Congratulations for making it to the final stages of what can only be described as a truly, truly naff year chock full of truly, truly naff takes.
The only thing worse than the events of 2020 was the execrable quality of the commentary offered up by politicians, journalists and random self-appointed public health experts who’ve never achieved a science qualification in their life.
Here are the claims that either made us do a double-take straightaway or have aged extremely badly. Or, in some cases, both.
Ah, January. Remember January? You may have had some lovely plans for the year. A holiday, perhaps, or a career change. Maybe even just a vague idea you were going to make an effort to spend more time with your loved ones.
Just under 12 months later, the UK would be cut off from Europe, Brits were banned from entering pretty much everywhere and “Plague Island” was trending on Twitter.
The second entry for the year is from.... oh, no, it’s us.
Back in early February, HuffPost UK asked the question: “How bad is coronavirus?”
With hindsight the answer is clearly “monumentally, world-changingly bad on every level imaginable”, but on February 11, when we penned this piece, it wasn’t clear just how terrible things were going to get.
Here are a couple of lines from that piece:
“The [global] death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 1,018, and there are now 43,106 confirmed infections worldwide.”
“Four more patients in England tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to eight, and two GP surgery branches in Brighton have been shut following an outbreak in the city.”
Looking back it’s almost quaint that we were discussing the closure of individual GP surgeries when just weeks later huge emergency Nightingale hospitals were being built to deal with the expected surge in patient numbers and the collapse of the entire NHS was a very real possibility.
The worldwide number of cases back then was only around two-thirds of the total number of deaths in the UK alone now.
To be fair, we did add that there was “quite the global crisis on the boil” but yes, we admit, this doesn’t really do the scale of the pandemic justice.
But there was a silver lining. Well, according to former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, there was. That silver lining was the “return of the bow and curtsy”.
“A handshake can be an awkward thing – a clumsy, clammy grapple. But a woman breathes something of herself into her curtsy. She can make the gesture demure or haughty, coy or brazen. She can dip perfunctorily or sweep into a balletic plié. She can swish her skirts alluringly or bob coldly.”
No, we haven’t accidentally copied and pasted a line from a Jane Austen novel. Hannan – who was once known as the “Brain of Brexit” – actually wrote these words, which were published in The Telegraph on March 15 when the UK death toll stood at 21.
Mind you, Hannan isn’t exactly known for his searing, on-point analysis of... well, anything, really.
One depressingly reassuring constant of 2020 has been that no matter how weird and terrible things were here in the UK, you just had to look to the US for a sense of “yup, things could be much worse”.
We had our fair share of anti-lockdown protests but in typical fashion the Americans did them bigger and... better?
Here’s an astounding example from April – a couple in a massive SUV screaming in defence of their democratic right to spread a deadly virus at an actual frontline health worker who they’re accusing of being a “communist” who should “go to China”. All because he’s trying to save their lives.
At the beginning of lockdown, the government’s message was very clear – “stay home”. See, can’t get much clearer than that.
But when restrictions began to be eased in May, they faced a bit of a problem. You can’t “stay home... a bit”.
So they came up with a brand new catchphrase – “stay alert, control the virus, save lives”.
How we were supposed to stay alert to a microscopic and invisible virus wasn’t explained, leading to much, much confusion.
But at least Boris Johnson’s take on public safety advice gave rise to one of the funniest things of 2020: Matt Lucas’s glorious piss-take.
Toby Young has so much to say about coronavirus that he started his own newsletter called Lockdown Sceptics where various people have gathered to tell each other that the biggest global health emergency in modern times is all a big fuss about nothing.
One of his most monumental gaffes came in June, when he wrote: “I’m going to go out on a limb and predict there will be no ‘second spike’ – not now, and not in the autumn either.
“The virus has melted into thin air. It’s time to get back to normal.”
We’ll just leave this chart here...
As Hugo Rifkind eloquently put it...
There were some positive aspects of 2020, not least the huge increase in reach and influence of the Black Lives Matter movement – albeit sparked by the most tragic of events.
But in keeping with the general tone of the year, there were also many bad takes.
Our July entry comes from the Museum of the Home in Hackney, London, which in the wake of the renewed Black Lives Matter protests, asked the local community what should be done with the statue of its slave trader founder that stands above its main entrance.
The museum’s board of trustees decided to “acknowledge the legacy of colonialism and slavery within our history” and asked people for their views.
Then it ignored them.
The Museum of the Home announced its decision in a press release in which it acknowledged that “overall, the response [of the public consultation] was in favour of removing the statue”.
It added: ”However, feedback showed that what to do with the statue is a complex debate, full of nuance and different opinions.
“On balance the board has taken the view that the important issues raised should be addressed through ongoing structural and cultural change, along with better interpretation and conversation around the statue.”
“Black lives clearly don’t matter to that board of trustees,” singer, activist and Hackney resident Jermain Jackman told HuffPost UK at the time. “They clearly had their own agenda. I’m completely gobsmacked.”
2020 peaked in August as the government allowed something close to normality to resume.
The flagship programme was the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which saw individuals and families encouraged to eat out at discounted rates following the national lockdown.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak even popped down to his local Wagamama to dish out a few meals as we were all encouraged to help get the hospitality sector back on its feet.
Treasury figures show more than 100m meals were eaten under the scheme, which gave diners a 50% state-backed discount up to a maximum of £10, on meals every Monday to Wednesday.
But just a month later Warwick University research suggested the scheme may have been responsible for between 8 and 17% of all new detected clusters of coronavirus emerging during August and into early September in the UK.
While serving on the frontline of Australian politics, Abbott opposed same-sex marriage as “political correctness”, said he was “a bit threatened” by gay people and claimed women are “physiologically unsuited to leadership”.
Oh, and that raw onion thing? Just watch this...
So where’s September’s bad take in all of this? That came from Matt Hancock who in an interview with Kay Burley brushed off all of the above by saying: “Well, er, he’s also an expert in trade.”
Burley reeled off a list of Abbott’s previous comments, but Hancock responded: “As far as I understand it the proposal is that Mr Abbott supports the UK on trade policy, which is an area in which he’s got a huge amount of expertise.
“I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love, whoever that is, as you know and as we’ve talked about a lot, but we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and as the former prime minister of Australia obviously Mr Abbott’s got a huge amount of experience.”
While Jeremy Corbyn has seen his standing decrease over the year, his brother Piers has been on a meteoric rise, albeit in a very niche segment of the population.
The 73-year-old has spent most weekends speaking at a series of anti-lockdown and Covid-sceptic rallies, one of the largest of which was held in Trafalgar Square in October.
Speaking to the crowd he attempted to explain away the pandemic, saying: “I’m often asked: ‘Is there a deadly virus and, if not, how are people getting ill and dying?’
“Well, one, they make up the numbers and they tell us lies. There has been a flu around which, you know, people get.
“And the other thing is increased wi-fi, 4G and 5G. It’s a proven fact 5G and 4G and 3G does lower your immune systems. So, when they turn it up, some of you will get ill. And that will be used to increase the so-called Covid numbers.”
He went on: “They also claim that they found the virus even though they haven’t seen it. And then they said they’ve even got a vaccine for it. A vaccine for something they can’t see. Well, that no one can see.
“They say [...] they’ve seen a genome sequence in a dish and that could be the virus. Now, that argument is bananas.
“I’m not going to go into the details of that, but that is the point. It is not an honest scientific method. They are just conning you.”
Like all viruses, the coronavirus is very small and cannot be seen by the naked eye.
There are thousands of studies proving it exists.
We’ll keep this one short.
If you’re not familiar with Paul Joseph Watson, he’s a 38-year-old British man who made a name for himself writing about conspiracy theories for the right-wing US website Infowars.
He now spends his days on Twitter engaged in a bizarre quest to prove he’s not gay even though no one cares whether he is or not.
Also we have no understanding of what this is about.
Bad take alert. But the best part of this torrid saga was the unexpected intervention of Edwina Currie, her of 1988 egg scandal fame and former mistress of John Major, who gave what could very possibly be a salacious insight into the affair of the 1980s.
So there you have it. What a world.