If 2019 was a tumultuous year, then the start of the 21st century’s third decade is likely to be no less eventful. Here are some of the stories to look out for over the next 12 months.
Farewell to John Sentamu
During his 15-year tenure as Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has endeared himself to the British public and become an adopted Yorkshireman like no other.
And when it was announced in 2018 that he was retiring this summer, the news prompted a wave of heartfelt tributes. There will be further tributes when he leaves in June, and rightly so.
Since his enthronement in 2005, the Ugandan-born cleric has immersed himself in his work – from a six-month pilgrimage to every corner of the Diocese of York, to using his influence to drive forward the One Yorkshire devolution campaign.
His popularity and force of personality make him a difficult act to follow. However, his successor, Stephen Cottrell, the much-respected Bishop of Chelmsford, can be assured of the warmest of Yorkshire welcomes. And the 61-year-old’s character, record and introductory remarks already offer hope.
VE and VJ Day
When news was broadcast over the airwaves confirming the end of the war in Europe on May 8, 1945, it sparked scenes of jubilation on Britain’s streets.
Addressing a massive crowd from the Ministry of Health building in Whitehall, Winston Churchill said: “This is your victory. It is the victory of the cause of freedom in every land. In all our long history we have never seen a greater day than this. Everyone, man or woman, has done their best.”
Victory in Europe had come at a huge cost. Thousands of women were widowed during the war and more than 264,000 men in Britain’s Armed Forces were killed during the conflict, as well as more than 60,000 on the Home Front.
British politics underwent a complete overhaul just a couple of months later with the ousting of its wartime leader in favour of a Labour government headed by Clement Attlee.
If the prevailing mood in May had been one of celebration, the feeling amongst most people on VJ Day was more one of relief, as the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, ending almost six years of war.
Seventy-five years on, these anniversaries will be commemorated and no doubt prompt discussions about the state of our country today and a world that has become increasingly polarised and partisan.
Last month’s general election result was a resounding victory for the Conservatives and handed Boris Johnson a decisive mandate to “get Brexit done”, to use his mantra, with the UK due to leave the EU at the end of this month. However, while the issue of whether or not we will leave the European Union has been put to bed, the question of what Brexit will actually look like, is still to be answered.
Assuming that we leave on January 31, we then enter a transition period scheduled to finish at the end of December. The main task for the Prime Minister is to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, which, given the travails it’s taken to reach this point, isn’t likely to be straightforward, and this is why Mr Johnson’s honeymoon period in office is likely to be brief.
He may have come out on top at the ballot box, but so did the SNP in Scotland, while in Northern Ireland there are now more nationalist MPs than unionists.
He also has to prove to voters in the North who helped propel him into Number 10 that he is listening to their concerns and has a viable plan of action. So will this finally be the year that sees Yorkshire devolution come to pass, or failing that could we at least have the trains running on time?
If our political landscape has been fractious over the last few years, it pales next to what is happening across the Pond right now. Last month Donald Trump became only the third US president ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives, setting up a trial in the Senate that will decide whether he remains in office.
The House voted on two charges – that the president abused his power and that he had obstructed Congress. Nearly all Democrats voted for the charges and every Republican against. A two-thirds majority is required to convict and oust Mr Trump and given that Republicans control the 100-seat chamber with a 53-47 majority, the president is widely expected to be acquitted.
Even so, this remains an explosive story, the fact it’s happening in the year of a presidential election (perhaps the most important in the country’s history) merely throws fuel on the fire. The real question, of course, is how all this plays out with the American electorate.
Like him or loathe him, it’s fair to say that Donald Trump is going to dominate the news agenda again in 2020. So fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
There is a lot of talk these days about the competing merits of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi as to who is the greatest footballer of all time. But I say, ‘don’t people have short memories?’ What about Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or Pele to you and me? He scored more goals than either of these two latter-day stars and helped Brazil to World Cup glory three times – three more than either Messi or Ronaldo have managed as they approach the denouement of their astonishing careers. Pele, who turns 80 in October, also produced an assist for the greatest World Cup Final goal of all time – perfectly rolling the ball into the path of an onrushing Carlos Alberto to score the last goal in the 4-1 demolition of Italy.
Half a century on and some of the world’s best footballers will be hoping to etch their own name in the history books at Euro 2020. England will be there and Gareth Southgate’s buccaneering young squad are among the pre-tournament favourites. But we’ve been here before, haven’t we?
Fresh from the hugely successful Rugby World Cup, all eyes will once again be on Japan as it hosts the summer Olympics.
Four years ago in Rio, Team GB came second in the overall medals table, sandwiched between the United States and China, with a total of 67 medals. That may prove to be a high watermark with Britain’s medal count predicted to drop due to lower expectations in rowing, track cycling and gymnastics.
There will, of course, be no shortage of talent on show. Dina Asher-Smith, fresh from her triumph in the 200m at last year’s World Championships, will be a big medal contender, as will heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson. And then there’s the superstar of the pool, Adam Peaty.
The Tokyo Games will no doubt spark fond memories of London 2012, when for a few, tantalising weeks, the country came together during what proved to be a golden summer of sport. Let’s hope that spirit of joy, togetherness and pride returns.