2009 was quite a year. Add together words such as Afghanistan, swine flu, floods, Fred the Shred; the arrival of Obama, Bolt and Twitter; the departure of Michael Jackson and Harry Patch – the rise of Susan Boyle, the fall of Woolies and you soon remember what a tumultuous year it was.
And what of the year ahead? 2010 is set to be equally challenging, despite the hangover of recession looming large. Three major subjects are likely to dominate the headlines: the general election, terrorism (Afghanistan) and sport.
First, the General Election. Whilst it is not expected until May, changes in election law, advances in communications, and a real chance Labour might finally lose will mean the traditional four week campaign is replaced with a four month blur of frenzied vote-grabbing activity. The 2010 elections are significant for other reasons.
Following the expenses scandal, more MPs are retiring than ever before which will mean there will be a larger influx of new MPs than at any time since the war. Not only that but the electorate has a real treat ahead with the televised leadership debates – a first for the UK.
Second, terrorism. Across the Atlantic, President Obama will give his first State of the Union Address where international terrorism is likely to feature significantly. His troops may be departing Iraq this year as their mandate expires, but with Yemen and Somalia gaining full membership of the state-sponsored terrorism club and Iran not playing ball, they may not be heading home just yet.
The future of Afghanistan, of course, concerns not just the US but the British too. The Wootton Bassett factor will continue to test the nation’s resolve to see out a difficult campaign, and this year things are likely to get worse before they get better.
Elsewhere in the world, aside from terrorism, Russia – a super power on the decline – will likely tweak its gas taps to Europe again to remind us of its importance. And China – a super power on the rise – may vent further frustration in response to being blamed for denying the world a workable deal on climate change.
Third, sport – for those worried about an overload of politics there will be plenty of sporting events to distract you. Canada will play host to the Winter Olympics in February (after which Boris will force the nation to hold its collective breath once again as he takes control of that Olympic torch and carries it to London).
And in June be prepared to see the nation distracted beyond reason as we drape ourselves and our cars with the flag of Saint George in the hope that Fabio Capello can fulfil a 44 year dream by guiding England’s football team to world cup success in South Africa. It is going to be an interesting year.
A final thought: 2010 is likely to end just as 2009 did with the nation fixated by the reality programmes ‘Strictly’ and the X Factor. Whilst Simon Cowell still has a grip over the music world, the power of Facebook and Twitter to scupper winner Joe McElderry’s Christmas No.1 is a lesson to all politicians in how easy it now is to influence public opinion on a national scale.