in her name, Theresa May rose to be our new Prime Minister. Better start deleting your porn while you still can.
Brazil was the main focus of August, with the 2016 Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro as well as the massive political scandal that was happening countrywide. Essentially, most of the government were corrupt whilst the rest of Brazil was undergoing a fairly big recession. The people weren’t happy with this (duh) and the President was subsequently impeached. Oh, and they had a pretty big outbreak of the aforementioned Zika virus, but although it was bad, it didn’t start the pandemic that some people predicted. Some Russian athletes couldn’t compete in the games due to doping, the pool turned green, and the sailing waters were pretty dodgy, pollution-wise. But, we came out of it 2nd in the medal table so who cares? Arguably in the top five highlights of the year was the start of the Night Tube on three London lines (two more have since followed), fantastic news for that post-ACC commute.
Stars of the big screen, Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) were the unfortunate casualties of August and by now the afterlife was looking more and more like the guest list of a swish Elton John party.
The Paralympics followed afterwards in September, another fantastic haul for Team GB and one of the few countries to ever do better after hosting an Olympics. In other sporting news, Sam Allardyce, the England Football manager, was sacked after just one game (which he won). This was after footage emerged of him accepting money for helping break some rules. He was also seen drinking a pint of wine, a feat which in my eyes redeems all. David Cameron decided that enough was enough with regards to politics and left Westminster for good. Across the aisle, Corbyn was re-elected by Labour Party members despite not having the support of all, and maybe not even the majority of, his MPs. But these two weren’t the biggest political stories of the month, not by a long stretch. That came in the form of the sequin-adorned Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing. The former Shadow Chancellor was, let’s be honest, dire but he was the light hearted entertainment the country needed. ESPECIALLY ONCE BAKE-OFF WENT TO CHANNEL 4 WITHOUT MEL, SUE, AND MARY. Times were indeed bleak. This month’s celebrity death: the iPhone headphone jack.
In October we kind of got a date for when Brexit would sort of happen, maybe. Theresa May announced that Britain would invoke Article 50 by March 2017 but then a legal challenge was started in order to make sure that the decision to make that decision was a decision made by Parliament and not just May on her own. This is basically because the referendum result was more of a poll than a binding result, even though the Government thought it was the latter. Yet more Gorilla-in-zoo news, this time at London Zoo where one of its male silverbacks escaped its cage. In typical British fashion, order was restored without taking the American approach of killing on sight. They probably just asked him nicely. Heathrow Airport also was given the greenlight for a new runway, although whether it actually gets built remains to be seen.
I think you can guess what this one’s going to be about… TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, Donald J. Trump. For a full breakdown of what went down see felix 1646 but the long and the short of it is that Trump took the swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and the king of them all, Florida, which gifted him enough electoral college votes (306 vs. 232) to take the presidency. Clinton did, however, win the majority of the public vote, over 2 million more people voted for her. Is this democracy? I dunno. The Republican Party (Trump’s party) also won control of the House and the Senate meaning it’s easier for Trump to pass his ideas, just as long as they align with the wider Republican Party. Trump has since appointed a few dodgy characters to his cabinet and his conflicts with business in foreign countries have come under scrutiny too. Some other things probably happened this month but the bulk of people were just freaking out/celebrating Trump’s ascension. Oh, and the legendary musician and writer Leonard Cohen and infamous revolutionary Fidel Castro both passed away in November. I mean the United States has potentially brought about its own demise so what did Castro really have left to achieve?
Brexit got a step closer to happening/being postponed this month with the UK Supreme Court holding a week long trial after the Government appealed the High Court ruling. The whole case was filmed and streamed online, it didn’t really make for riveting viewing though. Needed more baby turtles or snow leopards or racer snakes. Attenborough had the right idea. Elsewhere in politics the Liberal Democrats finally got another MP, one more and they hit double figures. Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, resigned after he lost a referendum (there’s a theme emerging here) and then Austria didn’t elect their far right candidate as President, breaking the rest of the 2016 mould. Loved and loathed critic, AA Gill died this month too (there’s a full obituary in the Food section).
So not all bad… but why God why?
Aside from all this were the conflicts and crises that spanned the entire year, some of which started well before January and some of which are sadly likely to continue well past December. The most notable of these is undoubtedly the situation in the Middle East, chiefly in Syria. It’s an incredibly complex situation involving warring factions, a pretty bad Assad-led government, good and bad rebel forces and a whole load of innocent civilians caught up in the middle. This page is nowhere near enough to explain the situation and it’s an incredibly nuanced military and political struggle involving the Syrian people, global superpowers, and complicated allegiances. Thank fuck we’ve got Boris Johnson on the job.
So that was 2016. The year of political discourse, an emerging far right, a reality TV star as President-elect, Pokémon Go, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar, celebrity deaths, the Paris Agreement, Brexit, Marmitegate, and more memes than you can shake a stick at. If nothing else, at least the last year wasn’t boring.