As the year draws to a close, it falls to the journalistic industry to determine arbitrary lists of all sorts of things. It is entirely subjective and provides little insight except into the mind of the writer and what sort of things he/she is influenced by. Having said that, this article will attempt to create a list of the individuals who have had the greatest impact on the world this year. Please bear in mind, this is the author’s judgement, and so if your personal choice does not appear- tough.
Little needs to be said about the gargantuan task which Theresa May has been saddled with. Delivering the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union in response to the 2016 referendum is one which requires tact, diplomacy and caution, and each of those in superabundance. However, Theresa May is not on this list. Rather is a seemingly obscure Conservative MP from Somerset.
The reason for this is that, in a hung parliament where the government doesn’t have an outright majority, any one individual who possesses the sort of influence which Rees-Mogg does, commands a level of power and influence which simply doesn’t require a government position. As an ardent Eurosceptic, who would happily see a No-Deal scenario, his opinions and ideas are incredibly influential among his followers, and winning or losing his support is seen as critical for Theresa May winning over her own MPs to vote for her Deal.
As the ‘Member of Parliament for the 18th Century’ gains more and more publicity and clout, he will continue to be openly touted as a potential candidate for leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister when the party moves to remove the current lame-duck Mrs May. At the very least, a potential kingmaker.
It can be no surprise to see the President of the United States on such a list- it is the most powerful office in the Western world. However, Donald Trump lends himself to these sort of lists beyond his office. The best way to exemplify the impact Trump has is to see how he affects the world, and it’s difficult to argue he doesn’t have a huge impact. In comedy, he is the butt of every political joke. In politics, he has drastically changed the landscape so that politicians are not judged based on their character or moral fibre, but by their loyalty or lack thereof to Trump. By all accounts, this is something which he revels in- he has been recorded many times as saying he values loyalty over all things. In popular culture, waves of condemnation rained down on Kanye West when he came out in favour of Trump.
In his attempts to fulfil his promises to his base and ‘drain the swamp’, he has cosied up to dictators and those with less than savoury views. He has created diplomatic incidents, angered allies and generally been the most divisive figure in America, if not the world. This is not even to mention his Twitter rants and rages- during which he announced decisions before they had even been heard by his advisers, such as the so-called ‘victory’ over ISIS in Syria and withdrawal of troops, which triggered the resignation of his defence secretary. By any other standards, this would be disastrous. However, Trump continues to crow and in fact relish his position as a shaker of the political elite.
Known initially as an actress from the hit show Suits, Meghan Markle has skyrocketed to becoming the wife of Prince Harry, fourth in line for the throne of the United Kingdom. As a divorced American of black descent, she seems like she doesn’t directly fit in with the rest of the Royal Family. In fact, there were major constitutional issues the last time a member of ‘the Firm’ decided to marry an American divorcee. However, the acceptance of her into the hierarchy of the British Monarchy can be seen as a true sign of progression- demonstrating once again its ability to adapt and survive. There are arguments for and against having a Royal Family- however it is undoubtable that they raise the profile of the UK and contribute enormously to the culture and history of these Isles. For this line of succession to include someone of such a different background and history is a welcome image.
Before this year, Sergei Skripal was a complete unknown. This is not surprising, considering he was a retired Russian military intelligence officer who had acted as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services. He was swapped with Russia after being arrested, and had settled down to live an unknown life in rural England. The attempt on his life threw an enormous shadow over the diplomatic relations between Europe and its uneasy neighbour- Russia. His poisoning with Novichok agent in Salisbury resulted in prime minister Theresa May expelling 23 Russian Diplomats from the UK. Tensions exist which have not been seen since the heights of the Cold War.
The brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi threw a dramatic spotlight on the actions of the Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and earned him condemnation from around the globe. Khashoggi was not a particularly strenuous critic of the Saudi regime- he certainly made efforts to point out its failings, but equally has defended it in the past. This made the manner in which he was executed even more appalling. It had long been known that Bin Salman, or MBS as he is known, considered Khashoggi’s defection to America to be a personal insult and was trying to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia. Naturally, Khashoggi declined this. So, when it was reported that he had disappeared after walking into the Arabian embassy in Turkey, the worst was immediately feared.
Very soon the Turkish government confirmed it had recordings of him being drugged, tortured by having his fingers cut off, and then executed- with his body being dismembered using a bone saw. This medieval form of execution shocked the world, and drew a heartfelt defence of journalism and freedom of speech, especially at a time when it is so under threat. In his memory, Time magazine highlighted him as one of their Persons of the Year. Even after his death, he continues to be a standard-bearer for speaking truth to power.
Dr Christine Blasey Ford
The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh by Trump as a Supreme Court Justice in the middle of the year initially didn’t throw up too many concerns, beyond those of partisanship. However, before his confirmation hearing, a story started being circulated about his actions when he was younger. Come September, his accuser was set to face Congress as part of his hearings. This showdown was seen as the first real test of the post #MeToo Era, and went on to prove that we still have a very long way to go.
Dr Ford was interrogated, faced death threats and still cannot return to her home, requiring round the clock protection. She put her reputation and livelihood on the line to tell her truth, and the fortitude it takes to accept the potential consequences is only to be commended. Kavanaugh has one of the most prestigious jobs in the country for the rest of his life.
The question of what is the truth to the allegation is not possible to answer definitively, but the way this played out was unbecoming of a democratic civilised society and its after effects will be felt for years to come.
Michael Cohen & Robert Mueller
It is difficult to consider an individual who has had as much publicity and speculation surrounding him as Robert Mueller. He is an ex-Director of the FBI and was appointed head of the Special Counsel Investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 Presidential Election. He has been a pivotal and divisive figure in America since the investigation started two years ago, but this year, the results of his extensive investigations started to fall on the shoulders of prominent individuals. These included Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, Michael Flynn, Trump’s ex-National Security Advisor and most explosively, Michael Cohen, the President’s personal lawyer.
Cohen is pivotal because he was Trump’s ‘fixer’. He made many of Trump’s problems, including Stormy Daniels, disappear. His indictment specifically mentions the actions which he undertook on the direct orders of the President. Upon his conviction and sentencing to three years in prison, he reaffirmed his intention to cooperate fully with the investigation. This alone causes significant issues for Trump- his secrets are in jeopardy.
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