In one way, 2022 felt like one big test of character. As if some malign cosmic force was throwing curveball after curveball in our direction, to see if we would sink or swim. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. The good news is it’s nearly over.
No sooner had the world come out of the woods of the coronavirus pandemic than Vladimir Putin decided it would be an opportune time to launch an illegal invasion of Ukraine. And in one unbelievably malevolent move he consigned any notion of a return to global stability to the scrapheap.
For nations like the UK, which had just pumped around £400 billion into Covid relief, the looming energy crisis caused by the war on the far edge of Europe meant that soaring inflation was (even more) inevitable, and we’ve all suffered through the resulting cost of living crisis - our series on the rise in supermarket value range prices from Harriet Clugston has tracked these rises every month since April.
That’s not forgetting the immense human cost of a brutal incursion into a sovereign nation, with thousands of innocent civilians having lost their lives since February. One of the few things we couldn’t criticise the UK government for this year was its steadfast response to the Kremlin’s aggression, often going further in its condemnation and military support than European allies who were still too reliant on Russian gas.
However, it’s the response of Ukraine itself that has surely provided the most inspirational story of 2022. Led by the indomitable Volodymyr Zelensky, their heroic courage and logistically nimble resistance to the bullies across the border has been nothing short of staggering. Russia conquering Kyiv at first seemed grimly inevitable - that is not how it panned out, as Putin’s forces were exposed as badly organised, ill-equipped and psychologically disaffected. Of course, nothing is settled now, and with Russia continuing to bombard infrastructure over the winter, Ukraine will continue to need huge amounts of western support if 2023 is to be the “turning point” that President Zelensky is hoping for.
As the conflict continues this winter, the 15 member charities of the Disasters Emergency Committee, who we partnered with at the start of the invasion, are working to deliver food, water, medical assistance, protection and trauma care as well as developing a longer-term response plan to help rebuilding and resettlement. Almost £400 million has been raised from people in the UK, and if you can donate, please support the DEC’s ongoing Ukraine appeal.
On the domestic scene, we’ve been burdened with almost comically inept leadership, from the moral vacuum that was Boris Johnson to the intellectual vacuum that was Liz Truss. Much of the damage to the UK economy was self-inflicted, and Rishi Sunak’s government finds itself limping towards almost certain electoral wipe-out in a couple of years’ time.
Which means that Labour has much to prove. If it is going to pick up the pieces from the Tory implosion, how is it going to strike the delicate balance between economic recovery and protecting workers’ rights? Keir Starmer had a field day with Truss, but it remains to be seen how his Captain Sensible schtick will work against Sunak’s equally dull image. Perhaps wisely though, both men have realised that the British public have had more than enough of erratic, eccentric, ru leadership.
The biggest immediate challenge facing the UK as 2022 comes to an end is the issue of worker’s rights, fair pay and industrial action. The current Conserative government has utterly failed on this challenge - preferring to sound off in the right-wing press about “militant unions” rather than sit down and thrash out a workable solution based on common sense.
This story is one that NationalWorld has been reporting on in depth for over a year, with our investigative reporter Ethan Shone covering the first rumblings of activism among delivery drivers, before it eventually spread like wildfire through almost every sector of the country. Unlike certain national titles, we commit to reporting on this issue in a fair and balanced manner, rather than screaming about “union barons” or demonising striking nurses for “putting lives at risk”. Politicians would be minded to reflect on the views of the majority of the public rather than a select few billionaire media owners.
So as 2022 draws to a close, you could be forgiven for tuning out of this news cycle and taking a self-imposed sabbatical from current affairs. While there’s no harm in some festive rest and recuperation, I’d like to end the year with this message: yes, it’s tempting to actively avoid the news, and yes, it can seem relentlessly grim - but I would argue that it’s vital to engage, to understand the issues and to make sure your elected representatives are doing their jobs (rather than their second and third jobs).
At NationalWorld we’ll continue to hold power to account, and inform you on the issues that matter (we’ve just started our new investigative series on the UK housing crisis). But as well as this, we’ll also keep digging out the offbeat tales and uplifting stories to hopefully put a smile on your face too.
Let’s end with the story of James Anderson, a 55-year-old plumber from Burnley. He offers free and discounted services to vulnerable members of society, simply because he wants to show those struggling that “someone cares”. “People are just so shocked,” he told NationalWorld’s Imogen Howse. “They smile, they cry on my shoulder. It proves that we just need to all be more human, which I think is something a lot of us learnt during the pandemic. The only people who didn’t learn it are the politicians.”
On that note, I hope you have a great Christmas, and let’s hope 2023 is a good one. We’re due it, after all.