Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The AAV review of the year 2015

In this article I'm going to review some of the stuff that happened in 2015. If you feel that I've missed any important issues, feel free to mention them in the comments section.

At the end of the article I'm going to hand out some AAV awards.

Stuff that happened

In early January 2015 a bunch of Islamist fanatics went on a killing spree in Paris targeting the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The supposed justification for murdering 12 people at the magazine headquarters was that the magazine had published some blasphemous cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed. The reaction from the liberal west was a display of solidarity followed by vast sales for the magazine's special edition

January 2015 saw a catastrophic defeat for the EU and the Greek political establishment when the anti-austerity party Syriza won the Greek legislative election. The biggest losers of all were the once mighty PASOK who slumped to just 4.7% of the vote, reducing the party that had formed the majority government in 2009 with 160 MPs to the 7th party in Greece with just 13 MPs! There is a lesson there to be learned for other nominally left-wing parties who decide to push hard-right economic ideology.

In February 2015 the Tories announced another front in their economic assault on young people in the guise of yet another economically illiterate forced unpaid labour scheme. It's disgustingly unfair that a generation that were still in school uniform when the reckless gambling of the Tories' banker mates trashed the global economy are suffering the worst of the Tories' vindictive economic sanctions, while the banks that caused the crisis are allowed to get away with paying virtually nothing in tax

In February 2015 leaked documents showed how David Cameron and the Tories had been spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per month buying Facebook likes. It makes me laugh that the Tories are so out of touch that they think that buying likes is the way to achieve social media success. It's funny that the page of some random guy from Yorkshire who has never even appeared in his local newspaper (me) massively outperforms the Tory Party page and David Cameron's page in interactions (which is the actual important metric when it comes to social media success) without ever having spent a penny on Facebook advertising.

One of the biggest stories of March 2015 was the deliberate downing of Germanwings flight 9525 by the pilot Andreas Lubitz killing all 150 people on board in one of the most deadly murder-suicides in history. The revelation that Lubitz had suffered depression led to some lurid and grotesquely irresponsible headlines in the tabloid press, but thankfully most people are capable of understanding that there's something more to this shocking case than simple depression, otherwise, given the vast number of people who suffer depression in Europe, appalling mass murder-suicides would be terrifyingly common, not rare enough to dominate the global news agenda for days. 

The result of the UK General Election bucked the 2015 global trend against ideological austerity. Somehow the Tories who were the major party in the least competent and most vindictive government in living memory managed to increase their share of the vote to achieve an overall majority in Westminster. This happened because our anachronistic and bizarrely unrepresentative voting system allows a party to win over 50% of the available seats with the backing of less than 25% of the electorate. The last time a UK Prime Minister gained a mandate from more than 1/4 of the eligible electorate was Tony Blair back in 1997 with 30.8%, yet three of the last four governments have ruled with absolute majorities!

The biggest winners of the 2015 General Election were the SNP who took took 56 of the 59 Scottish seats in the most comprehensive landslide victory in British electoral history. The SNP built their success on the foundation of an anti-austerity anti-Tory platform, and the Labour Party built their catastrophic failure on Ed Balls' ludicrous austerity-lite strategy. Who knows what the outcome might have been if instead of pathetically aping right-wing Tory economic ideology the Labour Party had've presented the public with an actual alternative to the Tories? 

Of all of the farcical reactions to the 2015 General Election results, the absurd self-righteousness of the Liberal Democrats was the most ridiculous. They faced up to losing almost all of their MPs with a chorus of abject nonsense about how right they had been to hand power to the Tories and vote through all of their extremely illiberal and blatantly vindictive nonsense, how wrong the public were to punish the Lib-Dems for their treachery, and some desperate hoping for things to get even worse so they could tell everyone "we told you so". The idea that the Lib-Dems are going to bounce back from the annihilation they suffered with attitudes like that is utterly delusional.

In June 2015 the death of the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was announced. He was far from a perfect guy, but he stuck to his principles and he spoke his mind, which made him stand out from his political peers. He was one of the very few Liberal Democrats I felt genuine sympathy for when he lost his seat. Here's the article I wrote about his passing.

The summer was dominated by two main stories, the Greek economic crisis and the exponential rise of the obscure Labour backbencher Jeremy Corbyn to win the labour leadership contest with a huge landslide victory. I'll address both of these stories in the awards section so I won't bang on about them here.

Despite Jeremy Corbyn's victory in the Labour leadership elections David Cameron managed to dominate the headlines in September 2015 when the former unelected Tory peer Michael Ashcroft alleged that Cameron had engaged in depraved acts with the severed head of a pig in order to win approval from a secret elitist society at Oxford University. I wrote an article at the time explaining my view that I'm not really bothered about Cameron's youthful misadventures, I'm far more concerned about the sickening depravity of his current political agenda.

In October David Cameron and George Osborne put on a truly humiliating display of sucking up to the Chinese. They even had the brass neck to describe their economic surrender to the Chinese as some kind of brilliant British triumph (despite George Osborne's own father-in-law having described their nuclear price-fixing dealwith the Chinese as "one of the worst deals ever" for energy consumers and British industry).

October also saw a very interesting result in the Portuguese election. The ruling right-wing party won the most seats, but nowhere near enough to form a majority government. However the Portuguese President (from the same party) decided to allow them to form a weak minority government which was soon defeated by a vote of no confidence. Then an anti-austerity coalition of two left-wing parties and the nominally left-wing main opposition party was formed to take power. It was quite amazing to see a right-wing party who had harped on endlessly about the importance of economic stability maintain a doomed and desperately destabilising effort to hang onto political power at whatever cost to the Portuguese economy. 

Later in October the Liberal Party of Canada won 184 seats to form a majority government on an anti-austerity platform. This was a truly remarkable recovery from the worst election result in their entire history in 2011 when they finished third with just 36 seats.

In November Paris suffered another atrocity at the hands of Islamist terrorists that left 130 people dead and over 300 people seriously injured. While there were many touching displays of solidarity all over the world, there were also some ugly and appalling reactions. One of the most cowardly and incoherent reactions was an absurd petition calling for the UK border to be closed "until ISIS is defeated". Hundreds of thousands of people signed this staggeringly impractical petition before it became clear that (like most terrorist atrocities in Europe) the attackers were radicalised Europeans, not Syrian immigrants, and that the woman who initiated it was a resident of Spain!

A much more serious reaction to the Paris atrocity was Donald Trump's Islamophobic and blatantly unconstitutional election pledge to initiate religious tests at the US border to prevent Muslims from entering the country. It's terrifying to think that such a reactionary blow-hard could be the front runner to become the Republican Presidential candidate, but then I've been saying for years that fascism will most likely rise up again somewhere like the US, UK, Canada or Australia because, unlike most of the rest of the world, the citizens of these countries have no cultural exposure to the sheer horror of living under totalitarian government.

In December 2015 the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was finalised, but it will only come into force if sufficient countries ratify it in 2016. In the same month parts of the UK suffered numerous bouts of severe flooding as December 2015 became the warmest and the wettest December in the UK since records began. 97% of active climate scientists agree that human activity is contributing to global warming, and huge numbers of scientific organisations across the world have published statements endorsing the findings of climate scientists.

Given the backdrop of scientific consensus, multinational agreements to combat climate change and increasingly common severe weather events it's truly appalling that David Cameron and the Tories are handing out vast tax breaks to fracking companies and giving them permission to frack under our national parks while simultaneously slashing investment in renewable energy technology and trying to kill off the UK solar energy industry by slashing solar subsidies by 64%.

On December 20th the General Election in Spain produced a very similar result to the one in Portugal in October. The ruling right-wingers won the most seats, but nowhere near enough to form a majority government. The situation in Spain is even more complicated than in Portugal because there seems to be no conceivable way that a coalition government could be formed short of the nominally left-wing opposition party committing electoral suicide by forming a grand coalition with their right-wing rivals. Check out this article for more analysis on the Spanish election.

Towards the very end of the year secret government papers were released that showed the revolting attitudes of influential Tories like Oliver Letwin (who had massively racist views) and David Willetts (who wanted Margaret Thatcher to launch an economic attack on the Scottish purely in order to try to win votes in northern England). It's hardly surprising that the Tory party is still riddled with people with such revolting attitudes, however what is surprising is that these papers didn't "accidentally disappear" in the same way as the dossier on Westminster paedophiles.

Another Angry Voice

2015 was another good year for the Another Angry Voice blog. I picked up over 100,000 new followers on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page and averaged well over 350,000 visits per month on the actual blog.

From a personal perspective 2015 was one of the most difficult years I've ever endured and I'm very glad to see the back of it. One of the things that really helped me through such a bad year was the steady flow of wonderfully supportive messages I received from people who see some value in my work. It makes me ever so proud to know that there are people out there I've never met who feel like I'm a positive influence in their lives. Thanks to everyone who sent me supportive comments, to everyone who has donated to help me keep writing and to everyone who has helped to spread awareness of my work by sharing it on social media.

The AAV Awards

Politician of the year: Jeremy Corbyn

If anyone would have suggested to me at the beginning of 2015 that Jeremy Corbyn would become the Labour Party leader with the biggest mandate in the history of the party I would have laughed in their face. I always liked the guy because he tends to speak his mind and stands by his principles, but that kind of stuff is generally a huge barrier to success in the modern political world of spin doctors, guided focus groups, tailored suits, glib soundbytes, well paid special advisers and slick corporate-like presentation. It remains to be seen whether Jeremy 
Corbyn will achieve any great success as Labour Party leader, but a guy like him even winning the leadership election is a remarkable achievement in the style-over-substance world of modern British politics.

Publication of the year: Private Eye
If you've never read Private Eye magazine go out and buy a copy right now. If the mainstream press spent a fraction of the effort Private Eye do trying to hold politicians to account rather than just lazily 'churnalising' press releases from the government, then the UK wouldn't be in anything like the dire economic state it is in now.

Worst media: The S*n

The circulation of the S*n has declined by over a million newspapers per day since 2011, but it is still somehow the best selling newspaper in the United Kingdom despite treating its readership like a bunch of gullible idiots. Rupert Murdoch's rags have always plumbed the depths but 2015 was a particularly disgusting year for the S*n. There was the appalling divide and conquer tactic of telling their English readership to vote Tory while telling their Scottish readership to vote SNP; there was the ridiculous manufactured outrage about Jeremy Corbyn supposedly not bowing deeply enough at the Cenotaph; and there was the shockingly misleading front page headline based on the blatant misrepresentation of a poll about British attitudes to the conflict in Syria designed to stir up anti-Muslim hatred. If you know anyone who reads The S*n you should try to engage them in debate about how much they actually like Rupert Murdoch and whether they feel good about supporting his disgusting propaganda empire.

Special mention: The Daily Telegraph. Not only did they break the law by spamming their email subscribers with an email pestering them to vote Tory in the General Election, they also had one of their top columnists (Peter Oborne) quit the paper in disgust at the fact they refused to allow critical articles about HSBC and other major advertisers in the paper.

Resignation of the year: Yanis Varoufakis
The economics professor turned Greek finance minister led the Greek revolt against the socially and economically destructive austerity being imposed on Greece by the EU, ECB, IMF Troika but he resigned in the wake of his biggest triumph (the massive 61% - 39% win for the no campaign in the 2015 Greek bailout referendum). To resign at the moment of victory might seem strange, but in hindsight it actually makes sense. The Troika hated him and were refusing to negotiate with him, and it's absolutely clear that Varoufakis' SYRIZA party colleagues and the Greek general public just didn't have the willpower to stand up and do what was necessary in order to free Greece from the ever worsening situation of growing debt, deteriorating economic conditions and ever harsher economic sanctions imposed by the unelected Troika technocrats.

Tweet of the year: The Russian embassy

When David Cameron decided to smear Jeremy Corbyn by describing the Labour Party as "a threat to national security" the riposte from the Russian embassy was absolutely savage.

Honourable mention: @Anandamide
For entirely justifiable use of the term "lobotomised shitlarks" to describe the journalists at the Mail on Sunday who came up with this ludicrous article about how to "beat" the 5p carrier bag charge.

U-turn of the year: Nigel Farage's un-resignation
Before the 2015 General Election the UK leader Nigel Farage promised that he would resign as their party leader if he failed to win the seat of South Thanet. He resigned after he failed to win the seat but un-resigned within a week without any kind of leadership contest. Farage's unresignation proved two things beyond doubt. Nigel Farage is not a man of his word, and UKIP is simply a vehicle for the Nigel Farage show, not a proper political party (otherwise they would have had a leadership election rather than allowing Farage to waltz back in as their unelected party leader).

Blog of the year: Pride's Purge
I've been a big fan of Tom Pride's blog for a long time but it was only when he took a well deserved break between May and November 2015 that I began to fully appreciate how much hard work he has put into holding politicians to account. He's back at it now and apparently December 2015 was the most successful month he's ever had on his blog with over 800,000 hits.

Best campaign of the year: The SNP in Scotland
The almost complete annihilation of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland by the SNP has to rank as the the biggest earthquake in British electoral history. The SNP went into the 2015 General Election with just 6 out of Scotland's 59 MPs.After the election they had 56 of Scotland's 59 MPs. The pro-independence feelings of the 45% obviously played a part in this SNP success, but I'm certain that their strong anti-Tory anti-austerity message also played an important part in this astonishing result too.

Honourable mention: The Liberal Party for winning a majority in the Canadian parliament after having suffered their worst ever electoral performance in the previous elections in 2011.

Worst campaign of the year: PASOK
Between 1981 and 2011 PASOK were the most successful party in Greek politics never achieving less than 38% of the vote. In 2015 they ended up with just 4.7% of the vote and only 13 MPs as a result of propping up the pro-austerity government of their traditional right-wing rivals.

Hero(es) of the year: Médecins Sans Frontières workers 
The deadly attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan by American forces was utterly appalling. The apologism for it in the western media was disgusting too, especially because it coincided with the mainstream media narrative that Russian intervention in Syria was a terrible thing because they might bomb "the wrong targets". One thing this American war crime really highlighted for me was the incredible bravery of Médecins Sans Frontières medical staff who voluntarily risk their lives working in deadly war zones all over the world, so my heroes of the year are MSF staff and people who work in war zones for other medical charities too.

Villain of the year: Theresa May
Theresa May is conducting an all-out war on British values and British civil liberties but she's allowed to get away with her increasingly totalitarian behaviour by the mainstream media, presumably because she's done such a brilliant job of "reducing" net migration to the UK to ... erm ... the highest level ever

Hubris of the year: Jim Murphy
The former Scottish labour leader Jim Murphy famously bragged that the Labour party were not going to lose a single one of their 41 seats in Scotland. After the General Election it became clear that in a way he was absolutely right. The Scottish Labour Party lost 40 seats meaning that they "didn't lose" just one solitary seat!

Feeble excuse of the year: Andrew Lloyd-Webber
In October 2015 the multi-millionaire unelected Tory peer Andrew Lloyd-Webber flew into London from New York in order to vote in favour of impoverishing millions of working families by slashing their Tax Credits. It was the first time he'd even bothered to turn up to vote in the House of Lords in over two years. When faced with the understandable public backlash Andrew Lloyd-Webber tried to make out that the impoverishment of millions of families was entirely irrelevant, and that his only concern was that the House of Lords should not overrule the House of Commons. If he actually cared so strongly about the unelected House of Lords not overriding the elected House of Commons this raises the question of why he used his vote in the unelected House of Lords to vote against the democratically elected Labour government on many occasions between 2000 and 2010 doesn't it?

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Seven of the best from 2015
The conservative fantasy of natural economic justice

How on earth do people believe that George Osborne is a genius?
Don't read this article
Corbynomics vs ideological austerity
How depraved is David Cameron?