This was the year that the word ‘non-binary’ went mainstream. It has now officially entered the dictionary — lexicographers at Collins have defined the term as ‘a gender or sexual identity that does not belong to the binary categories of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual’.
Non-binary also entered the Liberal Democrat manifesto, though Jo Swinson may now be regretting this decision. Non-binary is easy to announce; it’s rather more challenging to explain to the electorate — or to journalists.
If you spend enough time on the Thames, you will eventually come across human remains. It is a river of lost souls, filled with suicides, battles, burials, murders and accidents, with people so poor their families couldn’t afford to bury them, or so destitute they were never missed. Their bones wash up on the foreshore in the drifts of smooth, honey-brown animal bones, the remains of 2,000 years of dining and feasting.
Vegetable-seller Kairat Samarkhan didn’t know why he had been summoned to the police station. ‘I had to empty my pockets and hand over my belt and laces. Then they started to ask questions,’ he says. After days of interrogation, during which he was hardly allowed to sleep, officers pulled a sack over his head and drove him to a camp near the city of Altai. Samarkhan, a Muslim Kazakh, told me about his experience in the camp: ‘Every day, we had to renounce the Muslim faith and confirm that we respect the laws of China.
Elections should be carnivals of democracy, yet the campaign we have just been through has felt more like amateur dramatics at times – the standard of debate has not risen to the importance of the issues at stake. Yet this election will go down as one of the most consequential in British history. It has brought a profound change to our politics: not just that Brexit is now certain to happen, but also in the way that both main parties have transmogrified before our eyes – in terms of what they stand for, and who they appeal to.
The Christmas election has unfolded like a series of mini-dramas from panto, Dickens and other popular classics.
Boris has come across as a Dick Whittington figure, already twice mayor of London, and hoping to establish his seat in the capital on a more permanent footing. Jeremy Corbyn resembles Mother Goose flinging sugary treats at gullible children. And Jo Swinson has clearly been reading Cinderella (and believing every word of it).
Sanna Marin is the world’s new feminist political icon. At the age of 34, she’s just been appointed the prime minister of Finland after a power struggle in the five-party coalition government that forced Antti Rinne out of office only six months after he won the general election. Marin isn’t just young and a woman — she was brought up by two mothers in a small town south of Tampere, an industrial region that isn’t known for championing progressive values.
Britain’s smart meter rollout is the biggest change to our country’s energy infrastructure in a generation. This vital upgrade to an outdated, analogue system is creating a decentralised and decarbonised energy network which can help Britain meet its climate change targets, whilst also ensuring customers receive reliable, sustainable and cost-effective energy now and in the future.
We’re already seeing how smart meters are helping us take control of our energy use at home.
Here in St Edmundsbury cathedral, a bunch of clerics and local bigwigs are preparing for a most unusual anniversary. Throughout 2020 the inhabitants of this historic market town will be celebrating the 1,000th birthday of a building that ceased to exist nearly 500 years ago.
The Benedictine Abbey of Bury St Edmunds was founded by King Canute in 1020 to house the body of King Edmund, England’s original patron saint.