If You Thought Politics This Year Was Bitterly Divisive, You Ain't S Seen Nothing Yet; after One of the Most Momentous Years in Living Memory, We Asked Leading Thinkers to Predict What Will Happen Next. Today, a Chilling Analysis of What Could Unfold If Britain's Elite Defies the Will of the People over Brexit; WHAT NEXT AFTER THE YEAR THAT SHOOK THE WORLD?

Daily Mail (London), December 27, 2016 | Go to article overview

If You Thought Politics This Year Was Bitterly Divisive, You Ain't S Seen Nothing Yet; after One of the Most Momentous Years in Living Memory, We Asked Leading Thinkers to Predict What Will Happen Next. Today, a Chilling Analysis of What Could Unfold If Britain's Elite Defies the Will of the People over Brexit; WHAT NEXT AFTER THE YEAR THAT SHOOK THE WORLD?


Byline: Dominic Sandbrook

FROM Brexit to Trump, Syria and Putin, the teetering EU and the battle against ISIS, 2016 has been a year of political, economic and military shocks. This week, the Mail will run a series of essays analysing these earth-shaking events, and predicting how the aftershocks will play out across the world in 2017 ...

THERE is no more precious commodity in politics than trust. If you win the confidence of the public, every battle is already half won. Once you lose it, though, you are almost certainly finished.

It was, I think, above all the issue of trust that defined the politics of the past 12 months, surely one of the most sensational years in our modern history. Democracy depends upon it. When trust in the system evaporates, then people turn to the extremes.

So when future historians try to make sense of the political shocks that punctuated 2016, from Britain's vote to leave the EU and the fall of David Cameron, to Donald Trump's stunningly dramatic victory in the U.S. presidential election, I suspect they will look long and hard at the erosion of trust in the gilded elites who had long governed the Western world.

Even now, as the dust begins to settle, the sheer pace of change seems almost dizzying. Exactly a year ago, the most powerful men and women in the Western world were U.S. President Barack Obama and his heir apparent, Hillary Clinton; Britain's David Cameron; France's Francois Hollande; Germany's Angela Merkel; and Italy's Matteo Renzi.

If you had asked a casting agency to supply six supremely articulate, welleducated, liberal-minded politicians, wedded to the principles of globalisation, multiculturalism, free trade and the free movement of labour, it could hardly have done a better job. They were the masters of all they surveyed, confident in their role as the architects of history.

Where, though, are they now? Barack Obama faces retirement under a successor likely to dismantle much of his legacy, while Mrs Clinton suffered the most sensational defeat ever in an American presidential election.

Mr Renzi resigned after losing a constitutional referendum, while Mr Hollande, humiliated after months of abysmal polls, abandoned his bid for re - election.

AND although Mrs Merkel survives, she has never been more bloodied and beleaguered, with thousands of Germans now lurching to the Right in their political views.

Nobody, however, fell more suddenly or more stunningly than David Cameron. He entered 2016 a winner, the man who had prevailed against all the odds in the general election a year earlier. He even assured his EU colleagues that he would easily secure victory in the Brexit referendum, 'maybe by 70-30'.

But he ended 2016 as one of the most conspicuous losers in British political history, having staked his future -- and his country's fate -- on the gamble of a referendum. He thought the public would trust him, and he was wrong.

Trust, you see: it all comes down to trust.

Of course, there have been dramatic years before, such as 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down and the Communist empire collapsed; or 1956, the year of the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Uprising against Communist rule.

But never has there been a year like 2016. Certainly there has never been a year when the conventional wisdom was turned so completely on its head.

And at the heart of the revolt against the Western establishment was that crucial question of trust. The truth is that for years, even decades, suspicion had built up between the political, cultural and financial elites on the one hand, and millions of largely provincial voters on the other.

This was the year patriotism -- or nationalism, if you prefer -- reasserted itself as a major political force, with millions reacting against the gospel of globalisation, multiculturalism and open borders that their leaders had preached for so long. …

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If You Thought Politics This Year Was Bitterly Divisive, You Ain't S Seen Nothing Yet; after One of the Most Momentous Years in Living Memory, We Asked Leading Thinkers to Predict What Will Happen Next. Today, a Chilling Analysis of What Could Unfold If Britain's Elite Defies the Will of the People over Brexit; WHAT NEXT AFTER THE YEAR THAT SHOOK THE WORLD?
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