I would like to begin this Editorial by firstly wishing all of our Commentators, followers and readers a belated happy new year, I hope you will continue to participate and engage with us regarding the various critical political events and issues which we hope to cover during 2013.
In terms of Backbench’s 2012, although it was a relatively short one, with the site only born in late August, it was a busy four months, with Commentator numbers growing from zero to sixty-three and Twitter followers up to over a thousand. Once again, as I always seem to do during these pieces, I must state that credit has to go to you- you are the ones who have seized the initiative with the site and you are the individuals who I hope will ensure that Backbench has as much success during 2013 as it did during the last four months of 2012.
With regard to the key political events of 2012 there were of course many. I naturally haven’t the words to mention and review all of them so I will have a look at a selection within a broader political context. Firstly, the coalition, to the surprise of many, ended the year, first of all- still in government - and also determined to cut spending with the same fervour as they began in 2010, even with a budget hiccup or two to contend with. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats were able to revel in the political success of 2012 however, with Nick Clegg’s hit single “Nick Clegg Says I’m Sorry” gaining the greatest amount of popularity the Lib Dems received last calendar year. The story wasn’t much brighter for the Conservatives either, with much of the population suggesting the ‘nasty party’ has returned, or indeed never left in the first place, following events such as the ‘Plebgate’ scandal, although now being questioned and investigated, and revelations regarding David Cameron’s close relationship with Rebekah Brooks, leading to suggestions that politicians as a whole, but specifically Conservative politicians, have been far too close to powerful media figures in the past. On the other hand though, I imagine that David Cameron would have sat down on New Year’s Eve and privately reflected that 2012 could have concluded in a much more precarious way in terms of his own political standing. Indeed, one of the most popularly debated issues of 2012 was the rise to political prominence of a certain Boris Johnson who, despite making himself look a fool at both Victoria Park on a zip-wire, and at the closing ceremony of the Olympics dancing to Spice Girls, emerged as a serious contender for the leadership of the Conservative party. Fortunately for Cameron though, during his party conference speech Johnson pledged his full allegiance to the PM and his programme to ‘mop up’ Britain, and although there have been some differences since, mainly in the form of an additional runway at Heathrow, there has been little further talk of Boris succeeding his old Eton buddy- at least until after the next general election.
Furthermore, the end of the Labour party conference seemed to symbolise the moment when the furore regarding the leadership of Ed Miliband seemed to be silenced. His ‘One Nation’ speech not only symbolised a new Labour slogan and pursuit, but also the unification of the Party behind himself as leader. However, although the Party leads by at least ten points in most opinion polls, I personally believe it has a considerable way to go before it is fit to govern. For one, Miliband and Balls must unite behind a single economic strategy, one which diverts from the course of the Conservatives but also from the economic policies of New Labour. If elected in 2015 they cannot enter into government without harmony between Leader and Chancellor, or else the Party will be set for a tumultuous time in office. On the contrary though, the 2015 election is far enough away for this particular issue, and the various others, to be resolved, and I’m sure most people within the Labour party will have been satisfied with their progress during 2012, especially in terms of their by-election successes which have provided a real springboard for the Party to demonstrate their elective potential.
Venturing across the pond, during 2012 we saw the presidential challenge of Mitt Romney end with 47.8% of the national vote, 0.8% more than the man himself predicted, although unfortunately 2.8% less than Barack Obama, almost certainly marking the last time a member of the Republican party will ever mutter the words “forty-seven per cent” again. In terms of the past month, the most publicised political events also occurred in America, firstly with the brutal massacre of twenty school children and six staff on 14th December by Adam Lanza which led to a widespread cry, on this website and across western society, for the US to implement stricter gun control in order to prevent these tragic events from happening again in the future. Unfortunately though, before any decisive action could be taken on the matter by President Obama, the US had to react to the impending ‘Fiscal Cliff’ which would have supposedly pushed the nation into a double-dip recession. Of course, since the end of December we have learned that the Cliff has been avoided by a series of measures which are set to raise taxes on the rich, delay spending cuts by two months and prevent tax hikes to the middle-classes, the last being a key component of Obama’s promise to the nation. As a result of the conclusion of this deal, many will hope that Mr Obama will return to concentrate upon implementing measures to increase gun control, and that he won’t use the economy as a distraction to not take any meaningful action. Given his reaction to the Newtown disaster however, it seems unlikely no action will be taken whatsoever.
Now, onto the matter of Backbench December Article of the Month which, as you probably all know by now, is to be accompanied by the prize of a Backbench mug. We have decided give the award to Julia Fioretti’s piece, “License to Kill”, which provides a detailed review of the reasons behind America’s gun addiction and why she feels the current situation needs to change. One argument which I thought was particularly well countered in the article was the argument made by NRA enthusiasts that everyone should have guns, because if everyone had them then no-one would use them, on the same basis that no-one uses nuclear weapons, in response to which it was emphasised that if this were to be the case then even schoolchildren would have to have guns in case teachers, who themselves had guns, were inclined to use them. A criticism much more eloquently put by Julia than by me, but one which demonstrates the quality of the piece. Mentions also have to go to the other articles which nearly won the Backbench chalice, such as Robert Walmsley’s article, “Has the world gotten used to North Korea?” which provides an articulate explanation of why the western world doesn’t utter any suggestion of interference in North Korea, even though it exists as one of the ‘most repressive states on earth’. Furthermore, the Christmas Eve piece written by Marc Winsland, “Christmas: A Time for Family or Faith?” was particularly memorable as it evaluated the changing dynamic of Christmas in a very poignant manner.
So, a Backbench mug will be heading off to Julia Fioretti, but once again the dedication of all our Commentators has to be commended. I have been particularly moved by the efforts which Commentators have put in over the past few days to persuade David Miliband to write an article for the site, and I really hope that I can provide positive news on that front in the coming days to reward their endeavours. Finally, don’t forget that we will also be announcing Commentator and Article of the Year on Saturday 5th January and we encourage individuals, through Twitter, to give their opinion as to who they think should be given the awards, your views will be taken into account.
By Sam Bright