A year ago, before I started my editorship of the International Section, everything was so different.
Britain had not left the European Union, there was no obvious challenger to Donald Trump and no one had even heard of Covid-19. Now, the world is only just starting to recover from the Coronavirus Pandemic. As I leave University – and with it, Wessex Scene – it seems only right to look back on how different things are.
The issue that has most divided Europe and the UK for 5 years is now seemingly coming to a close. Whilst negotiations are still ongoing with Brussels, those who hoped for a second referendum and remaining in the European Union were defeated at the 2019 General Election. The Conservatives’ 80-seat majority saw Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal pass through Parliament. Britain exited the EU on January 31st to rapturous celebrations in Parliament Square as the UK saw the dawn of a new era away from its former European partners. Whilst the Conservative Party basked in its triumph, the Labour party is now beginning its recovery. This time last year, it sat almost level with the Conservative Party in national polls. However, Labour’s inconsistent Brexit policy and questions over leader Jeremy Corbyn saw the party decimated in constituencies that traditionally voted Labour. Despite a strong start, new leader Sir Keir Starmer still faces a severely uphill task to restore the faith of the party in the Leave seats that switched their vote from Red to Blue.
US Presidential Election
The list of candidates to take on President Donald Trump in November’s election has been whittled down to one. Joe Biden, former Vice President and Senator from Delaware will attempt to combat the inflammatory and partisan presidency that has seen the Democrats regain control of the House and an impeachment inquiry. Though President Trump was cleared of any wrongdoing, the allegations of corruption have not yet disappeared. His election in 2016 may have shocked the political stratosphere, but his chances of re-election are now seriously questionable. His opponent Joe Biden is currently polling around 10 points higher and is currently the front runner in key swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of whom lent their votes to Trump in 2016. It is believed that Biden’s career as a Senator from Delaware will endear him to the working classes more than they did to Hilary Clinton. Unemployment in the US has hit 14% in the last few months and the Black Lives Matter movement has seen the President clash with protesters in Washington. However, Trump’s economical success pre-Coronavirus may still give him a boost and his approval ratings among Republican voters remains high.
The defining story of the year, and one that will be difficult to replicate for possibly the remainder of the decade. Last summer, people were free and safe to travel, socialise and live as they saw fit. However, COVID-19 has changed all of that. Officially first appearing in the Wuhan province of China in January (although there are now claims that it was present before the turn of the year), the virus has devastated global markets, sporting contests and industries as well as causing the deaths of almost 4-and-a-half million people at the time of writing. 3 months into the pandemic, declared as one by the WHO on March 11th, there remain more questions than answers. Will there be a vaccine? When will it come? Will this ‘new normal’ ever cease? Then there is the issue of complicity. Just how much did the Chinese Government know and hide from the international community prior to the Pandemic? The UK Government has faced criticism from those who believe that lives have been unnecessarily lost due to economic concerns as well as those who believe the lockdown is now doing more damage than the virus ever could. French President Emmanuel Macron admitted that his government was not prepared for the pandemic in a national apology. Residents in Spain and Italy faced two months of severe lockdown measures that restricted their movements to a point that would have been unthinkable a year ago. The debate as to whether it is time the world tries to move on from the virus is gathering momentum but with the death toll still climbing, it is unclear what permanent solution will be taken globally.
It is impossible to say what the future holds. The strange occurrences of 2020 have so far decimated many of the plans that people would have had. 12 months from now, we may have a different US President, a Coronavirus vaccine and a whole new take on race relations as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement. Or we may not. I am finishing my studies and going out into full-time work for the first time. Every day I try to imagine what I myself will be doing in a year, something that has up until now been easy. I don’t think it will ever be more difficult to imagine than these next twelve months.