THE GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY – 2022 THE YEAR THAT WAS; WHAT HOPES FOR THE UK IN 2023?
By SHAMLAL PURI
Associate Publisher & Senior Editor – UK
- The United Kingdom saw a shocking political tsunami uniquely, described as 5,4,3,2,1, making it a tale of shenanigans, in just one year causing a significant embarrassment – an anti-climax shaking its image in domestic and international diplomacy circles.
- The year saw five education secretaries, four chancellors, three prime ministers, two Tory leadership coups one giant political simmering cauldron of conspiracies and back stabbings within the Tory Party, adding to the recipe of a massive political failure.
- The Conservative or the Tory Party suffered a truly apocalyptic 2022. This was the year of turmoil with three Prime Ministers as grim as Tory incompetence, sleaze, and scandal, which crashed the economy, culminating in a cost-of-living crisis.
- They won a resounding victory in the 2019 general election, throwing the opposition Labour Party to the opposition benches in the House of Commons. The Tories were no doubt popular, but they dented their reputation in the ensuing years.
As the bitter winter’s weak sun sets over the United Kingdom today, 31 December ushering in the New Year, Britons bid their farewells to 2022 with mixed feelings.
Most Britons are content to confine the past 12 months to harsh memories full of tensions in a barely functioning country – memories that they would rather forget.
Crisis, crisis and crisis, Britons living on the breadline would describe 2022.
In a nutshell, 2022 is a bad year for the have-nots who yearned for good news to ease their plight but got no joy.
In sharp contrast, 2022 could have brought treasured memories for the UK’s millionaires and billionaires.
Crisis? What, crisis? The rich would ask. They suffered no pain, no cash crunch. For them, the year brought an overload of happiness and riches. Theirs is a boring story worthy only of passing mention and less deserving of praise – at least the selfish Britons or those few millionaires and billionaires who were confined in their ivory towers while millions suffered in poverty.
The more powerful story is of how the poor coped in 2022.
Cost-of-living crisis, fuel shortages, rampant crime, energy crisis, unprecedented hunger and high energy costs, industrial action and strikes that have paralysed the country, hit them hard. Covid-19, which hasn’t perished but disappeared off the media’s radar and relegated to an ordinary flu virus, still causes fears.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II also cast a shadow over the country, particularly among the British population supporting the monarchy.
The United Kingdom saw a shocking political tsunami uniquely, described as 5,4,3,2,1, making it a tale of shenanigans, in just one year causing a significant embarrassment – an anti-climax shaking its image in domestic and international diplomacy circles.
The year saw five education secretaries, four chancellors, three prime ministers, two Tory leadership coups one giant political simmering cauldron of conspiracies and back stabbings within the Tory Party, adding to the recipe of a massive political failure.
The Conservative or the Tory Party suffered a truly apocalyptic 2022. This was the year of turmoil with three Prime Ministers as grim as Tory incompetence, sleaze, and scandal, which crashed the economy, culminating in a cost-of-living crisis.
They won a resounding victory in the 2019 general election, throwing the opposition Labour Party to the opposition benches in the House of Commons. The Tories were no doubt popular, but they dented their reputation in the ensuing years.
That election brought the career journalist and former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to 10 Downing Street as the Prime Minister. Things appeared to tick along well with Boris at the helm but call it his vanity, his naivety. Boris’ popularity star began to sink as he made a series of mistakes that finally forced him out of Downing Street.
Johnson was doing a good job at the helm. He directed his energies towards tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and the two lockdowns and prepared the UK to battle it with the killer virus.
Thousands of miles away in the bowels of Europe, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had territorial ambitions and was desperate to continue his 2014 war against neighbouring Ukraine, a sovereign country once part of the USSR.
Restless, Putin attacked on 24 February 2022 to seize its territory and bring it under Russian control. Johnson, who was having a bad time in London trying hard to salvage his reputation, stepped into that war siding with Ukraine. The UK has given and/or pledged £2.3 billion worth of aid and arms to Ukraine, much of it by the Boris Government.
But he made some cardinal mistakes – like one rule for them and one rule for the leaders and the infamous Partygate sleaze involving the Prime Minister.
He imposed rules asking the rest of the country to isolate themselves for their safety, but he breached his rules and held parties at 10 Downing Street. The terms Partygate and sleaze were born here.
At first, he denied all knowledge of these parties and said so at the House of Commons. But ultimately, his lies were nailed when confronted with evidence he was forced to accept that he was present at those parties. Alsop in attendance was his then Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, his neighbour at 11 Downing Street – he too was fined. The fixed penalty amount they paid was petty, but it dented their reputations, adding a ‘conviction’ to their names.
The Parliamentary rules, as they stood at the time, did not permit someone with a ‘conviction’ to be the Prime Minister.
The rebellion against Boris Johnson snowballed as his parliamentary colleagues and Ministers turned against him and resigned. Left alone by then, he was forced to resign on 7 July.
There were demands from the opposition to hold General Elections, which are due on 17 December 2024. The Tories refused.
They held an internal ‘selection’ process involving the Tory party membership voting, which brought two contestants, former Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former Chancellor of the Exchequer millionaire Rishi Sunak in the Johnson administration vying to be the next prime Minister.
There was no shortage of political backstabbing between the candidates from the same party trying their best to win.
Truss won hands down and disappointed Rishi Sunak, who wanted to make history the UK’s first Asian diaspora Prime Minister returned to the backbenches keeping a low profile.
Truss entered Downing Street firing on all cylinders, vowing to resuscitate the ailing economy. She and her Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, presented a minibudget which backfired so badly that the economy crashed, leaving ugly scars, and scalding the Truss leadership.
The Pound sunk to its bottom ever in over three decades – going to as low as £1.03 to the US Dollar. The Bank of England had to inject £65 billion to prop up the Pound and save the country’s economy from collapsing.
She sacked her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, choosing to blame him for the catastrophe, but the final buck stopped with her.
Kwarteng defended himself months later, saying he had warned Liz Truss that she was going too fast with her economic plans.
Weeks later, her Home Secretary Suella Braverman also resigned (or did Truss sack her?) after she allegedly breached the Ministerial code of sending official emails to a senior Government colleague from her private email rather than her more secure official email.
Her government felt the heat, and Truss was forced to resign after 44 days in power and after her party colleagues turned against her.
That minibudget had jinxed the Truss Government.
The opposition parties, especially Labour, demanded general elections calling the Tory party incompetent and unworthy of ruling the country,
It accused the Tories of treating the UK as its personal fiefdom. But the Tories would have none of it.
And, oh yes, the nonagenarian Queen Elizabeth II, 96, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, who Liz Truss had met two days earlier to seek her permission to form the new government, also died, plunging the UK into a period of mourning.
The ailing Queen, who had recovered from a bout of Covid-19 in February, passed away at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, on 8 September at 3.10 pm according to her death certificate, which cites the cause of her death as “old age”.
At first, it was reported that the Queen had died of natural causes, but according to media reports later, her biographer and close friend of royals Gyles Brandreth revealed that the monarch had some form of ‘bone marrow cancer’.
The Queen was laid to rest in the George VI Memorial Chapel, on the grounds of Windsor Castle, on 19 September,
after a colourful and spectacular State funeral ceremony loaded with pageantry, pomp, traditions, and rituals.
Soon after his mother’s death, her oldest son, Charles, was proclaimed King Charles III. He did not wait long to change the face of the monarch on the British currency,
Coins featuring King Charles III were released, and work is seriously afoot to replace the Queen’s image on the UK currency notes.
The political brawl continued with Liz Truss’s forced resignation departure, and the Tories desperately searched for a replacement to rescue the rapidly sinking economy.
The new Prime Minister had to be a Mr Money-trained candidate to turn around the economy.
The opportunity to take the key to 10 Downing Street knocked on Rishi Sunak’s door.
What better chance was there for this career investment banker who worked for Goldman Sachs and later as a partner at the hedge fund firms The Children’s Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners?
Even though the discredited Boris Johnson cut short his holiday in the Caribbean and flew back to London to present himself as a viable replacement to Liz Truss and turn into a new leaf after his first bout in Downing Street, his campaign soon lost fizz as some Tories pushed hard to ensure Sunak won easily – which he did at the end of October.
Persistence pays! At last! Rishi Sunak won his way to Downing Street as the UK’s third Prime Minister.
Let’s set aside the circumstances that propelled him to the high office and celebrate that the UK has won its Barack Obama moment.
Sunak not only entered the history books as this country’s first British Asian diaspora Prime Minister but was also seen as a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records for this feat.
He has broken all the records and achieved the once unachievable! We wish him happy days ahead.
Sunak promised that he would pick up the pieces from Liz Truss’s mistakes, turn the wrongs into rights and rebuild the economy =- but only after a period of tough measures and tough times for Britons.
The country was already suffering from the energy and cost-of-living crises, forcing many people to choose between eating or heating their homes in the harsh winter of 2022.
Some mothers have resorted to rummaging in the bins outside charity shops and superstores to see if they can find either food thrown away because it has passed its sale-by date or discarded donated by the rich, which charity shops could not sell to raise money for good causes.
The United Kingdom is now the land of hungry people – the land of haves and have-nots.
The worse affected are children. Over half a million children do not have food at home, and some resort to stealing food from the school canteen.
The UK is going through an unprecedented emergency: Hunger.
It is devastating many lives, and there is a danger that families may be forced to abandon their young children if they cannot feed them.
A single mother said she feeds her children first and eats their leftovers from the food brought from what she can afford to buy. Another survives on soup and bread. Yet, another – a senior citizen – had not eaten for three days because she had nothing at home.
There are millions of heart-wrenching stories of children and single mothers just like, but who never get told or acknowledged that they haven’t had a decent meal all day. They are forced to steal food to get by.
The UK needs more food. Plenty of food is available, but millions don’t have the money to buy food. Instead, they depend on free food from charities and some 1,500 food banks.
In the UK, it was not all doom and gloom in 2022. There was positive news too.
Employers agreed to allow their staff a four-day working week in the UK. This would apply to a small section of some 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies ranging from local businesses to large corporations. Those who are seen as key workers with responsibilities such as hospitals, fire brigade, and police, among others, have a long way to go before winning these perks,
The world’s largest floating wind farm was approved to be built off the coast of the UK. Once completed, the floating wind farm will generate around 1GW of power. That’s enough for approximately 927,000 homes in the UK.
What can we expect in 2023? Probably, more of the same.
The first few months are bound to be filled with many problems carried forward from the past year. With the next general election staring at the Tories in 2024, this is their opportunity to win back the hearts of the Britons and power.