As 2008 draws to a close nobody can say that this has not been 12 months that has changed the world. The year 2008 was the year of the US elections and the year that the first African-American was elected to become the 44th President of the United States. On 4 November 2008 Barack Obama, a Democrat, beat his Republican opponent John McCain by a margin of 53% to 46%. Even John McCain’s running mate, the ‘hockey mom’ Sarah Palin was not enough to save the Republicans from a huge defeat. It remains to be seen whether Obama can live up to his campaign slogan of “Change We Can Believe In”. In the end though it was the blundering actions of George W Bush including his unjust war in Iraq and his disastrous economic policy that was to be the downfall of the Republican party.
The US elections of 2008 were overshadowed though by the economic crisis that started in the US and then spread throughout Europe and eventually the rest of the world. Every day brought more bad economic news such as the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the government bail-out of banks that were all on the verge of failing. The economic crisis made headline news virtually every night by the BBC and their business editor Robert Peston was the man responsible for delivering this bad news. If there was ever a man who relished bad news and made us all think that the events happening were the equivalent of economic obliteration then Robert Peston was the right man for the job. He was first with all the big economic news stories such as the downfall of Bradford and Bingley and the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds TSB and many other similar news stories. His strange mannerisms and way of speaking would normally have made him into a man to be hated but no, Robert Peston has won us all over and we all now think he is a hero. This man deserves to be made newsman of the year or even be made an economic advisor to the failing government. What a star!
In terms of politics Gordon Brown and Labour managed to go from no-hopers to maybe some hope as he tried to tell us that only he could save us in this time of crisis. This is time for experience and not newboys he said looking at David Cameron and also over his shoulder at David Milband, his foreign affairs minister who wanted Gordon Browns job. Maybe Gordon wasn’t looking over the Atlantic to see that Barack Obama, the inexperienced Democrat was about to win the US election! It amazes me that Labour have gained some points back on the Conservatives in the opinion polls. How can a party that is presiding over rising unemployment, high taxes, political spin, the decimation of our pensions and the taking away of civil liberties ever gain favour with anybody.
Carrying on in politics, Boris Johnson won the London Mayor election on 2 May and became the unlikely bumbling new London Mayor, replacing the left wing socialist Ken Livingstone.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still going on and the US lost its 4,000th soldier killed whist the UK lost its 300th soldier killed since 2001. I still maintain that Britain should not have gone to war against Saddam Hussein. The facts about weapons of mass destruction were wrong. Had we known the true facts things would have been different. As far as Afghanistan is concerned I can understand that we don’t want terror training camps but if you fight a war you fight it properly, not half heartedly. You go in with overwhelming force with the right equipment from the start. What we have at the moment is a small army with poor equipment and a situation that could last for years. What should happen is that you go in and get out as soon as possible.
2008 was Olympic Games year, held in Beijing, China. The games turned out to be the most spectacular of any and the smog and pollution that blights the area was hardly a distraction. There were virtually no protesters to be seen. I suppose that was because they were all locked up! The Olympic Games themselves were excellent – due mainly to the fact that Great Britain did better than expected. I must admit that I had no interest in watching the games on TV but I sat down at the start to watch the women’s cycling and Britain won ! From that moment on I watched a fair bit more including the magnificent cycling team including 3 times gold medal winner Chris Hoy, who also became the first Britain to win 3 gold medals since 1908. Our athletics team didn’t do particularly well, which I suppose is the main sport in the Olympics but overall we did very well, which is not bad for a nation of sofa dwellers and wii fit fanatics. Other highlights worth mentioning from the Olympic games are Michael Phelps winning 8 gold medals and the best of all, the incredible sprinting of the Jamaican Usain Bolt, who proves that Jamaica is more that just a country of pot smoking, violent, reggae music listening psychopaths. Bolt became the fastest man on earth in the 100m final with a time of 9.69 seconds.
In other world events President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe carried on killing his own citizens. The second election was called off (Mugabe lost the first election so he decided the country would have a rigged second one) after the opposition leader, whose name I can’t spell, along with his supporters suffered violence and intimidation. An attempt at power sharing was just a ploy by Mugabe to try and deflect criticism from abroad. As I write this Zimbabwe is in the grip of inflation running at 231 million percent, clean water is only available to the privileged few, murder and rape is rife, unemployment has reached 90% and the average life expectancy is 40 years. Robert Mugabe is about 84 years old I think so his life expectancy must be running out soon!
In other world events, there was a devasting cyclone in Burma that killed an estimated 146,000 people, an earthquake in China in May that was felt more than 1,000 miles away from its epicentre and 87,000 people were killed. There was a terrible terrorist attack in Mumbai in November. Over 180 innocent people were murdered by about 10 terrorists. The Indian police managed to hold out against 10 men for 3 days, no sorry it was the other way round! Also, the so called Big Bang experiment by the Hadron Collider, built at huge expense to replicate the start of the universe suffered an electrical fault and the event turned into a small splutter!
Personally, for me, 2008 has not been a fantastic year but neither has it been bad either. I was in Palma, Majorca in April for a conference. Michael Portillo was one of the guest speakers. In May I was in Italy and visited Pisa and a stunning place called Monterosso which I can highly recommend. Apart from that I have been working on my websites. It’s a never ending job trying to get a website to the top of Google! My guitar playing is another year older and I don’t seem to be any better than I was a year ago. Maybe I need a better guitar!
Finally, the football team I support, Leeds United, after a string of poor results, sacked their manager, Gary McAllister, who had only been in the job 11 months. Promotion from League One looks like it is a fading hope.
Lets hope 2009 is better for us all including Leeds United!