I must begin this review with a disclaimer. Typically these end of year lists are quite joyous affairs, semi-nostalgic and designed to rekindle pleasant memories of the highlights of the year past, rather like the love-in which is ‘Sports Personality of The Year’.
Well this list really isn’t anything like that, I’m afraid, but let’s do our best to recount the major events of the year in politics and the year in Renew, and let’s try and be cheerful about it.
Renew began the year by locating and securing fine new offices with enough space for a handful of staff to work safely and socially distanced. After four years of begging, borrowing, sharing premises and relying on the kindness of strangers, we finally found an HQ to call home, to invite guests, conduct meetings, and to plaster Renew posters in the windows with proper pride.
It was from here that we began planning our campaigns for the Scottish elections and London Mayoral election, the first time in our history that we had attempted to run 2 major campaigns in parallel.
Our basement became a makeshift ‘boiler room’ for our new team of young recruits and volunteers to brainstorm media and comms ideas for the campaigns.
Upstairs we built and populated new websites and crowdfunder sites for each campaign and conducted the day-to-day business of Renew.
We organised an in-person hustings for the London Mayoral challenger candidates, which Extinction Rebellion’s leader gatecrashed and attempted to hijack before flouncing out.
Whilst the electoral results in those elections were not spectacular, we nonetheless did what we set out to achieve, which was to spread the word of Renew as far and as wide as possible, to engage with voters as best we could in elections where face-to-face campaigning and public events were almost impossible, and also with a shoestring budget. Our candidates acquitted themselves brilliantly and our ability to recruit top drawer young and committed campaign volunteers was underlined once again.
Renew launches Ignite Magazine and conducts a series of video interviews with UK businesses suffering as a result of the Brexit deal.
Pre-election hustings, organised by Renew.
Labour inadvertently leaked plans to ‘appear more patriotic’ in their agonising attempts to drag themselves away from Corbynista politics, anti-Semitism, and other corrosive prejudices.
The Handforth Parish Council drama shone a light on how local politics are conducted in this country and made a hero of Jackie Weaver as the only adult in the room.
The reactionary right and militant left reunite again, as they did in the Leave campaign, but this time against vaccine passports.
The Government responds to a flood of bad trade news by launching a number of paid advertorials in the mainstream press, making outlandish claims about the successes of post-Brexit businesses.
The vast amounts of money wasted on the failed Track and Trace system come to light, the Gov’t spend £2.6m on a boondoggle ‘White House Style’ media briefing room and NHS staff are offered a desultory below-inflation 1% pay rise.
'No more f*****g lockdowns - let the bodies pile high in their thousands'. Quote attributed to the UK Prime Minister.
Various scandals emerge, PPE procurement, Greensill, Dyson, cash for curtains, etc.
The Gov’t proposes making Mayoral elections subject to first past the post and proposes stringent US-style voter ID rules.
Labour’s Andy Burnham attempts to challenge Keir Starmer’s leadership, and declares that Labour voters should ‘Embrace Brexit’.
Dominic Cummings reports to the joint science, technology and health select committee that tens of thousands have died unnecessarily, due to incompetence, political expediency, the primacy of daily news management and a refusal to countenance tough measures until it was too late. He asserts that a party system that produces a choice between Johnson and Corbyn is "terribly wrong" and that, “if you took anybody at random from the top 1% of competent people in the country, and presented them with the situation, they would have behaved differently to how the Prime Minister behaved."
As standard political campaigning slows down over the summer months, Renew conducts a series of consultations with our stakeholders, board members, candidates and loyal supporters. It is clear that in a post-Brexit, post-COVID world, politics is going to look very different, and that we must adjust to these new realities. To that end, we embark on 3 distinct projects, one to produce a list of distinct and digestible policy positions that define who we are as a party, one to produce a broader and more philosophical foundational document outlining our moral and intellectual values, and one to explore the possibilities of supercharging our position by harnessing the skills of independent candidates throughout the country.
Much of the summer is taken with political work, with a view to reorientating and revitalising the party in view of the tumultuous changes to the political landscape that have occurred since our launch in 2017.
We happy few..
The Delta variant continues to proliferate whilst flights from high-incidence regions continue unabated.
The England Men’s football team’s outstanding performances at the Euros stand in defiance of various Government figures, who disparaged both the team and the manager for their principled stand against racism as ‘gesture politics’, in a cynical attempt to provoke culture war. It backfires spectacularly. The country is confronted with leadership as represented by skilled, principled and competent sportsmen against cynical, opportunistic and failing politicians. “The standard of leaders in this country the past couple of years has been poor, looking at that man (Southgate), he's everything a leader should be, respectful, humble, he tells the truth.” Gary Neville
The G7 meeting highlights once again the intractable issue of Northern Ireland and the unavoidable situation with the UK/EU border. The Government's decision to play fast and loose with the Good Friday Agreement damages its reputation amongst all parties. “The lesson of this week is that you can’t have a global Britain which is genuinely respected and influential and impactful around the world if people doubt your basic bona fides. There is no point in writing new Atlantic charters which depend on mutual trust, mutual confidence and the rule of law, when you are operating as chancers.” Former UK ambassador to US and EU.
The 5 year anniversary of the referendum vote passes. There is no cause for celebration amongst Leavers, Remainers, or any other interested party.
Renowned pollster Frank Lunz warns UK politicians against following the US trajectory of tribal division. His study finds that, 'Fairness and equality are essential British values'.
‘Freedom Day’ occurs, with great fanfare, mostly amongst tabloids.
The ‘pingdemic’ multiplied by Brexit causes densely packed quarter-mile queues at Heathrow. UK opens its borders to more countries, which promptly close their borders to the UK.
Johnson jokes that Thatcher closed the mines in order to get a head-start on decarbonisation. The joke is poorly received
Investigative Journalists at the FT and others discover a flood of cash channeled to the Conservative Party from overseas sources, most prominently Russian and Middle-Eastern, in addition to the secret donors club established by Ben Elliot.
KFC, Nando’s and Greggs are unable to access chicken. Brexit-related logistics issues leave shelves empty. Ian Botham made a Lord. Roaming charges return for holidaymakers in Europe.
Kabul falls as Foreign Sec Dominic Rabb ‘paddleboards in the Med’. Local UK allies left to the hands of the Taliban for want of Home Office visas…
Apologies for these reminders, but Pt.2 of the yearly review will continue next week!
For us in Renew, we will stick to our principles of supporting reform, fairness and participation, and we will stand up to be a part of what comes next.
Have a great week,
James and the Renew Team