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Review: 2017 (so far)

2017 has already provided a chapter of surprises and brutality across the world as well as the United Kingdom. As the year approaches its close, and the Berkeley Squares team settles into a new parliamentary term, an impartial look back is in order.

On the world stage Donald Trump has dominated 2017. His inauguration in January proved a defining moment for the United States. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now” was a line proudly spoken by the 45th US president in his inaugural address, in an attempt to bring the country closer together – we’ll get back to that. “We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done”. Not even Trump could have imagined just how brutal the job as president would be or that he would soon face an armed rogue nuclear state head on, whilst wiping out Syrian airfields and having to tackle the issue of right-wing, fascist extremism in his own country. Many believed that it was just a matter of time before Trump resigned over Russia, the demands of the job or simply because of  his rock-bottom approval ratings. Many have been surprised that he has managed to last so long. In the second half of this year, the loud-mouthed buffoon improved, in not just his manner, but also his attitude towards being the leader of the free world. In the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville some even thought that he at last grasped what it meant to be president. Although he was slow to do so, eventually he even went some way to uniting a deeply divided country, condemning both sides of the ugly faces of extremism and recognising that the USA has an issue with intolerance from a range of ideologies.

Then there’s North Korea. After years of presidents letting the communist dictatorship get away with building an illegal nuclear arsenal, does it not feel good to have someone who will say “enough is enough” and tackle the world’s problem child? Trump has clearly recognised that strategic patience has not worked and, after a hydrogen bomb test, the North Koreans surely realise that their game is up – the world’s policeman has blown his whistle. For now, we don’t know for sure what will happen to the Korean peninsula, but it is likely to be momentous – we would be foolish to miss it.

Back to Blighty and our politics has been rather a mess. Following a pyrrhic victory for Theresa May in June, the Labour Party seem to be calling the shots. In recent days, we’ve seen Labour policy go mainstream and even into law, as the Tories have given in and abandoned the controversial public sector pay rise. An attempt to woo the public sector back to the conservatives? Probably. A victory for soft-core socialism in Britain? Yes. Their victory extends beyond the House of Commons. Corbymania – a cult of sorts – took off following June’s vote, and many young people are now increasingly engaged in politics.

But what can the Conservatives learn from this? Well, for starters, as Machiavelli warned leaders of his time, the most unstable leadership is that which assumes victory without having real support. The Tories really shot themselves in the foot by taking the electorate for granted. Their main failure was relying on people who supported Brexit without offering them any real change.

Speaking of Brexit, 2017 saw the triggering of Article 50. With less than two years to go until the departure date, the three “Brexiteers” have been very busy:  Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, has been all over the world from Dubai to Japan to market Britain internationally, convinced that we do not need the European Union to survive Brexit and take advantage of our devalued currency. The future is clearly bright.

So 2017 has not been quite so anti-establishment as 2016, but it was exciting and full of the unexpected. No matter how much the pompous, self-important pundits like to pretend that they know what’s going to happen next – they don’t and your guess is as good as mine or theirs. What next? We keep watching, we keep engaging. 2018 will bring with it a dramatic expansion of Brexit negotiations and Trump’s saga will continue thundering on – and Berkeley Squares will be watching and delivering our take on every single bit of it.