It’s difficult to know where to start with the, frankly, incredible number of instances where Donald Trump has demonstrated himself to be one of the most divisive, controversial and truly hated political figures of the past few years. Since the bizarre announcement of his presidential campaign, Trump has provided a steady stream of examples epitomising modern-day ignorance and elitism, which wouldn’t seem more at home in the United States of the 1960s.
Never has someone seemingly loved to be so loathed by the world in the way Trump does, preaching his offensive vitriol across the American nation. One of the most recent of his logic-defying statements struggles to be believed, detailing his wish for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until” the “country’s representatives can figure out what is going on’”. This joins his infamous policy of a building “a great, great wall” at the US-Mexico border, on the ‘Donald Trump Quotes Hall of Fame’. I’m all for free speech, but he is living proof that just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should, or that you are remotely right.
Trump, the walking-caricature of the Republican Party, has made so many outrageous claims and laughable statements, that it has becomes unclear as to where the cartoonish, Disney villain performance ends. With the significant audience and traction he has garnered so far in the primaries, Trump’s increasingly extreme rhetoric crosses over into a more worrying and dangerous influence on voters. Whilst one could hope that growing exposure would bring to even more attention and furious opposition his irrational world views, Donald’s New Hampshire victory suggests his support base is stronger than ever.
As so many people have asked, who could ever seriously contemplate him as a candidate fit enough to be the leader of the free world? How on earth has he amassed any kind of following? What kind of horrors would transpire if this man had his finger on the nuclear button? His glaring hypocrisies and xenophobic attitudes should not be worthy of our time and attention, let alone be considered suitable for the realms of international diplomacy.
Barack Obama has commented that he “continues to believe that Mr Trump will not be president”. It would a colossal shame if the American people were to take a step backwards from one of the most progressive and historic two term Presidencies, to four years led by a man promoting institutional inequality and fear.
For once, Trump may have been correct when he himself once called today’s politics a “disgrace”, saying “good people don’t go into government”. Maybe a little self-reflection is in order here, Donald.
ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI
You have to be especially awful to qualify for dickhead of the year. Any number of miscreants, tyrants, megalomaniacs and narcissists has seemingly made every effort to be in contention, but most have been befallen by some unwitting remedy for their general malevolence.
Vladimir Putin thoughtfully invaded Ukraine and ratcheted up the Syrian conflict, but his and our common cause in defeating Daesh has tempered much of the hostility. Donald Trump has gone out of his way to insult Muslims, Mexicans, women, disabled people etc., but in so doing he has provided ample comedic material. Martin Shkreli has revelled in the hatred directed at his conceited and egomaniacal c**tishness, but in many ways his life is quite pathetic and rather inconsequential. Only one man can be festooned with this prize, and his victory is a sombre one.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the self-styled Caliph of the Islamic State – or, more accurately, the un-Islamic non-State. The political goal of an ‘Islamic’ caliphate is not in and of itself an illegitimate one, but the barbarous cruelty and inhumanity that permeates the territory controlled by this group defies comprehension and is surely among the most depraved behaviour in human history.
Gay men are thrown to their deaths from tall buildings. Aid workers have their heads sawn off. Elderly women are executed because they are too old to use as sex slaves. Disabled babies are euthanised. Opposition fighters are made to kneel on landmines. Inhabitants of Daesh territory who sarcastically call the group by this disdainful name have their tongues sliced off. And make no mistake: this sadistic savagery is all carried out by either the sanction or the legitimation of Mr Baghdadi’s command and rhetoric.
This is not a critique of Islamic terrorism or Salafist/Wahhabi fundamentalism – grotesque as those phenomena may be. The indescribable horror of what Mr Baghdadi leads stands regardless of the ideological or political foundations that underpin it. It takes a degradation of a person’s basic understanding of justice and dignity to perform the evil that occurs within Daesh. Mr Baghdadi is responsible for this destruction of minds.
It is difficult to make sense of this vileness. It is something worse than evil. It is fascistic, yes. It is masochistic, yes. There can be no adequate explanation or excuse. Perhaps the dictum that ordinary people can be made to do extraordinary things rings true – that depravity is a conceivable condition of humanity. Nevertheless, the man who has created the aura of righteousness surrounding every despicable act perpetrated by Daesh enforcers must take huge responsibility for this conditioning.
Mr Baghdadi is the dickhead of the year, if not the decade.
So far, 2016 has been a year permeated by the ongoing struggle to save our NHS. Jeremy Hunt and the Conservative government has stepped up its campaign to alienate and de-moralise not only current workers, but prospective employees, creating a climate of instability.
The newly imposed contract for junior doctors demands a “7-day service”, equating Saturday pay to that of ‘plain-time’, and removing the option to claim higher wages for working anti-social hours. All of this has come despite large-scale industrial action headed by the BMA, 98% of members favouring strike action. The 24 hour strike period, which began on the 10th of February, saw 160 picket lines demonstrate across England, including in Newcastle. This marked a desperate outcry of NHS employees, whose institution has been marred by cuts and privatisation. This also coincided with proposed cuts to grants for nursing and midwifery students, denying a viable future for essential professions. Consequently, there is significant uncertainty for the future of the medical profession as a whole. A 2015 survey of 4,000 junior doctors suggested that 70% would rather work abroad or adopt another profession if such a contract was imposed.
Unfortunately, these changes should be no surprise to the British public. Hunt is following an established Conservative tradition of NHS erosion, tracing its lineage to Thatcher. In 2005, Hunt co-authored a policy book calling directly for “denationalisation”. As if the political agenda is not clear enough, the 2012 Health and Social Care act officially removed the responsibility of the Health Secretary to secure and provide healthcare for all in England.
What is particularly disturbing about Hunt is his patronising, paternalistic attitude in the face of rational criticism. Upon hearing letters being read out to him from doctors expressing their concern, he immediately deflected the issue, declaring the BMA as “totally irresponsible”. Intrinsic to the political program of austerity is a continued rhetoric that governmental changes are part of “essential” technical reform. Alongside his trademark NHS badge, Hunt has made remarkable comments to foster an image of impartiality: “everything I do is automatically controversial because I am a politician and it’s automatically seen through the prism of ideology of party politics”. Hunt somehow equates the legitimate concerns of thousands to a mere ‘controversial’ misunderstanding. Hopefully there will be a sustained effort to combat further destruction of our hard-won universal healthcare service. In the words of Nye Bevan: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.
I think that the worst person of the year would have to be George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the architect of austerity. While we know relatively little about the man himself, as he prefers to stay out of the public eye, his actions as Chancellor are completely indefensible. In trying to cut down on the deficit by decimating public services, he has instead increased our national debt by over half a trillion pounds since he took office, and has made it even harder for the working class to maintain a decent standard of living. Meanwhile not only have large corporations and bankers gotten off scot-free for their role in the financial crisis, they have increased their wealth on the back of it. George’s ‘marvellous’ medicine, rather than being the cure, is actually the disease. In the last year, there have been two highlights (although it would be more accurate to say lowlights) of his time as Chancellor following the election in May.
The first is his attempt to cut child tax credits as part the 2015 Budget, by lowering the threshold from which credits could be withdrawn from £6,420 to £3,850. This was met with furore, with it squeezing the pockets of nearly 3 million work
ing-class households - losing out on an average of £1,000 a year. Furthermore, this goes against the rhetoric that the Conservatives stand for hard working families (and the last time I checked, bankers aren’t generally considered to be working class). Thankfully, the House of Lords had the common sense and decency to block this frankly cruel move but George lives on to fight another day.
The second lowlight is Osborne’s role in negotiating the pitiful £130 million offered by Google in payment following an inquiry into the company’s 10 years of tax avoidance. This deal was considered a victory by the Chancellor, but was rightly condemned as a miniscule payment relative to the billions of sales the corporation made during this period. The fact that he expressed pride in receiving this derisible sum of money compared to the tax Google actually avoided is simply ludicrous, and what’s more, he then hid away from questions by his critics. Yet Osborne appears to have escaped from most of the blame, with the HMRC scapegoated as being responsible for this farce.
Yes, Jeremy Hunt is a detestable idiot who is out of his depth in trying to undermine the NHS and junior doctors. Yes, Trump is an utter moron spitting out vitriolic nonsense. But Osborne is actually intelligent in that he knows what precisely what he is doing and remains silent, operating behind the scenes, allowing him to escape relatively unscathed. In a way, his skills in elusion are almost admirable. However it should be obvious to us all that his actions are completely wrong. He is the ‘anti-Robin Hood’, taking from the struggling poor and giving to the comfortable rich. Hence why I’m giving the silent, cold and unemotional Osborne the award as worst person of the year. It’s always the quiet ones, as they say.