2015 in review – a mixed year.

by richardhutton

January saw the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation being commemorated. It also witnessed a shocking act of violence in Paris, when the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine were broken into by two gunmen, who shot 11 people dead on January 7th, in wrath at a cartoon caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed:

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Three days of crisis followed in the city, as several related attacks unfolded, resulting in a further five deaths. A small subsidiary of Al Qaeda would later claim responsibility for the terrorism. Over 2 million people assembled in Paris, as a demonstration of solidarity against violence; joined by 40 government leaders – including several iron-fisted friends of freedom and peace, from Saudi Arabia and Israel, amongst others. Former British MP, Louise Mensch, offered her personal condolences:

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Charlie Hebdo would later receive the PEN literary organisation‘s Freedom of Expression Courage Award – his parents would have been proud.

In the town of Baga, Nigeria, the Al Qaeda tribute act, Boko Haram, massacred c. 2,000 people, between the 3rd-7th of January. Several government leaders sent their thoughts and prayers by telegram.

Syriza won the general election in Greece, and pledged to end austerity. For reasons unknown, the pledge itself was written in invisible ink; while the party’s leader remained imprecise about where it was being kept. Angela Merkel seemed to pat her pocket, however, whenever it was mentioned.

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited Europe; and demanded reforms to the European Union – ones “which the British public want”. When asked to clarify what these reforms might be, by other European leaders, Cameron challenged them to guess in three questions. None succeeded.

 

 

February: In Ukraine, a ceasefire was agreed between the warring parties, and broken at least 139 times, on the same day. An equally irresolvable international conflict erupted over the colour of a dress – is it black and blue; or gold and white?

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In reality, it was neither. Here is the actual dress in its true colours:

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As can be seen, it was a subtle blue and green ensemble; which would look fabulous on a night devoted to binge-drinking.

Elsewhere, the journalist, Peter Greste, was released from an Egyptian prison; having been convicted on the grounds that factual and accurate reporting was proving a bit unkind to Egypt’s benevolent rulers.

David Cameron visited Europe again; and continued to demand reforms to Britain’s ties with the European Union. This time, European leaders were asked to guess the reforms in twenty questions. None proved equal to the task. Angela Merkel requested permission to ask a twenty first question; but Cameron was intransigent.

 

 

In March, a German pilot deliberately crashed a passenger-plane in the French Alps; causing 150 fatalities. During the initial reports, it transpired that the man had minor mental health problems; generating a number of thought-provoking frontpages among the British newspapers – for example:

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Arguably in a similar state of mind – to the pilot, if not the British press as well, to some extent – the Al-Qaeda tribute act, Isis, destroyed several ancient historical sites in Iraq, along with a number of antique museum artifacts, as part of their war on harmless things which other people enjoy.

A Saudi-led coalition began to intervene in Yemen’s civil war; launching airstrikes against the Houthi rebels, who are in conflict with the country’s government. Media columnists voice a general disquiet about the onset of aerial bombardments – suggesting that this will not only fail to end any acts of terrorism, but may actually worsen circumstances, not least by causing a high number of civilian casualties.

At home, however, beginning to set the tone for the upcoming general election, the Labour party issue a leaflet offering their measured assessment of the Liberal Democrats as ‘soft on crime, drugs and thugs’. This is not a reference to them joining a government, lead by former members of the Bulingdon club; but to their stance on decriminalising personal possession of controlled substances:

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The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, responded forcefully – by objecting to the absence of an Oxford comma.

Not to be outdone, a Conservative Parliamentary candidate – Afzal Amin – was caught attempting to stage-manage a far-right protest-march in Dudley North; and then claim credit for its subsequent cancellation, in collusion with former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson – a man who could be persuaded to buy a season ticket to his own birthday party. The plot failed. Amin resigned, and began a new life as a former Parliamentary candidate.

David Cameron concluded his monthly visit to Europe with a bold declaration that EU leaders must accede to British demands for reforms: no ifs; no buts. ‘The British public are tired of the prevarications’ said the Prime Ministers of Britain and France, simultaneously; jinxing one another, until Angela Merkel was good enough to say their names. Witnesses attested that they weren’t certain if it was a mere slip of the tongue, or perhaps a lilt of the accent, but Merkel appeared to mispronounce the British Prime Minister’s surname as ‘Hameron’.

By way of portent for the following weeks, a most marvelous sign appears in heaven, as a solar eclipse occurred on the 20th.

 

 

April perhaps proved the cruelest month of the year. Despite intense competition, it really rose above the other 11 delineations by a slender margin. Al-Shabab – a hand-me-down version of Al Qaeda – put their courage and skills to the test, by attacking defenceless people at Garissa University in Kenya; killing 148 men and women – almost all of them students.

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Anti-immigrant violence erupted in Durban, South Africa; while several hundred refugees died crossing the Mediterranean from Libya. The British tabloid, The Sun, published a thought-provoking article outlining its author’s desire to halt the refugee crisis, which was beginning to encroach upon Europe, by dispassionately blowing-up peoples’ life-rafts with heavy artillery.

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Violent protests erupted in Baltimore, after the funeral was held for Freddie Gray – a black man, who had been fatally injured while in police custody. An earthquake epicentred in Nepal, on the 25th, leaving c. 9,000 people dead.

Of a piece, the two primary contenders for government in Britain unleashed their manifestos on a decidedly suspecting general public. The Conservatives outlined their long-term economic plan for people, at every stage of life: be born. Reach adult years. Begin work. Start a family. Retire. Die.

Meanwhile, Labour’s manifesto contained inspiring sentiments such as “the first line of Labour’s first Budget will be: ‘This Budget cuts the deficit every year’” on the one hand; and “we will encourage the development of social and emotional skills, for example through the use of mindfulness to build resilience” on the other. Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, auguring imminent victory over his counterparts, commissioned staff-members to devise a symbolic gesture of intent – ‘something like a set of vague, well-meaning, pledges etched in stone; but not quite that silly’ he demurred at one meeting. Labour staff set to.

 

 

In May, Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage via a nationwide referendum. Perturbed by this, the Pope had a bit of a pray, and a five-minutes’ worth communion; but it turned out that God was fine with the whole consenting-adults being happy together thing. Any apocalypse which might have followed went largely unnoticed.

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In Britain, the momentous occasion of 2015’s general election finally arrived. Akin to Moses returning from Mount Sinai, with God’s words inscribed in the form of ten commandments, Labour’s leader – Ed Miliband – unveiled a tablet of his own: one with the six commandments of the British tabloids chiseled proudly upon it – something about immigrants, something else about hospitals, one reference to homes, another to the economy, and a nod to families. Akin to John Motson, David Cameron forgot which football team he supported.

Demonstrating its inherent respect for the democratic process, and professional integrity, the British media provided a balanced view of matters to the public. Striking a perfect equilibrium was The Sun: on the one hand, urging its English readers to help prevent the Scottish National Party coming to power; on the other, persuading its Scottish readers to elect the self-same party into power:

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Nonetheless, the media unanimously predict a hung Parliament, with Labour set to enter government by virtue of forming a coalition with the Scottish National Party; who had cheerfully spent the previous five years describing their red-rosetted counterparts as treacherous, devious, and inherently untrustworthy; intent upon destroying Scotland’s future in its entirety. While far from an ideal match on the surface, pundits proffered that this would prove a necessity – as the time of government majorities is no more.

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The results arrive: a Conservative majority enters government. The media unanimously begins to explain how those in its employ had predicted this all along; and columnists query how their readers could ever have been sufficiently self-absorbed to believe anything to the contrary.

The subsequent explanations from newspapers, as to how the public should have paid more attention to their predictions during the election campaign, if they had wanted a clearer picture of the eventual results, generated a slew of buzz-terms which entered the national lexicon: aspirational voters, shy-voters, virtue-signalling, echo-chambers, the centre, deselection, moderates, and the Westminster bubble, amongst others. A student of modern politics at one London university created a Venn diagram incorporating these terms, and the word ‘meaningless’: it consisted of one circle.

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Largely unnoticed throughout, the UK Independence Party’s widely-anticipated political earthquake struck, resulting in a paper-clip – which had been balanced precariously on the edge of an office desk – falling into a waste-bin. Nobody was hurt. In South Thanet, however, Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage failed to take the Parliamentary seat. After chalking the result up to a conspiracy, which saw the public’s vote inexplicably go to somebody other than the person he wanted them to elect, Farage resigned; but refused to accept his own resignation, and subsequently re-elected himself as leader.

Having been returned to office by more conventional means, David Cameron promptly returned to Europe, and to his demand for reforms. Accordingly, he challenged other European leaders to guess them via a game of charades. None succeed; though an Austrian diplomat comes surprisingly close – as shall be seen – with his postulation of widening the Channel Tunnel by thirty centimeters, so that British horses may stand sideways in train-carriages.

 

 

In June, the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words proved true. Kingsley was unveiled as the new Partick Thistle mascot – a somewhat unnerving amalgamation of the sun, as it appears in Medieval illuminated manuscripts, with the facial expression of a slightly worse-for-wear football hooligan; destined to leave a generation of young football fans with post-traumatic stress-disorder:

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In Germany, during the two-day G7 summit at Elmau Castle, Angela Merkel performed an impromptu rendition of ‘the hills are alive with the sound of music’ to President Obama; before cheerfully depriving the Greek government of its democratic sovereignty, for the benefit of German banks:

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Merkel would subsequently be accorded Time magazine’s Person Of The Year – the fourth in a line of German chancellors to be honoured with the prestigious award, going right back to 1938.

Over in Canada, the women’s football world cup kicked off – unlike the ritual humiliation suffered by the English men’s team at the hands of others, England’s women would go on to knock themselves out of the competition with an outstanding own goal; before winning the play-off for third place.

There was a medical breakthrough in Cuba – which became the first country to eradicate mother-to-child transmission of capitalist decadence; also HIV.

On June 17th, however, a shooting occurred at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, America; as a white supremacist attacked a Black congregation, leaving nine people dead. An argument over the merits of the confederate flag ensued in America. Bemusement over the merits of the confederate flag ensued internationally.

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Beginning on June 26th, Isis made a plea for attention, launching a series of attacks during the period of Ramadan – in France, Kobani, Sousse, Kuwait, Syria, and Tunisia simultaneously. While Isis’s leader would later claim a religious exemption from the duties of religion; the majority of Muslims expressed scepticism, if not a faint degree of incredulity, at his suggestion that ‘martyrdom is what makes life worth living’.

On the 18th of the month, the Battle of Waterloo had its 200th anniversary commemorated.  This had been a decisive turning point in one or another of Britain’s innumerable wars with France; and would eventually result in Napoleon’s defeat. Therefore, Waterloo would ultimately re-shape Britain’s relationship with the European continent. Not to be outdone, David Cameron ended the month with his familiar itinerary: 1) visit Europe 2) demand reforms. A mime routine was employed by the Prime Minister this time, in order to give Europe’s leaders a clue as to what, precisely, the reforms he had in mind were – to nil effect, and much chagrin, however, as he developed a touch of cramp half-way through.

 

 

The 7th of July was the 10th anniversary of the 2005 bombings of London’s public transport system. While some media outlets chose to revisit Ken Livingstone’s seminal speech on the merits of people not being especially horrible to one another; the Metropolitan Police Service’s creative interpretation of Jean Charles De Meneze’s demise remained at a remove from the foreground of public memory. The idea of police officers with guns, roaming the streets, shooting anyone who looked foreign-ese, was not a particularly palatable one for media consumption. Few would ever openly condone such a dangerous policy these days, after all, even in the midst of a terrorist attack. Lessons had been learned.

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Not entirely unrelated was the news that Cecil the lion had also become the victim of a shoot-to-kill policy; having first been struck with an arrow, and then summarily executed, in true extra-judicial fashion. The resultant media furore saw members of the public, animal conservationists, politicians, and celebrities all furiously denouncing such a senseless tragedy; and openly wondering what kind of person could do such a thing. When the culprit turned out to be a dentist, international commentators had to admit that this did make sense.

The conflict in Yemen entered a humanitarian truce; for several minutes. At this juncture, the full scale of civilian casualties had become apparent, with the majority being a consequence of airstrikes. Press agency reports indicated cause for scepticism about the efficacy of aerial bombardments to have any positive impact in wars; or to avoid creating civilian casualties. No pundits or columnists dispute the matter. On the contrary, there is a virtually unanimous, albeit tacit, consensus that this circumstance is unavoidable, making airstrikes extraordinarily problematic; and never something to pursue on an emotive whim. Lessons had been learned.

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In Greece, protests against austerity intensified, as the country’s debt crisis deepened. At the beginning of the month, the Greek government became the first country in history to miss a payment to the International Monetary Fund. The Greek public voted in a referendum on the terms of the Eurozone bail-out offer; which – in return for an investment – had required the Greek public to abide by a series of humiliating conditions: firstly, to dress in unseasonable clothing; secondly, to sing a refrain of ‘Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles’ every time they use an ATM. When the Greeks reject this offer, Angela Merkel’s eyes grew cold, and stern.

A more successful deal was struck between the United States, its allies, and Iran, however; after which economic sanctions against Tehran were lifted, in return for its government abating their nuclear programme. When the Iranians accept this offer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comb-over grew cold, and stern.

Further afield, the American space agency, Nasa, published their first up-close image of Pluto – which proved to be infinitely more disappointing than the artist’s impression Ancient Rome had relied upon:

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Meanwhile, back in Britain, the country’s Prime Minister ruled-out allowing refugees stranded in Calais to access asylum in the UK. As he explained during an interview with some TV news channel or another, there is “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live”. It was an inexplicable coincidence  that these people, who had been living in war-zones, or under tyrannous regimes, and been subject to violent persecution, had a 95% predisposition (with a 5% margin for error) of seeking refuge at some point in life. As the Prime Minister noted, therefore, the only explanation could be the pull-factor of Britain’s innumerable unpaid internships, underpaid apprenticeships, frozen-paid public sector jobs, and its zero-hour contracted minimum-waged private sector jobs. The British press cast its considered purview on matters:

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In a productive month for the government, it also introduced the Welfare and Work Bill to Parliament. Amongst other things, the bill would reduce support granted to people who are too ill to work, in order to motivate them into gaining employment, which their illness prevents them retaining. It would also remove income from people who were employed on low wages, and to parents with more than two children. During its second reading in the House of Commons, the official opposition took the principled stand of sitting on their hands, and openly turning a blind eye. Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman explained her party’s decision to abstain on a bill which was designed to increase poverty among the already impoverished; by stressing that while there was no logical reason to cut benefits, no economic rationale, no financial need, and no moral justification whatsoever, 36% of the electorate – and therefore a clear majority of the population – had voted for these reforms, even though none of them had been outlined prior to the general election, the Prime Minister had expressly ruled several of them out, and the Opposition party’s own supporters had voted against them.

 

 

August saw the refugee-crisis worsen, as people fleeing violence in the Middle East continued to make the dangerous journey to European shores. Nearly a quarter of a million refugees had arrived in Europe during 2015; yet over 2,000 people had died attempting to reach safety. In Kos, the Greek Island struggled to provide aid to the thousands of refugees arriving. In Austria, 1,500 people were left to sleep in the open air. Hungary installed a border fence, to prevent people finding safety. In one incident, approximately 200 people drowned off the coast of Italy, as the boat carrying them capsized. In Britain, however, government representatives Theresa May and Phillip Hammond, speaking at a conference held by the Crocodile Tears Foundation For Humane Gestures, averred that providing sanctuary to marauding foreign-sorts, from the African country of Syria, would hasten the collapse of Europe’s social order; explaining that “the only way to keep things civilised, and retain our moral superiority to brutal foreign regimes, is by using the iron fist of compassion”.

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In France, three American men, two unnamed men, and one Briton were awarded the French Legion d’honneur after foiling a terrorist attack on a train. The assailant would later claim that he couldn’t believe he “was being linked to terrorism” – as he hadn’t been intending to perpetrate a massacre at all; he was merely going to provide feedback on the train’s catering standards, in the name of Allah, when his gun jammed.

Arguably no less heroic, give or take, British athletes performed admirably in a sport which – unlike football, cricket, or rugby – actually matters: the 30th World Bog Snorkelling Championships at Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.

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The American town of Ferguson, Missouri, endured several riots after a Justice Department investigation was published on the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager, which had happened the previous year. Demonstrations and unrest would continue intermittently for two days. Of note was the involvement of a vigilante group, called the Oath Keepers; who combined the attribute of staunch freedom-fighting, with a firm ‘not in my backyard’ mentality.

At home, the Labour party’s leadership-contest began its month-long voting process. After several weeks of intense coverage, featuring numerous high-profile interventions from such luminaries as Peter Mandelson – who holds the distinction of having to resign twice from the same job, due to separate corruption scandals – along with senior journalists dismissing members of the public as infantile narcissists, the media confidently predicts that the previously inconspicuous candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, will not win; and will instead simply “fade away”, back into obscurity.

 

 

September: Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour leadership contest, with an unprecedented mandate. It is perhaps no more than a coincidence, but noticeable nonetheless, that from the moment Corbyn is elected, the days gradually grow shorter, and the weather becomes increasingly cold. Few journalists are slow to point this out.

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Shortly before this, however, the on-going refugee crisis reached a nadir in the public consciousness; as the body of a drowned three-year-old boy, called Aylan Kurdi, was washed ashore on the Turkish coast. As Britain’s Prime Minister drew criticism for having previously ruled-out rescue efforts, the British tabloid, The Sun, drew upon every latent fibre of its inherent nobility; and responded to the tragedy by printing a frontpage referring to the Labour leadership contenders as ‘cowards’:

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before thanking Britain’s Prime Minister for saying nothing of use, and doing it:

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Page 3 was unaffected throughout.

At the news of British airstrikes, journalists expressed confidence, if not optimism, about the ability of aerial bombardments to have a meaningful impact on the war, as the surgically-precise weaponry involved would safely avoid causing any civilian casualties; all while serving noble, apolitical aims of national security and humanitarianism.

Not to be outdone, Russia’s military also began to launch airstrikes against Isis, later in the month. British journalists expressed concern, if not scepticism, about the ability of aerial bombardments to have any meaningful impact, other than exacerbating the conflict by causing civilian casualties; all the while serving ulterior political motives, under a disingenuously high-minded guise.

In Hungary, however, a camera-woman reacted to the refugee crisis in a somewhat more forthright manner, by kicking and tripping-up refugees; including one man who was carrying his son, while they were attempting to cross the border from Serbia. The collective failures of European authorities to provide refugees with asylum, and the toxicity of the media coverage surrounding the crisis, stirred a different response from other people, however; resulting in mass demonstrations of support for the provision of safe refuge to people fleeing the Syrian conflict:

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Proving that Britain could host international visitors, to mutual benefit, the rugby world cup began; which saw the English team bring a touch of welcome comic relief to the news, with their performances. This would pale in comparison, however, to the Daily Mail’s feature story of the month, in which a tax-evading donor (i.e. a Conservative peer) alleged that David Cameron had once less-than-earnestly how’s-your-fathered the remnants of a pig. The Prime Minister would, after the elapse of several days, reject this allegation.

David Cameron visited Europe, shortly afterwards, and soldiered on with his call for EU reforms. European leaders, to their credit, managed to keep a straight face throughout the proceedings. France’s president was complimentary, in fact, about Cameron’s unstinting efforts – noting that fate despises the lukewarm; therefore it is best to go the whole hog at all times.

 

 

October was the month of the Conservative party conference, in Manchester. There was some protest or another about austerity or some-such; but the real story, as journalists made clear, was about the media. The confrontations outside of the conference were literally within meters of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre site; when 15 protesters were killed by government cavalry. Yet now, a mere 196 years later, journalists experienced impertinence, and several were subject to the unnecessary use of curse-words. Somehow, they survive; and go on to explain that the government is now the epitome of compassion and true equality. For some reason, the protests outside continue undeterred.

During the conference itself, however, several government ministers demonstrated a new power-pose, designed to embody their ruling ethos via body language; code-named ‘the Wank-Penguin’: 

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The Wank-Penguin, in all its glory.

As a further demonstration of this tendency, the government ensured that a series of peers were roped-in to make an appearance at the House of Lords; in order to pass a bill which would take financial support away from c. 3 million people, living on low incomes. This would prove to be an act of class-warfare straight from the manual of General Douglas Haig, however; resulting in a somewhat Pyrrhic victory for the government.

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Overseas, the combination of a suicide-bombing in Turkey, the destruction of a Russian airliner in Sinai, and a US military airstrike which put the surgical into the surgically-precise bombardment of a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, lead some to suggest that violence and warfare may not contribute to the general betterment of humanity.

On an equally galling note, the author had their 34th birthday; and received the gift of a cheese-grater from their youngest brother.

 

 

November saw the National League for Democracy win a landslide election victory in Burma; ending the country’s rule by military dictatorship. In a historic moment, the party’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, pledged ‘democracy and freedom for all, without exceptions’; before explaining who the exceptions would be applied to.

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To the relief and welcome of all, Britain’s Prime Minister wrote a letter to the President of the European Parliament, finally outlining the reforms he, the British media, and very possibly the public as well, demanded from the EU:

1) Ending the Brussels-imposed laws of physics.
2) European football teams to approach the game in the right spirit; thereby granting British sides a sporting chance.
3) All crime perpetrated by foreign-sorts to be made illegal; and the Home Office given leeway to jolly well put evil-doers out of doors.
4) European letter-boxes to be widened, so that British envelopes can be posted sideways.

Not long afterwards, David Cameron would also write a letter of complaint to his local council; criticising the UK’s government for “the unwelcome and counter-productive budget-cuts which have been imposed upon the country, by whoever it is that runs it”.

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On the 12th of November, Isis operatives perpetrated two suicide-bombings in Beirut, Lebanon; leaving 41 people dead. A day later, France was struck; as individuals with ties to Isis targeted several sites in Paris – resulting in 130 fatalities among people who were deemed by the group to have been provocatively minding their own business. As the French were left reeling, international responses varied. While public buildings were lit-up worldwide in the red, white, and blue of France’s flag, as a gesture of solidarity – and candle-lit vigils were held in memory of the victims – British journalist, Kay Burley, channeled the inner-most thought processes of canines everywhere:

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Once the initial horror at senseless violence had abated – that is to say, after several hours had elapsed – it was widely agreed among politicians and journalists that the only correct response was to launch a series of airstrikes thousands of miles away from France; which would definitely curb terrorism, in a way that proved elusive during the two previous months of continual bombardments against the same targets, in the same territory.

A gesture of solidarity from America to France (it's flag is on the left).

America celebrating its solidarity with France

Furthermore, a thoughtful – and thought-provoking – discussion about the merits of British police employing a shoot-to-kill policy, in the event of terrorism, ensued; with various politicians and pundits explaining how they would personally protect the public from acts of random violence, by volunteering to shoot any-suspicious-looking-sorts, at will. Few would refuse to openly condone such a policy these days, in the midst of a terrorist attack. Lessons had been learned. After all, you can’t make an omelette without shooting the odd Brazilian chap.

The month drew to a close, with Turkey shooting-down a Russian Jet, which had been involved in launching airstrikes against Isis, in Syria. Living up to his tough-man image, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, responded by refusing to take the Turkish President’s telephone calls.

 

 

As December began, Britain’s Parliament debated whether or not to deploy airstrikes against Isis. While 87 of the allotted 90 minutes were devoted to MPs demanding apologies for being criticised by members of the public, during the remaining three, arguably the most memorable moment was the speech given by British shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn; as he explained that ‘terrorism is bad’; and ‘that Britain must revive the spirit of the International Brigades, fighting against fascism during the Spanish Civil War; bombarding our way to victory – as in Guernica’.

For a while it had looked as if a government, with a working majority, would not get to have a military jaunt overseas; despite the fact that it had been involved in one continuously since January. That the Prime Minister could simply have authorised it, regardless, had no bearing. Despite all circumstances favouring the motion being passed, somehow – against all the odds – it passed. The Royal Air Force was exploding something or another within 80 minutes. Numerous journalists explained – during the 24 hour period that the crisis of our times was of interest – these were British airstrikes, so nobody who was innocent would be harmed. This would be Britain’s finest hour and a half. As the Prime Minister himself noted “the enemies of freedom are as indefatigable as they are unprincipled – but so are we”.

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Equally sporting, Tyson Fury won a boxing match; and during the celebrations announced that he was powered by God, and would go after unhappily-pregnant women, and gays next. The BBC momentarily considered expressing mild disapproval of Fury’s lifestyle choices; but opted to award Andy Murray with Sports Personality of the year instead, having lead Britain to victory in the Davis cup, several weeks prior.

Other notable achievements of the month included Astronaut Tim Peake striking a blow for gender equality, by demonstrating that where a female British astronaut had gone decades prior, a male counterpart could surely follow.

Over in America, Donald Trump became the first turkey to survive Thanksgiving and Christmas, and run for president. Trump made significant headway during the Republican debates, by tapping into the fear many people held, that Muslims might move to America, purchase weapons, and begin engaging in random acts of violence; though some people doubted they would integrate into the American way of life so successfully.

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In the wake of November’s terrorist attack on Paris, after the first round of regional elections, Marine Le Pen’s Front National seemed to be on the verge of a significant electoral victory in France. The far-right party had campaigned on a platform of bold patriotism, rooted in sound commonsense:

1) A French First policy – all greengrocers will be required to put native-grown fruit and vegetables at the forefront of their shelves. Any foodstuffs which contain traces of minority-religion prayer will be placed firmly at the back. Ms Le Pen will ensure that France’s children learn to value the merits of an honest French potato.

2) Controlled borders – every single sheet of paper used in any offices throughout the land, will have fixed margin spaces. No ifs; no buts.

3) A Citizenship Test – the Front National will examine whether people are genuinely French, through subjecting all people to the mandatory scientific measurement of their knees, ankles, and elbows.

4) Traditional values – Ms Le Pen will ensure that all public buildings contain only native-made chairs and tables: ones with good solid, wooden legs; not seductive foreign types, whose elegant designs could tempt the virtue of impressionable youths.

5) Restoring National Pride – reverting Freedom Fries back to their original title: French fries.

In the event, the Front National failed to win any region in the final round of the 2015 elections.As Le Pen explained, this was the fault of immigrants – moving to France, and taking the Front National’s election victories.

In Britain, however, Oldham held a by-election after the death of its incumbent, Michael Meacher, two months beforehand. After decamping to the city, journalists predicted a resounding victory for the UK Independence Party; and suggested that the vote would represent an informal ballot on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, necessitating his resignation. After Labour promptly won with a landslide, the media explained how the result had never held any implications for Corbyn’s continued leadership at all. If anything, it was yet another disastrous election result for the man; following the humiliating victory he had suffered in the actual leadership contest.

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Jim McMahon does his best to console Jeremy Corbyn after the by-election success.

UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, expressed a similar disbelief at the outcome; contending that a conspiracy had been afoot, and that “serious questions must be asked”, as “people were reportedly turning up with bundles of postal votes in their arms; all of them wearing suspiciously similar uniforms, emblazoned with the words ‘Royal Mail’”. At least the Oldham result provided Farage with an excuse to announce his resignation early; and come back fighting fit as UKIP’s new leader in 2016. It’s worth adding as a side note that Sir Oink-A-Lot came last in the by-election; albeit with a respectable 141 votes.

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Hebden, Yorkshire

Floods engulfed Britain. As the Daily Telegraph cautioned, “a mere 3 months after Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, few now can doubt the cause and effect at work”. The impact of Storm Desmond may also have been a factor. Either way, several thousand homes and businesses were affected. No less affected was Britain’s Prime Minister, who promptly chaired a Cobra meeting, albeit by proxy, over the telephone; before writing a stiff letter, reprimanding whoever it was that decided to cut flood defences year in, year out since 2011.

 

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David Cameron at the floods – sadness in his eyes.

Cameron attempted to look on the bright-side, however; elucidating that:

“these floods are a classic example of a free-market success story. Instead of limiting entrepreneurial flood-water’s access to emerging markets, by raising barriers, our long-term economic plan has seen the floods rewarded with exponential growth due to their daring innovation, and risk-taking flair. Let the floods compete on an equal footing with human society, I say. Sure, some people will fail to adapt to the rising waters and – to use the overly emotive language favoured by the left – drown; but that is merely their own fault for not working hard enough to stay afloat. It’s survival of the fittest in this world, and those British people who adapt to this new challenge, and compete with the flood waters today, will become the leaders of enterprise tomorrow”.

2015 would in fact be the warmest year since records began. The Daily Mail dismissed any suggestion that Global Warming was a factor behind the floods, however; noting that “what with the earth being flat, any excess water will simply pour harmlessly over the edge, anyway”.

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To round the year off, actor Nicolas Cage restored a degree of faith in the goodness of humanity, by returning a stolen dinosaur skull to Mongolia.

2015 finished with many people left pondering the state of, well, everything.

 

 

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