2011 Review (Part 2)

This year, we've feared the doom and felt the gloom. We watched as people battled for democracy abroad, whilst battles took place within our democracy at home.

Who coined the phrase 'slow-news summers'? In August, the Libyan Civil War dragged on, and the rebels' success caused Gaddafi's regime to behave increasingly erratically.

Sky News correspondent Mark Stone, who posted video updates on YouTube during his time in Tripoli earlier in 2011, described to me just how odd some of Gaddafi's propaganda methods were. "Think fake blood sprayed on sheets in hospital to fool us", he said, before explaining how journalists "were only allowed out of the hotel with minders". Tripoli fell on 23 August.

Stone was reporting from another turbulent scene in August. This wasn't a protest for freedom from tyranny, though; this was a riot in his local town centre. "As a journalist, I needed to film what I was witnessing and question the looters", he said, "but as a resident it was genuinely upsetting to see the street I shop in being comprehensively destroyed".

After five nights of violence, an estimated £200,000,000 of damage was caused and five were killed. As Tottenham smouldered, Britain reflected, discussing the drawbacks of its society.

Autumn came quicker than ever, bringing with it the decadal anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. All eyes were on Ground Zero as the names of the 2977 victims were read aloud. It was an opportunity to think back to the terrible day, and the events that succeeded it. It was equally a time to look forward, though; before 2011 ended, the final American troops would leave Iraq after almost nine years.

Days later, Manhattan drew attention for a different reason. A hundred people camped out in cardboard boxes in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, and the Occupy movement was born. Their fight for economic equality went global; as 2011 concludes, there are 2751 Occupy camps. It wasn't long before a camp was set up in London, outside St Paul's Cathedral. The protesters say that they are a part of 99% against fiscal inequalities, but critics of the movement have panned it for not suggesting alternatives to the systems it fights against.

As the days became shorter, we mourned a great technological pioneer of our time. Steve Jobs - CEO of the company that created the Macintosh computer, iPod, iPhone and iPad - died of cancer.

In a blog post, Stephen Fry said of the genius: "Jobs didn't invent computers...but he saw there were no limits to the power that creative combinations of technology and design could accomplish". His final words were as fascinating as the products of his imagination: "oh wow, oh wow, oh wow."

In Westminster, a storm was brewing. Evidence was uncovered suggesting Defence Secretary Liam Fox had been accompanied by his friend Adam Werritty to government meetings around the world. The snowball started rolling. When question marks appeared over false business cards and finances, the story grew murkier. Fox stood down as Secretary of State for Defence, and the PM oversaw a minor cabinet reshuffle. At the height of the scandal, Fox was asked what he thought his greatest achievement in cabinet was. "Libya", he replied. He would miss the Gaddafi regime's final chapter by six days.

On 20 October, Muammar Gaddafi was captured by rebel forces outside his hometown of Sirte. Images of his brutal final moments alive were beamed around the world. This marked the end of a civil war, but the Libyan Revolution was only just beginning.

World affairs failed to distract David Cameron from troubles on his own doorstep. Cracks were beginning to re-emerge within Conservative Party foundations over - yes, you guessed it - Europe.

On a damp Monday evening, parliament witnessed the biggest rebellion since the last Tory government. The debate over a proposed referendum on the British EU membership saw Conservative MPs ignore the government stance, voting in favour. UKIP Leader Nigel Farage told me the debate was "an absolute travesty", before saying it displayed "a huge disengagement between Westminster and the people."

In November, the Leveson Inquiry - a result of the hacking scandal - opened its first hearing.

Those that have appeared since include the parents of Milly Dowler, Hugh Grant, the parents of Madeline McCann, Piers Morgan, Alistair Campbell and Christopher Jefferies. When I asked him for his thoughts on the inquiry so far, David Wooding raised the issue that "too much time has been given to dodgy or failed ex-Journalists who have left the profession and celebrities with axes to grind". The inquiry is on-going and expected to conclude next year.

The Chancellor's Autumn Statement preceded the largest strikes Britain had seen in a generation. 60% of schools shut as over 2,000,000 public sector workers walked in reaction to proposed reforms to their pensions. If this day did nothing else, it informed me of the political influence of The One Show.

In March, host Matt Baker seemed to become Jeremy Paxman's replacement when interviewing the PM. On the evening of 30 November, a guest on the show attempted to make a topical joke about the day's events. His name was Jeremy Clarkson, and I don't think he was expecting the reaction he received. Beware, Newsnight...

Meanwhile, Egypt was about to learn how long a revolution can run after the toppling of a dictator, as mass protests returned, months after Mubarak's removal. Jeremy Bowen described it to me as the "hangover effect of power". "Severe economic problems, a lack of political stability and the military hanging on to power have caused this", he said.

Things were looking equally bleak in Syria, as the estimated death toll rose to 5000. In an undercover report from Homms, Sky News Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay stated that "the Arab Spring has turned to winter."

After another disastrous year for the euro, December brought a chance to safeguard the currency and the economies of its nations. Still shaken by the EU debate a month beforehand, the PM headed to Brussels to vote on a new treaty. If he signed, he would have to answer to dozens of his MPs. If he didn't, the global bonds he had built since gaining office would break. He vetoed, choosing the latter. In refusing its signature, Britain was accused of holding back the eurozone. Yet, doubts have been cast over the treaty's success anyway. Nigel Farage told me that it "will only drive southern centres into deeper depression". Only time will tell. Despite vast efforts, 2011 was certainly not the end of the euro crisis.

The global stage did not just alter in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, though. As the year undertook its final moments, so too did Kim Jong Il. The passing of North Korea's leader means it is now officially led by his son Kim Jong Un, but history shows that communist political transitions are never that straight forward.

This year, we've feared the doom and felt the gloom. We watched as people battled for democracy abroad, whilst battles took place within our democracy at home. I knew when I began penning this piece that I would regrettably have to miss out some important events. I can only apologise for this, but there is one event I am yet to mention which I could not forgive myself for disregarding. This year, East Africa has witnessed a famine on an unimaginable scale. 2012 will bring one of two developments in this crisis; its continuation, or its conclusion. Please help it be the latter, by donating to the Oxfam appeal.

For me, 2011 was the year that I was given the opportunity to write for The Huffington Post, and what a year to start. Out of interest, I asked MPs from each of the three big parties to summarise their political year in one word. Tim Farron (Liberal Democrat) chose "rollercoaster". Tessa Jowell (Labour) opted for "activist". Louise Mensch (Conservative) said "responsibility". I, personally, would have gone for "unpredictable". Having said that- as 2012 commences, how much will we know about the year ahead?


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