Happy New Year to everyone. I hope it's a really good one for all of you guys on a personal level, but fear that it's going to be an absolute stinker on a political one.
A lot of people have enthusiastically engaged with the tiresome social media trope that 2016 was an exceptionally awful year, but in my view that's wrong for a number of reasons, not least because Brexit and Trump were two of the things that made 2016 seem like such a black year to social liberals and political progressives, but the reality is that the appalling consequences of these 2016 votes will only really begin to be felt in 2017 and beyond.
Before I get to the political stuff I'd like to briefly address one of the most oft repeated complaints about 2016, which was the number of beloved celebrities to have died. I was personally moved by a few of them but I won't bother you with who, and for what reasons. I'm fairly sure that a similar number of famous and influential people will die in 2017, and social media will continue to massively amplify the public outpourings of grief and affection just as it did in 2016.
When David Cameron decided to run away from politics without carrying out his threat to trigger Article 50 on the day of the EU referendum result he managed to delay the widely predicted Brexit economic meltdown. Theresa May and the Tories keep claiming that they will have cobbled together an actual plan of action by March 2017 when they will trigger Article 50 and set the Brexit chaos truly in motion.
Anyone who thinks Brexit won't result in political and economic chaos obviously hasn't thought about the practicalities of it very hard at all.
Either Theresa May and the Tories go for "hard Brexit" and trigger a tsunami of businesses, capital and skilled workers fleeing the isolationist UK to retain access to the European Single Market, or they'll go for a "soft Brexit" consisting of acceptance of free movement of labour in return for single market access, which protect the economy at the expense of totlly enraging the several million of the 17 million of Brexit voters who thought that they'd succeeded in making the nasty foreigners go away, triggering a savage hard-right backlash.
Theresa May keeps continuing with the ridiculous "have our cake and eat it" strategy of promising that Brexit will be great for everyone, but anyone with the slightest grain of political pragmatism must know that the EU can't give the UK a better deal outside the union than they had within it, otherwise they'll be handing every other country in the union an invitation to quit and get a bespoke special deal like the UK where they get to pick and choose all of the bits they like and discard all of the bits they don't. If they give the UK the kind of wonder-deal that Theresa May is promising, the EU will be writing their own suicide note.
As much as I despise her for her woeful political track record and her extremist hard-right authoritarian tendencies, it's impossible not to admit that she's been left with the lose-lose situation of either trashing the UK economy to appease the anti-immigration lot, or completely enraging this huge right-wing bigot demographic that she's always been so keen to pander to with her anti-immigrant rhetoric and her false promises about cutting immigration.
As for the farce of Donald Trump, he was selected as the next President of The United States in 2016 but his inauguration doesn't even take place until January 20th 2017. Of course seeing a dangerously unstable and shockingly misogynistic bigot like Donald Trump win the US Presidency was a terrible shock to anyone with liberal social values or progressive politics. Of course Trump spent the back end of 2016 appointing a cabinet stuffed full of billionaires, ex-Goldman Sachs employees, Washington insiders, science-deniers and corporate fat cats. Of course he's been using his Twitter account to do insane stuff like antagonise China, suck up to Vladimir Putin, and announce astonishing off-the-cuff US policy changes like restarting the nuclear arms race ... but the damage he can achieve as President Elect is still limited. The real damage is sure to come when he's actually sworn in as President.
Another dark political cloud is looming in 2017 in the shape of the French Presidential election in April. It seems incredible that there's a strong possibility that the French electorate will elect a fascist as their President within a lifetime of France being occupied by Nazis (it's 77 years since the Nazi invasion and the establishment of the collaborationist Vichy regime).
Even if Marine Le Pen does not take the Presidency for the extreme-right Front National, the second favourite is the horrifying neo-Thatcherite François Fillon who is standing on a platform of tax cuts for the rich, welfare cuts for the poor, labour rights cuts for ordinary workers, socially and economically ruinous austerity and the kind of fanatical hard-right state-shrinking ideology that Thatcher pursued so vehemently and which led to the 2007-08 global financial sector meltdown.
Fillon is significantly more right-wing than Hillary Clinton, but he's just as much of an establishment insider pushing the bankrupt policies of the past. By putting forward such a candidate to face the National Front's extreme-right populism, the right-wing French Republican party are betraying exactly the same kind of naivety as the Democratic Party in the United States.
It would be no surprise at all if Islamist terrorists launched a pre-election atrocity in France in an effort to influence the French public into voting for the divisive anti-Muslim extremism of Marine Le Pen. A pre-election terrorist attack would clearly suit both sets of extremists. The French fascists could use it to take the Presidency and nothing would suit the Islamists better than the recruiting tool of being able to point to the French President as evidence that Westerners hate Muslims.
If you bought into the tiresome social media trope that 2016 was a terrible year, I'd advise you to hang on until you've at least seen the first third of 2017. By the end of April several beloved celebrities will have died, we'll have had several months of President Trump, the Brexit debacle will be in full-swing, and there's a strong possibility that the French will have just elected a fascist as their President!
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