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A to Zen of 2010

Untitled 18 300x250 A to Zen of 2010If you dwell on it long enough, the political landscape of this time last year starts to feel like an era from a bygone age; not a year ago, but more like several decades ago.

At this point in 2009 Prime Minister Gordon Brown was careering towards certain defeat in the impending election and a majority government for Cameron was the odds on favourite outcome. As the months crept on and the polls tightened, the prospect of a hung parliament started coming into view, but still pundits repeatedly reminded us how unlikely this all was and how fanciful any predictions based on this would be.

Then came Super Nick.

Nick Clegg dominated the election campaign in a way that no one predicted. “I agree with Nick” became the campaign’s most memorable phrase. As his stock rose, so did, paradoxically, the likelihood of a Tory majority as the Lib Dems seemed to present a larger threat to Labour in the North than they did to the Tories in the South. Suddenly, Cameron looked like he was edging closer to Downing Street again.

Until the result.

The hung parliament meant that the only combination that would usher Cameron into Downing St, was the one that was least palatable to the party that held the balance of power. Then, contrary to all previously held perceptions about the Lib Dems, with David Laws at the helm of their negotiating team (yes, it appears he had been eyeing this outcome all along), the Lib Dems proceeded to leap into the arms of a Tory party only too willing to form a coalition with them.

No one in January 2010 would have predicted the post election scene in the Downing St garden in May of 2010 with the Love Actually Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers beaming at each other from across their lecterns. But then no one in May 2010, watching the newly-in-beds bask in the glow of their media honeymoon, could have predicted the violence that would follow before the end of the year in the backlash against them, and the promises they subsequently broke.

In the end, Nick Clegg’s popularity performed in six months, the same summersault that Tony Blair’s did – only it took Blair nearly a decade of hard earned malevolence to reach those levels.

On the other side of the Atlantic the hamster wheel of politics was no less febrile, with Obama starting the year as a widely regarded disaster, destined to certain failure in the single enterprise he had staked his entire administration on; universal health care. Then, half way through the year, he was hailed as a genius for achieving exactly that.

Four months later, as his party headed for a widespread “shellacking” at the polls in the mid-term elections, he was again cast out into the wilderness as an irrelevant looser. And then less than two months later, having achieved another string of victories on a series of signature issues such as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the 9/11 first responders special health care bill and the START Treaty, he was hailed a genius once more.

Throughout the year, pundit opinion – which, generally tends to reflect public opinion – has performed more flips than a pancake shop. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, often tells people that he never likes to believe he is as good as people say he is on a good day or as bad as people say he is on a bad day. There’s something in that for all of us, whether we’re looking at ourselves or the world around us. The 24 hour media, the pundits, the polls, the headlines, the hacks, the pols, will continue to rotate endlessly around us like a solar system of frantic spinning tops, but those of us who manage to maintain a steady core – remaining attentive to everything but beholden to nothing, hearing everything respectfully but taking nothing too seriously – will ultimately achieve the greatest successes in the year ahead, and indeed in this marathon we call life.

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