What a year 2010 has been for politics, we now have a change of government with a completely different style to the previous administration, it has been a year of scandal, history, protests and cuts. From the Bigot gate incident to Nick and Dave in Number 10, here is my political review.
January 2010 was a rather busy month for politics in Britain. The race for the keys to Number 10 began with the Conservatives unofficially launching their campaign, followed by Labour. Then Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron tried to say Britain was broken. He used false crime statistics at a press conference which then backfired as the BBC rightly corrected him saying that crime had in fact reduced under Labour. Some Labour MPs tried to oust Gordon Brown as Labour leader believing that he would lose them the election and that they would have more of a chance of winning with a different leader. However like the previous two attempts to oust the Prime Minister, it failed.
At the end of January at The Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq war, the former Prime Minister Tony Blair was called to give evidence, he said he would do the same again because Saddam Hussain was a threat to the world that killed his own people.
February was a relatively quiet month; early polls suggested that Britain would face a hung parliament at the general election with no party gaining an overall majority.
March saw the Cash for Access scandal unfold; a sting by Dispatches on Channel 4 revealed that former cabinet members Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon were offering to sell them selves like taxis for thousands of pounds. Also in March, the former leader of the Labour party Michael Foot passed away at the age of 96. He was regarded as one of the greatest parliamentarians.
And we’re off, Prime Minister Gordon Brown went to Buckingham Palace on April 6th and asked Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament for a general election to be held on Thursday 6th May. For the first time in British political history the leaders of the three main parties agreed to have 3 live debates, the first was in Manchester. ‘Cleggmania’ was sweeping the country….well amongst some people it was, but it was not to last long. Little did he know that by the end of May ‘Cleggmania’ would be history.
One of the biggest memories from the 2010 election is the Bigot gate, whereby Gordon Brown called a Labour supporter from Rochdale a “bigoted woman” after he left his microphone on, it was picked up by Sky news and meant the PM had to apologise.
The general election gave no party a majority, so for the first time since 1974, Britain was faced with a hung parliament. There were negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories/Labour to see if a deal could be made to form a government. 4 days after the election the Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his intention to resign as Labour leader to try and form a government with the Lib Dems, a few days later on May 11th he resigned as Prime Minister, as the talks between the Labour party and the Lib Dems had broken down. It was clear that there would be a coalition government between the Liberal Democrats and The Conservatives. On the evening of May 11th as darkness fell, David Cameron became the 53rd British Prime Minister; he announced on the steps of Number 10 that he will have a full coalition with the Liberal Democrats. It was then clear reported that Nick Clegg would become Deputy Prime Minister with 4 of his MPs having seats at the cabinet table.
41 Days after the coalition was formed, on June 22nd 2010 there was an emergency budget which saw the VAT rise announcement along with the announcement of the privatisation of Royal Mail amongst other things. This was the insight into how the CSR would be, cuts to welfare, police and education. The Secretary of State for DWP, Iain Duncan Smith suggested people should effectively ‘get on their bikes’ and look for work, this echoed the comments in 1981 by Norman Tebbit.
By July the race to be the next leader of the Labour party was on, the two Miliband brothers, Andy Burnham, Diane Abbott and Ed Balls were trying to persuade Labour members that they were the right choice for leader.
August saw the launch of a campaign by the former DPM, Lord Prescott to save NHS Direct after it was announced that the service would close and be replaced with a cheaper service manned by untrained staff. The petition gathered thousands of signatures but failed to save the well known service.
September now and Conference season. This was always going to be interesting, would Cameron speak at the Lib Dem conference and would Clegg speak at the Tory conference? How would the grass root members of both parties react to the coalition and the decisions made by both leaders? The evidence of the distrust in Nick Clegg was clear when Lib Dem activists took to the stage to condemn the decision to go into government with Tories.
The Labour conference in Manchester was the first time since 1994 that members had the chance to see who they voted to be the new leader of the labour party. Younger brother Ed Miliband won the contest but only just. He accepted that Labour got things wrong and that we were too comfortable in government and that we neglected some people. He offered a hand of friendship to Liberal Democrat’s and young people. A few days after the leadership announcement, David Miliband announced he would leave front line politics, but will he be back?
The report by Lord Browne into University tuition fees recommended that universities should be able to charge up to £9000 a year for a course. It is currently £3290; of course this would mean that poorer students are deterred from going to university as it would mean graduating with debts of around £40,000. The comprehensive spending review on 20th October saw hugs cuts to welfare, education, police, defence and justice. It was clear that the cuts announced in the CSR would be deep and painful.
By November the support Nick Clegg had from his colleagues in the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary party was running low. Several senior Lib Dems including Charles Kennedy warned Nick Clegg about selling out to the Tories. There were tuition fee riots at Millbank Tower which is where the CCHQ is based; the building was ransacked by a couple of hundred demonstrators who even managed to gain access to the roof. One protester threw a fire extinguisher off the roof which narrowly missed hitting police officers on the ground. In other news it was announced that Britain would provide a £7bn loan to bailout Ireland and that Prince William would marry Kate Middleton in the spring.
There were further protests in Westminster over the tuition fee increase, particularly on December 11th when the House of Commons voted to implement parts of the Browne report. Many Lib Dems either abstained from voting or voted against the government. In the end the bill passed the House of Commons by 21 votes. Later that evening a car carrying HRH Prince Charles was attacked, his wife the Duchess of Cornwall was poked with a stick. In December it was also announced that there would be a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth after former MP, Phil Woolas lost his appeal. One of the major international political stories of 2010 is the release of a quarter of a million secret cables by Wikileaks.
As we enter 2011 there are new challenges in politics, will the coalition survive the year? Will there be any attempts to oust Nick Clegg as Lib Dem leader? And how will Ed Miliband perform as Labour leader?
I want to thank each and every one of you for reading this blog over the past year, and for all of you who voted this as the 45th Best Labour blog in the Total Politics award. I wish you a very Happy New Year.