A year in The Thick of It: Political life had a way of imitating art again and again during 2012


Click to follow
Indy Politics

This time last year, few of us had heard of "predistribution", "traingate" was something passengers need tickets to get through, and George Osborne believed it was a good idea to put VAT on pasties. Here we present The Independent on Sunday guide to an incident-packed 2012.

Misspeaks and fumbles

JANUARY – Ed Miliband The Labour leader's attempts to look in touch continued with his heartfelt response to the passing of Bob Holness. "A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters," Miliband tweeted. Er, can he have an "O" please, Bob?

MAY – David Cameron Rebekah Brooks in her evidence to the Leveson inquiry revealed that the Prime Minister used to sign off his texts to her with LOL, thinking it stood for lots of love.

JULY – Mitt Romney The derision provoked by the presidential candidate calling Ed Miliband "Mr Leader" was dwarfed by the response to his observation that London did not look ready to hold the Olympics.

JULY – Jeremy Hunt The minister won some public sympathy when, on the opening day of the Olympics, a bell he was ringing flew off its handle and into a crowd of spectators.

SEPTEMBER – David Cameron, again Jonathan Hill, education minister in the Lords, tried to tell the Prime Minister he wanted to resign in the September reshuffle, but a distracted Cameron told him what a good job he was doing and "swept out". Lord Hill is still in post.

What English needs: more words

MARCH – Omnishambles First coined in 2009 by writers of The Thick of It, but after George Osborne's March Budget, the term was introduced to Twitter by Tim Shipman of the Daily Mail, before Ed Miliband used it in the Commons in April.

APRIL – Jubilympics Siobhan Sharpe, the ludicrous PR woman in the BBC satire Twenty Twelve, coined "Jubilympics" to combine the two biggest events of the year into a single celebration, precisely 13 days after it was used in a real news story about a talent show in Barrow. Without the irony.

JUNE – Brexit The simple linguistic trick of creating "Grexit" (Greece's potential expulsion from the euro) was pushed to breaking point when Mr Cameron's increasing disillusionment with his EU colleagues produced – yes – the Brexit. Expect more in this vein.

SEPTEMBER – Predistribution Ed Miliband marked his return from summer hols with an interview in the New Statesman in which he unveiled his new idea. Borrowed from an American professor, Jacob Hacker, who has written a book called The Road to Nowhere.

ALL YEAR – Eurogeddon This was the year, Eurosceptics were sure, that the euro would collapse under the weight of its contradictions of orthodox economic theory. Fun paradox: "Eurogeddon" was first used by the pro-European Timothy Garton Ash.


MARCH – Horsegate The Prime Minister was forced to concede he once rode a horse called Raisa that the Metropolitan Police had lent to Rebekah Brooks, and Westminster reverberated to the sound of a stable door shutting.

MARCH – Petrolgate With a tanker strike threatened, what did the Government most need, after a Budget that made it seem out of touch? Francis Maude saying "a bit of extra fuel in a jerry can in the garage is a sensible precaution to take". Whoosh.

MARCH – Pastygate Mr Cameron's counteroffensive, in the face of complaints that the Chancellor's "pasty tax" was an assault on the working class, hit the buffers when it emerged that the Leeds station kiosk where he claimed he had last eaten a pasty had closed down in 2007.

SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER – Plebgate Andrew Mitchell swore at a police officer as he cycled out of Downing Street one evening, but he remains adamant he never used the word "pleb". He resigned in October, but with the release of CCTV footage last week, the row rages on.

OCTOBER – Ticketgate George Osborne boarded a first-class carriage on the 15.11 from Wilmslow to Euston with a standard-class ticket. Helped by a journalist on the train providing Twitter commentary, the Chancellor was caught committing the Great Train Snobbery.

Sorry: The commonest word

MARCH – Eric Joyce and bad behaviour The shamefaced former major name-checked five MPs and two councillors among those headbutted, punched or otherwise disturbed during the Strangers' Bar fracas that left him convicted of assault, fined and given 12 months' community service.

SEPTEMBER – David Cameron and Hillsborough To a hushed House of Commons, the Prime Minister said he was "profoundly sorry" that Hillsborough victims had suffered a "double injustice" – the initial disaster and the ensuing cover-up.

SEPTEMBER – Nick Clegg and student fees "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry." A YouTube apology that was remixed to music within hours, finally taking some of the sting from the Liberal Democrats' broken promise over student fees.

NOVEMBER – Denis MacShane and Rotherham Forced to quit Parliament over faking £12,900 expenses claims, the former Europe minister told his Rotherham constituents: "I have let this wonderful town, its terrific people and my constituency down so very badly."

DECEMBER – David Cameron and Pat Finucane A solemn Mr Cameron apologised for the "shocking level of state collusion" in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989. But Finucane's widow said the report that prompted the apology was "a sham".

Did that really happen?

MAY – "Everyone here thinks you need to go" After Jeremy Hunt's handling of the BSkyB bid was fought to an inconclusive standoff at the Leveson inquiry, it was the cowardly way that he sacked Adam Smith, his special adviser, that stuck in the memory.

JUNE – Mental health confessions Robust former Labour minister Kevan Jones won admiration for disclosing his problems with depression during a mental health debate. Minutes later, Tory Charles Walker revealed obsessive compulsive disorder had made him "a practising fruitcake for 31 years".

SEPTEMBER – Grant Shapps and his mystery pseudonyms All Tory MPs like to boast of their background in business, but Shapps was reluctant to talk about selling "how to" internet guides under the name Michael Green.

SEPTEMBER – George Osborne's Olympic-sized embarrassment It lasted less than 10 seconds but the look on Osborne's face when he was booed in the Olympic stadium left us with golden memories.

NOVEMBER – Nadine Dorries... Get Her Out of Here The MP disappeared to take part in I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, apparently to "connect" with 16 million viewers. After being voted off first, she boasted: "People know who I am now." Unfortunately, it seems most of them dislike her.

Moving moments

SEPTEMBER – Andy Burnham and Alison McGovern Burnham, who set up the Hillsborough Independent Panel, wept as he welcomed its judgment, absolving the fans. Colleague Alison McGovern also cried during her speech.

SEPTEMBER – Cheryl Gillan and Caroline Spelman Gillan, Spelman and a mystery male colleague were reported to have been in tears when the Prime Minister shuffled them out of the Cabinet.

NOVEMBER – Rebekah Brooks A gushing text to Cameron was written in 2009 but emerged last month: "Brilliant speech. I cried twice. Will love 'working together'."

NOVEMBER – Ed Balls Last year it was all about Antiques Roadshow. This year, it was the US sitcom Modern Family that makes the Shadow Chancellor cry like a baby.

DECEMBER – Ann Clwyd Prime Minister's Questions was hushed into silence as Clwyd wept, describing her husband Owen Roberts's dying days in hospital "like a battery hen".