Politics Highlights of 2015

Charlie Hebdo

As the first month of the new year draws to a close, our editors and contributors look back at the events they think shaped the political landscape of 2015.

Here at home, the sensational election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party symbolised a transformative moment in British politics. The little-known, rebellious, veteran socialist began the summer campaign as the rank outsider at 200-1, having barely scraped past the MPs nomination round with just minutes to spare. Fast forward to September, and Corbyn had secured the most emphatic democratic mandate of any Labour leader in history. Why should you care? Perhaps because so many others did. A republican pacifist with nationalising impulse at the heart of British politics is an extraordinary development for a country swept by years of numbing post-Thatcherite consensus. Red-scare tactics, insurgent Blairites, and shadow cabinet disloyalty have dogged the new leader, yet hidden behind the thinly-veiled smugness at Tory HQ is a genuine concern that the foundations of our politics, and indeed elsewhere, are shifting. In 2015, we had Podemos, Donald Trump, Syriza, the National Front and Jeremy Corbyn. As our politics polarise, are the pillars of the establishment about to crumble? – , Politics Editor

I foresee that the debate about ‘free speech’ will continue indefinitely within University walls, however we will all remember with shock and disgust the attack on Charlie Hebdo offices on the 7th of January, 2015. Resulting in 12 people dead, this attack claimed by a branch of Al-Qaida, directly raised concerns over the freedom of the press and the effect of radicalization in European countries. As islamophobia, and larger anti-immigrant sentiment, all blended into a bitter cocktail over the year, it becomes ever more difficult to rationally discuss religious extremism. So whether you care about this because of how it affects our ability to express ourselves freely, how it seems that the religious ego cannot be quenched, or how close to home all this really is, it will remain a tragic landmark on our calendars. – , Politics Editor

Last December, women in Saudi Arabia voted in municipal elections for the first time in history.  It was also the first time that women stood as candidates.  For me this is the most significant political moment of 2015, because it marks a step towards gender equality in a conservative country where women still need male permission to work, travel or marry.  Given that Saudi Arabia is an ally of Britain, we should celebrate such positive developments, and at the same time refrain from turning a blind eye to the Middle Eastern nation’s history of oppressing women and abusing human rights.  Although less than one in ten voters was female, this figure is a landmark in Saudi politics and shows that women are demanding change – and succeeding.  Hopefully Saudi women will, in the future, be able to drive to polling stations themselves without a male chaperone and have the confidence to express their own political views. –

The most significant political issue of the past twelve months has been two-fold; the migration of young men and women from the west to ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq, and the plight of refugees fleeing from ISIS across the Mediterranean. When three-year-old Alan Kurdi drowned on a Greek beach in September the global media began paying attention to the thousands who had been just as unfortunate. It felt like the majority had stopped blaming open-door Europe for the refugee crisis. This changed in November when ISIS staged a series of attacks in Paris. Hollande’s declaration of war was quickly repeated by the UK and now a new wave of refugees will be forced to decide whether the sea is safer than the land. Furthermore, with islamophobia on the rise, ISIS is afforded a new opportunity to recruit disenchanted young men and women from the West. –

The UK election in 2015 was defined by its unpredictability. After the utter decimation of Labour in Scotland – losing 40 seats – Labour’s woes continued across the country, losing their Shadow Chancellor and Election Strategist. The Liberal Democrats, to many students’ satisfaction, had a far worse day – losing 86% of their MPs. With roughly double the SNP vote, their difference in seats again raises questions of voting reform. Despite the ‘Green Surge’ and their strongest ever result, they could not match the rise of UKIP. What was effectively the 3rd party in the UK general election only came a joint 10th in terms of seats. Agree or disagree with their policies, it is hard to look at these election results and think of democracy. As Ed, Nick and Nigel (for a time) resigned, Cameron was the last man standing, leading into No. 10 the first Conservative majority in 23 years. Nobody saw that coming. –

Photograph: Carlos ZGZ via flickr

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