I suppose it would have been neater to open proceedings on January 1, yet if I had I would’ve missed the emergence of Donald Trump as a Republican contender, the hysteria over Tyson Fury’s inclusion in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year line-up, the Christmas floods and the death of Lemmy. Okay, so the closing weeks of 2015 seem quite tame when one examines the seismic shifts of 2016 as an almost-whole, but it was exactly one year ago today when the first edition of the Winegum Telegram was published, and I felt like marking that anniversary by casting my retrospective eye over the past twelve months before we reach the end of what has been an eventful (if rarely enjoyable) year.
Gruesome reports of gang-rapes attributed to Middle Eastern migrants in Cologne on New Year’s Eve opened the year with further questions raised over Angela Merkel’s ‘open door’ immigration policy, and that wouldn’t be the end of the issue as 2016 rolled on. The biggest, not to say saddest, cultural event of January was the unexpected death of David Bowie. For those of us whose adolescent identity – and indeed adult one – was shaped by the multi-layered impact of this unique artist, his passing was one of those rare occasions when the death of an individual one has never personally met can impact as much as the death of a friend.
February marked the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring, with the shock waves of the shake-up continuing to reverberate throughout the year in virtually every country in the Middle East and beyond. The month also saw the surprise arrival of Bernie Sanders as a leading Democratic candidate in the US Presidential race, giving Hillary Clinton the kind of challenge she hadn’t anticipated; if only things had turned out differently. The same could be said from the perspective of David Cameron, who announced the date for the EU Referendum in February, firing the starting pistol of a marathon that would end with his resignation. If only the entire nauseating collective of Hollywood A-listers had taken a leaf out of Cameron’s book and retired from public life before staging the politically-correct Nuremberg Rally masquerading as the Oscars ceremony on the last day of the month, with the biggest bucket of vomit reserved for Lady GaGa’s Victim’s Symphony.
March saw the wave of Puritan censorship and intolerance of free speech contaminating North American and UK universities continue to grab headlines after the unpleasant experience of Canadian journalist Lauren Southern in Vancouver, whilst other notable departures from a more open-minded age included ‘Coronation Street’ creator Tony Warren, Beatles producer George Martin, Prog Rock’s premier keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson, legendary Dutch football auteur Johan Cruyff, and the print edition of the Independent. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith quit the Cabinet in the wake of the latest George Osborne attack on the claimants of disability benefits, realising he would be the man carrying the can when the shit hit the fan; he quickly threw in his lot with the Leave team in a bid to rescue his career. However, next to the carnage unleashed on the streets of Brussels by yet more European Jihadists, IDS’s hissy fit was rightly relegated to a footnote of 2016.
The Referendum campaign gathered pace in April, though internal wrangles within both major parties served as a distraction, such as Ken Livingstone’s ill-advised comments that kick-started Labour’s anti-Semitism row. BHS, Victoria Wood and Prince were added to 2016’s dearly departed, though Her Majesty reached a milestone by overtaking Queen Victoria as the country’s longest-serving sovereign. Meanwhile, a belated verdict in the Hillsborough Inquiry reminded the public that our police forces have been riddled with corruption for almost as long as Elizabeth II has been on the throne.
Whilst supporters of Leicester City FC celebrated their fantastic achievement in winning the Premier League, May saw further rejections of Corbyn’s Labour Party in the local elections, though Sadiq Khan’s capture of the London Mayoral office was one Labour victory of note in a year to forget for HM Opposition. However, it was in June that politics really grabbed centre-stage again when the countdown to the EU Referendum was marked by a no-holds barred campaign of unprecedented viciousness that reached its appalling nadir with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox on the streets of her constituency. Undeterred by this awful event, the British people delivered the bloodiest blow to a generation of Europhile politicians by voting to leave the EU. The ramifications of this decision are still with us, but the greatest scalp in the immediate aftermath was that of PM David Cameron. Another in a long line of American massacres, this time in Orlando, inadvertently impacted upon the Presidential Election, whilst the same nation mourned the passing of Muhammad Ali.
Rumours of a coup against Jeremy Corbyn opened July as most of his Shadow Cabinet walked out on him, and an official challenge to his leadership came in the unlikely shape of Angela Eagle; women were making a big political mark during the summer, with the two contenders for the Tory leadership being virtual unknown Andrea Leadsom and Home Secretary Theresa May. We were guaranteed our second female Prime Minister. July also saw the spectre of a former PM resurrected when the Chilcot Inquiry was finally published, whilst fresh blood was shed in the US (the turn of Dallas) and in Turkey, with a failed coup giving President Erdogan an excuse to extend his grip from democracy to dictatorship. Owen Smith replaced Angela Eagle as the challenger to Corbyn before July ended, but for me personally the month was marked by the death of my constant feline companion of 18 long years.
Despite Theresa May now being in Downing Street, political attention remained fixed on the Labour Party in August, though it wasn’t until September that the leadership challenge was resolved with another resounding victory for Corbyn. That same month, an increasingly ugly US Presidential Election campaign plumbed further depths as two of the most despised candidates in American history went head-to-head for the first of three TV debates. Mind you, online responses to Trump and Clinton were mild compared to those awaiting footballer Ched Evans when he walked away from prison a free man after serving half of a quashed five-year sentence for rape in October. Gary Lineker may have been spared that, but he was hung, drawn and quartered by certain quarters of Twitter as the imminent closure of Calais’ Jungle refugee camp provoked contrasting responses.
November saw screaming tabloid protests when a wealthy individual intervened in the ongoing Brexit saga, and the decision of judges that Parliament should have its say in the process led to remarkably hysterical headlines. In a month that the liberal left’s worst nightmares were realised when Donald Trump was elected US President, few of its more vocal representatives spoke out against the increasingly farcical police fishing parties into historical child abuse, such as the one targeted at deceased PM Edward Heath; moreover, none questioned the motives of former footballers when they gave the historical child abuse industry a new outlet in the shape of the national sport and its dead or dying villains. A year of numerous breaks with the past ends with a return to the narrative that has constituted so much of this decade so far. Somehow, I expected it probably would. Time to blow out that single candle on the cake.
© The Editor