2016 gave us more dodgy opinion polls, controversial leadership elections and wrong-footing of the political elite. The feeling inside the Westminster bubble, that we don't quite know what to expect next, is either exciting or concerning depending on your perspective. To help you reflect on a year of change, we offer a humble A to Z of unmissable political points this year.
Definition: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word [NOUN] (e.g. BEIS, JAMs)
What it means in Westminster: A singular will to distil any political group, class, issue, or new department into an (ideally) easily pronounced and quickly typed acronym. The furore caused by the uncertainty surrounding how to pronounce BEIS (bays if you are interested) in its initial weeks left many confused commentators. The latest phenomenon, JAMs (Just About Managing), was only coined in November but already feels like part of the furniture.
Definition: A term for the potential departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Hard, soft, red, white, blue or lightly toasted, however you like it, quite clearly, Brexit means Brexit.
Definition: The Chilcot Report is an independent inquiry launched in 2009 by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown into the UK’s involvement in the war in Iraq in 2003 [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: After seven years, 2.6 million words, £9 million, and a 150 page executive summary, the Chilcot Report was finally published in July. The report will be remembered for shedding light on the assurance Tony Blair gave George W. Bush prior to the invasion: we will be with you "whatever".
Definition: The amount by which something, especially a sum of money, is too small [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: For the fiscal year ending March 2017, the UK budget deficit is estimated to be £19.1 billion. This is despite an 18.5% drop in the value of sterling since October 2015 – which in theory should boost exports. Don’t worry though, it’s all part of the long term economic plan…
Definition: A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: A person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area whose opinions / recommendations cease to matter if they do not fit with prevailing campaign slogans or public opinion [see P]. For some reason, people are supposedly sick of listening to them.
Definition: Nigel Farage is a British politician who was leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) from 2006 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2016 [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Depending on your viewpoint, Briton of the year, newly anointed UK-US Ambassador, or demagogue who incited hatred in the referendum campaign. Whatever your opinion, he’s rarely been out of the news this year.
G Gangnam [Style]
Definition: A place in South Korea, specifically a small area in Seoul about the size of Manhattan, home to about 1% of the city's population. It is known for its wealthy, new money, inhabitants. Also, a popular dance move [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: When Michael Gove MP professes that he has “fallen head over heels in love” with a former shadow chancellor of the exchequer, you know you have done something right. Ed Balls once again dominated the internet with his dad-dancing routine. We defy you not to feel cheered by this again at Christmas.
H Hinkley [point]
Definition: Hinkley Point is a headland on the Bristol Channel coast of Somerset, England, 5 miles (8 km) north of Bridgwater and 5 miles (8 km) west of Burnham-on-Sea, close to the mouth of the River Parrett. Also, the location of a new nuclear power station – Hinkley Point C [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: The future of low carbon UK energy security and a beacon of post-Brexit investment [or] an overpriced white elephant that will never produce energy and may be secretly controlled from China. Take your pick.
I Indictment (for Immigration, See X)
Definition: A formal charge or accusation of a serious crime [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: In April, an inquest into the Hillsborough disaster gave a verdict which indicted the South Yorkshire and West Midlands police forces with “gross negligence” following the tragic death of 96 football fans in 1989. A private prosecution has now been bought by the families who have campaigned for justice against an alleged cover-up by the authorities.
J Jo [Cox]
Definition: Jo Cox was a British Labour Party politician elected in 2015 to be the Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: In June 2016 – at the height of the EU Referendum campaign – Jo Cox was tragically murdered by a right wing political activist in her constituency. Her family established the Jo Cox Foundation which supports a wide array of charities and a song in her memory is competing for the Christmas No. 1.
Definition: Sadiq Khan is a British politician who has been Mayor of London since May 2016. He was the Member of Parliament for Tooting from 2005 to 2016 [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: A symbol of London’s diversity and meritocracy, the son of a bus driver, brought up in Tooting and now the first Muslim Mayor of London, with a 56% majority win (see Z). Touted as the next Labour leader once his term in office ends.
L Larry [the cat]
Definition: Larry is the 10 Downing Street cat and is “Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office”. Larry is a brown and white tabby, believed to have been born in January 2007 [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Holding his own twitter account, Larry is locked in a bitter territorial war with Palmerston, the Chief Mouse Catcher at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in Whitehall.
Definition: The quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity. Also, a British political organisation founded in 2015, four weeks after Jeremy Corbyn's successful campaign for the Labour Party leadership [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Momentum is simultaneously loved by the hard-left, hated by the centre-left, and appreciated of by the right. Famed for their infighting, they are the force behind Corbyn’s election as Labour leader (again) in September following an unsuccessful challenge by Owen Smith.
Definition: A series of referendums on the same issue held in an attempt to achieve an unpopular result [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Whilst the Irish may have felt they 'got there in the end' more recent results in the UK and Italy, may leave governments more wary of their ability to sway public opinion. The ramifications of the UK/EU referendum are likely to be discussed for the next decade, and a further referendum on any Brexit deal is not out of the question (see R).
O Opinion [poll]
Definition: An assessment of public opinion by questioning a representative sample, especially as the basis for forecasting the results of an election [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: In the 2015 general election, the pollsters got it wrong. In the referendum debate the pollsters got it wrong. In the 2016 US election the pollsters got is hugely wrong. The argument that pollsters need to listen to opinions rather than trying to predict them is gathering weight.
Definition: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief [ADJECTIVE].
What it means in Westminster: The Oxford Dictionaries word of the year. More so than ever before, politicians or campaigns (as well as Presidential candidates - see T) have discovered they can say anything they want, and still win elections. When all politicians are viewed suspiciously, there truly is no such thing as bad press.
Definition: Leave (a place), usually permanently [VERB].
What it means in Westminster: On 19th June, Prime Minister David Cameron proudly stated that “Britain’s not a quitter”. On 13th July he resigned from his post and on 12th September he stepped down as a Constituency MP. Britain may not quit, but we’re good at slinking off into the background.
R Rulings (for referendum, see N)
Definition: An authoritative decision or pronouncement, especially one made by a judge [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: The High Court ruled that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU – against the Government's wishes. The judges in question were then vilified in certain quarters as “enemies of the people”, an unprecedented attack on the UK judicial system. The case is currently with the Supreme Court with the result, expected in January, far from certain.
Definition: Refuse to work as a form of organised protest, typically in an attempt to obtain a particular concession or concessions from employers [VERB].
What it means in Westminster: Striking Southern Rail employees have caused havoc on the railways over the last 12 months, disrupting over 300,000 daily commuters. Whether you side with the unions or not, sympathy for the disruption is wearing thin as government is continually pressed to intervene.
T Trump [and Theresa]
Definition: Donald Trump is a businessman and President-elect of the United States. Theresa May is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since July 2016 [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: The ultimate evidence of the post-truth era. The election of [non-politician] Donald Trump will keep everyone on their toes in 2017, whilst the new UK Prime Minster must look to cement the special relationship with an incredibly well known celebrity, who is completely unknown political. The known unknowns are back.
Definition: The action of joining together or the fact of being joined together, especially in a political context [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Only England and Wales voted to leave the EU back in June. The majority in Scotland was for remain – and the SNP are pushing this advantage hard – along with Northern Ireland. With Brexit negotiations threatening the Good Friday Agreement, the future of the Union has never been more precarious. A deal to satisfy all parties will need to be found.
Definition: Jeremy Vine is a presenter, broadcaster and journalist, mainly for the BBC [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: We’ve been spoiled. In the last six months, we’ve had Jeremy giving us graphs, statistics, tables, maps, and breaking results from the comfort of a green room, twice. No election result night is complete without Jeremy walking purposefully towards a stack of 3D red and blue columns indicating voting patterns. A delight for psephological nerds everywhere.
Definition: A fixed regular payment earned for work or services, typically paid on a daily or weekly basis [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Politicians love to tinker with ideas that affect people's pay packets directly or indirectly. This year we've seen a developments on the minimum wage for young people, a new national living wage and efforts to tackle the gender pay gap. With the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicting real wages in 2021 will be worse than 2008 these efforts may not be enough to address people's concerns about the rising cost of living.
Definition: Showing a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries [ADJECTIVE].
What it means in Westminster: In the white heat following the referendum result strong language was used by many to label 52% of the population who voted Leave. Immigration has risen to the top of our list of political issues, but to distil it to a question of racism or xenophobia limits our ability to address the genuine concerns raised about pressure on public services and integration in local communities.
Definition: The time taken by a planet to make one revolution around the sun [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: A lifetime in politics.
Z Zac [Goldsmith]
Definition: Zac Goldsmith is a former British politician who, between the 2010 general election and October 2016, represented Richmond Park as its Member of Parliament [NOUN].
What it means in Westminster: Winner of the worst political year award. In 2016 Zac lost the London mayoral race to Sadiq Khan and then lost a 23,015 majority to the Lib Dems in the Richmond Park by-election, having resigned over the approval the third Heathrow runway.