Aside from Covid-19 and the many, many controversies the pandemic has caused in the UK, we’ve also seen widespread debates about migrants, free school meals, Dominic Cummings and Brexit. Yes, they still haven’t even got that sorted.
As the year begins to close out, let us take a look back at some of the most baffling moments in UK politics this year and just hope and pray that 2021 is a little more ordinary but that might be wishful thinking.
We’ll start with an MP who has had quite the year; Ben Bradley; the Tory MP for Mansfield. The Brexiteer caused controversy earlier this year when he attempted to give a reason for why the government voted against giving free meals to school children and struggling families during the holidays (more on that later) a campaign they had backed during the summer. According to Bradley, some of the vouchers in his constituency had exchanged hands in the summer and were directly invested into ‘crack dens’ and ‘a brothel.’
Bradley subsequently deleted the tweets following the outrage, adding that the ‘context wasn’t as clear as I’d thought it was.'
Sadly for Bradley, the controversies weren’t over for him. During an appearance on BBC Politics in November, Bradley accused the National Trust of conforming to a ‘woke agenda’ when the organisation said it was reviewing some of its properties and listed locations because of their links to slavery and colonialism. His complaints were torn to shreds by journalist Dalia Gebrail who compared him to a snowflake.
James Cleverly blames Labour for the country Boris Johnson inherited
It’s astonishing that after 10 years of being in power, the Conservative party are still blaming others for the problems that they have mostly created in the UK. James Cleverly, an MP not unfamiliar to putting his foot in it, was asked on BBC Breakfast about approval ratings for the Tory party, which in October showed that 57 per cent of the country thought that Boris Johnson was doing a bad job. Cleverly’s response was to say that they are 'going to repair the country that we inherited from Labour.’
Considering that Labour was last in power in 2010, they certainly are taking their with ‘repairing the country.’
Jeremy Corbyn asks Boris Johnson if the PM should be deported
The former Labour leader has had quite the year since he stepped down from the role at the head of the party. However, in one of his final acts against Boris Johnson was to leave the PM shellshocked when he compared some of the allegations about Johnson to people that are facing possibly deportation to Jamaica, in reference to the Windrush scandal.
“The government has learnt absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal. This cruel and callous government is trying to mislead the British people into thinking it is solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious offences. This is clearly not the case. Take the example of a black boy who came to the UK aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence. If there was a white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would he deport that boy or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the US?”
Boris Johnson gets Covid-19
Within the first few weeks of the pandemic, Boris Johnson got coronavirus. That’s no laughing matter and Johnson did manage to make a full recovery. However, the most farcical element of this story was the weeks leading up to the moment the PM tested positive where he bragged about shaking hands with everybody in a hospital he had visited, including some patients who had Covid-19, which was definitely something that he nor anyone else in the country should have been doing with complete strangers.
Keir Starmer repeatedly owns Boris Johnson at PMQs
The new Labour leader might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there is no doubting that his constant rebuttals of Boris Johnson at PMQs have been one of the highlights of the year. In an almost forensic manner, Starmer has managed to cause Johnson to slip up on numerous occasions, mostly on issues surrounding the pandemic.
Maybe these moments have only been highlighted by the lack of MPs in the Commons but it has been happening at such an alarming rate that Johnson had no option but to respond. Unfortunately for him, the best he could come up with is calling him ‘Captain Hindsight.’
Piers Morgan decimates Matt Hancock time and time again
A truly unlikely side effect of coronavirus is that Piers Morgan, yes Piers Morgan became a very unlikely hero. Perhaps more so than any other broadcaster, Morgan spoke up for the public and key workers who were struggling to overcome the virus, especially in the NHS where PPE was scarce. Using Good Morning Britain as his platform, Morgan mercilessly took ministers down a peg or two. Perhaps the one cabinet member of that bore the brunt of this the most was Matt Hancock, who at times seemed exasperated by what he was being subjected to.
This eventually led to the government imposing a boycott on Good Morning Britain for six months. Hancock did eventually return in November and he might have been regretted that decision.
After the first lockdown, the government decided that things were starting to get back to normal and lifted the Covid-19 restrictions. This brought to an end the easy to understand government warning slogan of 'Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Stay Safe.' They replaced this with the less obvious and slightly more ambiguous 'Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives' which is about as clear as the River Thames. As a result, the reaction to this new slogan wasn't exactly enthusiastic.
Nigel Farage the “key worker”
If anyone could have done with having a year off and steering clear of headlines it was Nigel Farage. After all, he achieved his goal of Brexit so could have just put his feet up. Except he didn't. Amongst the many controversies that Farage managed to get himself embroiled in was his many trips to film migrants traveling to Kent, 100 miles from his home across the channel. This was at the middle of the lockdown when nobody was supposed to be making long trips anywhere and the uproar was unanimous.
Farage's excuse for blatantly flouting the rules was that he was a 'key worker' because, at the time, he was employed by LBC Radio, so he was technically a reporter. So when you look back at 2020 and remember those key workers who helped keep the country going, be sure to thank the nurses, doctors, delivery drivers, bin men and...Nigel Farage.
Priti Patel reportedly wanted asylum seekers to be sent to a volcanic island
Staying on the topic of immigration, which was bizarrely a major talking point this year when there were more important things to be focusing on, home secretary, Priti Patel had a few thoughts on the issue. According to a report from the Financial Times in September, the Tory minister apparently thought that it was best that anyone seeking asylum in the UK would be better off being processed on a volcanic island just off the coast of Africa.
I know it sounds ludicrous but then again this is the person that Boris Johnson nicknamed 'The Prittster' after she was deemed to have been a 'bully' to her staff in the Home Office.
Dominic Cummings’ 40-mile eye test
It's probably fair to guess that 12 months ago, many who weren’t heavily invested in British politics didn't have a clue who Dominic Cummings was. Fast forward a few months from there and he was possibly the most hated man in Britain after it was revealed that he had driven the length of the country during lockdown to his parent's home in Durham because they couldn't find babysitters, despite him and his wife having Covid-19 symptoms. On top of this, it was also revealed that while in Durham, Cummings had driven a further 40 miles to visit Barnard Castle on his wife's birthday.
Given the amount of uproar in the air of this, Cummings made a public statement at Downing Street to the press apologising for what had happened. Cummings' excuse was something that is likely to go down in history and will be talked about for decades to come. Apparently, he, his wife and their son had made the journey to see if Cummings' eyes were working properly ahead of their trip back to London.
It was possibly the most farcical excuse of the year and a meme was born.
Mark Francois tried to intimidate an army general
Speaking of Dominic Cummings, here is Tory MP and hardline Brexiteer Mark Francois attempting to intimidate a top army general by saying 'Cummings is going to come and sort you out.'
Amazingly this wasn't the most embarrassing thing that Francois did this year. That award would have to go to the cringe-worthy letter that he wrote in to the letter he wrote to the EU's cheif Brexit negotiator, which received an absolutely scathing response.
Labour MP calls Brexiteers 'fat old racists'
Let's not pretend that it's just the Tories who have been putting their foot in it this year. Some Labour politicians haven't been saints either. Take for instance the Neil Coyle, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark who kicked off at Jacob Rees-Mogg who had claimed that Britain was being 'enslaved by political correctness' over plans to drop songs like 'Rule Britannia' from the Proms. In a deleted tweet, Coyle called Rees-Mogg and other Brexiteers an ‘fat old racists’ before adding 'absolute s**tbag racist w**kers.'
The government hired Tony Abbott
Here is a moment that we probably all forgot about. Back in September, the government hired the former prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott as an adviser on their board of trade. His appointment raised some eyebrows given that he has a history of homophobia and misogyny. This apparently doesn't really matter though. Just look at what Matt Hancock had to say when he was quizzed on Abbott's old comments by Sky News' Kay Burley.
Helen Whately laughed during a TV interview about coronavirus
A brief trip back to Piers Morgan here who showed no mercy to Helen Whately, the minister for social care who seemed hopelessly out of her depth against the ruthless Morgan. Perhaps nerves set in during her interview with Morgan on 15th April when she was being quizzed about the overwhelming amount of Covid-related deaths in care homes and amongst the elderly as she was caught laughing while Morgan was lambasting her. What followed was probably the most awkward two minutes of British television in 2020.
Ed Miliband goes to town on Boris Johnson for not knowing his own Brexit deal
Oh yeah, Brexit is still a thing, isn't it? At the time of writing the UK still hasn't got a deal and they've already been forced to climb down from their perch on certain issues. One of the only good things to come from Brexit this year was when former Labour leader Ed Miliband absolutely tore Boris Johnson to shreds for seemingly not having a clue about certain details of his Brexit deal. It was possibly the most satisfying thing to happen in the House of Commons for years.
The government voted against giving free meals to school children
It almost doesn't feel right including something like this in a list of this nature but it is ridiculous to think that in the middle of a pandemic, where people have struggled to make ends meet that the government would vote against giving free school meals to children during the holidays. Earlier in the summer, they had U-turned on a decision to not give children meals after footballer Marcus Rashford launched a widely successful campaign, which Labour caused some confusion by appearing to take credit for it.
However, their decision to not renew this pledge in October caused some real vitriol and some of the most bizarre tweets ever (see our previous entry on Ben Bradley). Thankfully, the good nature of the British people saw people come together and offer free meals to anyone that needed them. Many of these were shared on Rashford's Twitter page.
The government eventually U-turned on this, but continued to make a controversy out of this after Unicef stepped in and pledged to feed starving for the first time in the organisation’s 70 year history. Jacob Rees-Mogg couldn't quite understand why they would do this and said that Unicef should be 'ashamed of itself,' a comment that baffled even America.
Boris Johnson ‘cancels Christmas’ just days after saying he wouldn’t
Surely the one thing that could redeem this awful year would be a nice Christmas with our families. However, a new strain of coronavirus had different ideas about this and basically forced the government into preventing family gatherings of more than three households before and after Christmas Day. London and the southeast was placed into Tier 4 preventing anyone in those areas travelling. It was a devastating blow just a week before Christmas but you can't help but think that things would have been a little bit easier if they'd have just announced it earlier. Better yet, not promise people that Christmas wouldn't be cancelled like the prime minister did just three days before he made his devastating announcement.
Jacob Rees-Mogg ate some crisps in his office which he apparently shares with death
What better way to see out the year than a nice picture of Jacob Rees-Mogg enjoying a packet of ready salted crisps with what appears to be the grim reaper behind him.
Here’s hoping that 2021 is at least in someway a slight improvement on the last 12 months.