For most of humankind, 2017 has been an awful year for politics. For satirists and political commentators, it has been an absolute gift. Here are some of the best bits.
“Easiest [negotiations] in history” – Liam Fox, international trade secretary (Brexit)
Nine months have passed since Article 50 was triggered. In that time, David Davis has done 30 days of work, Theresa May has begged EU leaders to take pity on her, and everyone at home has been slowly losing the will to live. Where are we now? Pretty much the same place we were when we started. The divorce bill seems fairly settled at around £40 billion (as the EU always demanded). A deal was nearly made over the Irish border but the DUP blocked it. Who even knows what’s going on with the rights of EU citizens in the UK? The EU has repeatedly said Britain’s offers are inadequate and is still arguing about the role of the European Court of Justice. The ongoing uncertainty has caused many people (and businesses for that matter) to leave the UK (as reported in last week’s Felix).
The David Davis Guide to Negotiation:
- Take the enemy by surprise by triggering Article 50 before you’ve made any preparations
- Adopt an aggressively jingoistic approach in all media appearances
- Pop over to Brussels for a quick lunch and press conference before heading home
- Be appalled by leaks from said lunch and up the anti-EU rhetoric
- Brief the press about how wonderful things will be once we are free to make our own rules on the appropriate curvature of bananas etc.
- Repeat for several months
- Quietly mention that you have agreed to all the EU’s demands so far
- Loudly declare that a major breakthrough has been made and great progress has been made in the talks
- Repeat until 2019 when the UK will finally take back control by doing almost everything the EU says while not having the chance to affect EU decisions
Only three more years to go… (Trump)
One year into the Trump administration and we’re still alive. There isn’t enough space in the world to go over everything that’s happened over the past twelve months but here are some memorable moments:
January: A failed businessman with a history of sexual assault allegations against him moves into the White House. He signs a flurry of executive orders pulling the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and greenlighting construction of the border wall with Mexico.
February: All Cabinet positions are finally filled. A vacancy arises as national security adviser Michael Flynn resigns after being caught lying to vice-president Mike Pence over connections with Russia. Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency is slashed, leading to an uprising of ‘rogue’ Twitter accounts to lead the resistance.
March: Trump accuses Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower – as if Obama didn’t have better things to do.
April: Trump donates his quarterly salary to the National Park Service. This covers a fraction of the massive budget cuts they subsequently suffer. Trump then gets trigger happy (at least more so than usual) and bombs Syria and Afghanistan.
May: FBI director James Comey is fired. Trump is possessed by Richard Nixon and alleges he has recordings of conversations with Comey. Unsurprisingly, this transpires to be fake – unlike Comey’s detailed memos of those same conversations.
June: Trump announces America’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreements.
July: Trump’s war on truth and the media steps up as he retweets a video of him body slamming the CNN logo. At the G20 summit Trump gets to meet his best friend Vladimir Putin. He is less enamoured by Emmanuel Macron, who takes a resounding victory in the handshake wars and crushes Trump’s tiny hands.
August: Trump tries to ban trans people from the military. He also offers tacit support for white nationalists and other far-right extremists by claiming anti-fascist groups were partially responsible for violent clashes in Charlottesville.
September: Trump ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme that allows young immigrants to remain in the US. He also attacks American football players that take the knee during the national anthem and calls for them to be fired. A new travel ban is signed and states immediately take him to court over it.
October: A terrifying creature with an over inflated head and tiny hands is threatened by a child in a T-rex costume. Trump can’t resist taking a shot at journalists, even when he’s giving candy to their children.
November: Trump pardons a turkey. Jokes ensue.
December: The travel ban is finally authorised. Trump admits – in a tweet subsequently blamed on his lawyers – that he knew Mike Flynn lied not only to Pence, but to the FBI. He also recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, inflaming tensions in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Having a domestic (UK)
A female leader with diminishing popularity takes her long-ruling party to the polls and comes out on top despite losing seats in parliament. She turns to the other parties, looking for someone to prop up her government but things don’t look too good. In a spectacular act of self-sabotage, Theresa May called a totally unnecessary snap general election and threw away her slender majority. This gave us a bizarre scenario in which the Conservatives, still the single largest party in Parliament, were seen to have lost the election, whereas Labour, which won fewer seats in 2017 than it did in 1992 under Neil Kinnock’s leadership, were cheered on as the winners.
Other highlights include: - Brenda from Bristol echoing the views of most people, excluding political commentators - Lord Buckethead, Mr Fish finger and Elmo. Not the politicians we need but the ones we deserve - The unexpected bromance between George Osborne and Ed Balls. It’s astonishing how much more tolerable politicians become when they’re used as light entertainment - Jeremy Corbyn trying to high five Emily Thornberry and getting it very, very wrong - Anna Soubry and other former ministers being bitter and delighted at the exit poll - Corbyn sceptics suddenly changing their minds and hailing Jeremy as the next messiah. (“Jeremy Corbyn and Jesus Christ share the same initials. Coincidence? I think not!” – quote from a Labour backbencher with ambitions of climbing the greasy pole (probably).)
Then came the Westminster sex pest dossier and Jared O’Mara’s old social media posts. Politicians fell as the scandal unfurled – most notably Michael Fallon, who was replaced as defence secretary by former chief whip Gavin Williamson (the one with the pet tarantula).
“In a spectacular act of self-sabotage, Theresa May called a unnecessary snap general election”
While it is an encouraging sign that parliament may be beginning to take sexual harassment more seriously, the rush to condemn people before any evidence of impropriety has emerged has had tragic consequences and been linked to the deaths of at least two politicians. Give due process its chance. In a week that saw the death of Christine Keeler, isn’t it time we stepped back to examine the evidence before apportioning blame?
In happier news (depending on your point of view), Priti Patel lost her job as international development secretary after she was caught having meetings with Israeli officials while on holiday. Theresa May summoned Patel back to Downing Street while she was on a visit (official this time) to Africa. Countless people tracked Patel’s flight back to the UK, making her the second most-watched flier after Father Christmas. Patel’s resignation was a delight to headline writers, who went to town with “Priti [insert derogatory adjective here]” splashed across the front pages of the national press.
When is a military coup not a military coup? (Zimbabwe)
Major General Sibusiso Moyo (a suspiciously militaristic title) became the face of the coup/not coup d’etat in Zimbabwe when he told the world that Robert Mugabe had become a de facto ex-dictator. After 37 years in power (and a speech in which he didn’t resign), Mugabe and his wife Gucci Grace were finally forced out. Celebrators filled the streets of Harare but Zimbabwe’s new president – Emmerson Mnangagwa, from the ruling party Zanu-PF –isn’t much (if any) better. Known as “the crocodile”, Mnangagwa is accused of organising massacres during Zimbabwe’s civil war and attacks on opposition supporters after the 2008 election.
Donald the Dotard vs Little Rocket Man (North Korea)
Again, we’re still alive. North Korea has continued to test missile tests and claims to be able to reach mainland America, though experts are skeptical about the nation’s ability to mount miniaturised nuclear warheads capable of withstanding atmospheric re-entry. Kim Jong-un is apparently open to diplomatic solutions to the growing tension but that seems unlikely with Trump in power.
Let’s start with the good news: Australia has legalised same-sex marriage. Or, as Independent MP Bob Katter would prefer to think about, every three months a person is torn to death by a crocodile in north Queensland. (If you haven’t seen that clip, watch it immediately. You will not be disappointed.) On a less positive note, refugees and asylum seekers are still being held in appalling conditions on Manus Island and Nauru. Brutality is rife and food is scarce. Despite growing pressure, the government has still not taken real action to close down the detention camps (Australia officially handed back full control of Manus to Papua New Guinea but many of those on the island are there because Australia refused to shelter them).
A female leader with diminishing popularity takes her long-ruling party to the polls and comes out on top despite losing seats in parliament. She turns to the other parties, looking for someone to prop up her government but things don’t look too good. Sound familiar?
Of course Angela Merkel has a distinct advantage over Theresa May: Merkel doesn’t have Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Liam Fox representing Germany’s interests abroad.
Martin Schulz, leader (at time of writing) of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) is due to urge his party to enter into coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Schulz initially vetoed the idea but his MPs have forced a u-turn. While this may be good for political stability, it doesn’t look great for Schulz’s career.
After Scotland showed the world how not to achieve independence, Catalonia decided to have a go. What could – and should – have been a national debate turned into a disaster. After a questionable referendum and displays of police brutality, central government imposed direct rule and called for new elections to be held later this month. Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont remains in Belgium, although a European Arrest Warrant against him has been dropped.
“After Scotland showed the world how not to achieve independence, Catalonia had a go”
Welcome to planet Venezuela! Entry costs just $89 billion! (Venezuela)
Creating ‘planet Venezuela’ is as good an idea as any and the Labour front bench probably wouldn’t mind a holiday (or as they’re known in Westminster, ‘group bonding sessions’). President Nicolás Maduro is attempting to restructure the country’s massive debts to Russia and China in an effort to avoid defaulting. Maduro has blamed Venezuela’s economic crisis on US sanctions (which Trump tightened up earlier this year). Meanwhile the people are starving and selling toothpaste for more than the fixed government price has become punishable by a five year prison sentence.
Obviously far more went on this year than can be covered here. Apologies for all the things that haven’t been mentioned. Let’s hope 2018 is a better year.