2020: what a time to still briefly be alive. Let’s look back on the year, after a Christmas so grim for Great Britain that it was almost as if Santa had been reading some history. They said it was political correctness that would end Christmas but now, after the humble office worker was reduced to getting off with their own partner at the Zoom Christmas do, we realise it was actually ended by electing people who try to source medical supplies through their mate’s pest control firm. The Tardis would stop in 2020 barely long enough for Doctor Who to empty its chemical toilet.
Every so often, I remember we will be leaving the EU in the middle of a plague and the worst recession in modern history, and then black out and wake up at the bottom of my garden in a pile of canned goods. As Brexit negotiations continued, a 27-acre site in Kent was set to become a lorry park that can take 2,000 lorries. Complaining about your locked gym will soon seem very quaint, when every source of dietary protein is in a parked lorry that can’t be processed because the driver has an apostrophe in his name.
One way to not get too down about 2020 is to remind yourself that next year will be worse. But how much of the year can you remember, and how much have you subconsciously tried to suppress? Let’s find out!
1. The Labour party
In many ways, the Labour party should be the natural choice to run a bitterly divided country full of people who hate each other. Keir Starmer, looking like a cross between the bloke who says he’s “unstoppable” before getting fired first on the Apprentice, and an Anglican vicar trying to hold in a fart at a funeral, has been pursuing the approval of newspapers that wouldn’t stop backing the Tories if they crop-dusted the whole country in hot shit. The nationalist posturing required makes him look deeply uncomfortable, as if he’s been asked if he personally would sleep with the Queen and is afraid of both answers. By withdrawing the whip from Jeremy Corbyn, Starmer signalled that he can contain the threat posed by the left of the party, which currently consists of a handful of MPs, maybe 10 journalists, and a couple of dozen shitposters called things like @WetAssProletariat.
Where did Keir Starmer choose to deliver his keynote Labour conference speech?
a) His own kitchen.
b) Labour party HQ in Westminster.
c) A socially distanced PPE factory in the East End of London.
d) A corridor in a deserted Doncaster arts centre.
2. Test and trace
The government spent £12bn on it, and yet still the only reliable app for alerting you to the fact that someone deadly is nearby is the one that shows you when your Uber driver has arrived. Of course Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed complaints from people who had to travel 200 miles for a test: he regularly commutes between now and the 1840s, strapped into something built from plans drawn up to the final words of the tortured HG Wells, with a groundsman furiously shovelling venison into a flux capacitor.
3. Boris Johnson
It’s difficult to speculate on the long-term effects that the pandemic will have on British politics; all we know for certain is that 40% of the survivors will vote Conservative. One flaw in Labour’s relentless framing of prime ministerial incompetence is that the Conservatives can just replace him with someone more competent – possibly Rishi Sunak, and his air of a sixth former who still wears their school uniform. Boris Johnson may be a marshmallow toasting on the funeral pyre of Britain, a post-apocalyptic snowman with the increasingly dishevelled air of something that’s been tied to the front grille of a bin lorry, a demented, sex-case vacuum cleaner bag; but there’s no denying he does possess some Churchillian qualities: racism and obesity.
4. Laurence Fox
Taking time out from tweeting denials of his privilege while wearing three-piece pyjamas, Laurence (19th-century) Fox announced the launch of his new political party. He certainly looked determined. Or was it sad? I just never quite know which one he’s doing.
No doubt he considers himself to be on the Reich side of history, but he may yet regret his statements on Black Lives Matter: the way his acting career’s going, there could well be auditions where he’ll have to take a knee. Fox’s head points to a combination of robust genes and forceps pressure, showing that from the very start he had a reluctance to face the real world. The sort of people who went to his famous boarding school would never be so gauche as to actually mention the name Harrow, except when phoning up for a Chinese takeaway, pissed.
In 2020, Fox received large donations for his laughable new culture-war party, and it must have been odd to receive millions of pounds that wasn’t a divorce settlement from the mother of his children. We can only hope that his interest in politics wanes soon, and he can get back on stage and give us his long overdue Othello.
Which of these is not something Laurence Fox did this year?
a) Announced a personal boycott of Sainsbury’s.
b) Got dropped by his acting agent over the phone.
c) Acted in a film.
d) Got told to fuck off by the Pogues.
5. Social media
In 2020, the only thing you could say for sure when you met an optimist was that they weren’t on Facebook. Hate-sharing app Twitter has again spent the year setting itself up as an arbiter of morals, a role it’s as convincing in as the Love Island casting department. Personally, I left Twitter because of death threats: Eamonn Holmes just didn’t seem to be reading them any more.
Which of these Twitter users has the most followers, and which the least? One point for each correctly placed.
a) Donald Trump.
b) Katy Perry.
c) Logan Paul.
6. Trump v Biden
The broad takeaway from the US election is that Americans count as slowly as one would expect. Joe Biden is not exactly overflowing with presence. You see his picture and the first thing you think is, “Was that already in there when I bought the frame?” Even at his most strident, he barely has the presence of a finger-wagging, spectral grandparent that appears as you hover, undecided, over a perineum. He could become the first president assassinated by an icy patch outside the post office.
Still, Biden performed surprisingly well during the campaign, especially when you consider that he had to put up with the distraction of his mother’s voice calling his name gently from a bright light. He’s now so close to death that he can talk directly to the Ancestors, and has been ending every press conference by asking people if they have any questions for David Bowie.
How old would Joe Biden be by the end of a second term in office?
Peter Sutcliffe died and Priti Patel didn’t move on the list of Britain’s 10 Worst People, whereas I went up one. Patel has stood out as uniquely dreadful even in a cabinet that is basically Carry On Lord Of The Flies, dresses as if she’s going to the funeral of someone she hates, and often speaks as if trapped in a loveless marriage with her interviewer.
Which of the following proposals did Priti Patel’s Home Office not consider as a way of deterring people from seeking asylum in Britain?
a) Building a giant wave machine in the English channel.
b) Processing asylum seekers on a volcanic outcrop in the South Atlantic, a thousand miles from the nearest landmass.
c) Training swordfish to burst dinghies.
d) Housing asylum applicants on decommissioned oil rigs in the North Sea.
8. Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps looks like a Blackpool waxwork of Clive Anderson, and has the permanent expression in every TV appearance of a man watching his train pull away behind the camera.
But what is his actual job title?
a) Secretary of state for transport.
b) Minister for Brexit.
c) Minister of state for international development.
d) Chief whip.
9. Conspiracy theorists
The pandemic has been hard on many conspiracy theorists: eight months of men keeping their distance, too. There are people who believe Covid-19 is spread by 5G. If only that were true: put Virgin Media in charge and we’d be clear of it in days.
An anti-mask demonstration in Trafalgar Square on 29 August drew thousands of protesters: which of these countercultural celebrities did not speak?
a) Piers Corbyn.
b) David Icke.
c) Chico Slimani from The X Factor.
d) Bill Drummond from the KLF.
10. Jeff Bezos
Our disposable culture isn’t all bad. Without it, I’d miss that warm glow on Boxing Day when my son stuffs my gift in the bin and I imagine, in just a couple of years’ time, the joy on the face of the kid who pulls it from a pile of dirty syringes in a Philippines landfill. Jeff Bezos has become the world’s wealthiest man by pioneering a kind of delivery Argos. I look at Bezos and wonder if the rest of us evolved too much: his acquisitiveness is possibly explained by the fact he looks like a newborn constantly searching for a nipple.
What was the most money Bezos made in a single day of the pandemic?
b) Nothing. He has said all his profits will go towards developing Covid therapies.
Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested. For those of you too young to remember, Ghislaine is the daughter of a media mogul whose death sent ripples around the world – because he was obese and fell in the ocean. Steve Bannon was also arrested and charged with fraud. On the wing, prisoners described his potential arrival as “whatever’s the opposite to fresh meat”.
But which of the following are not currently in jail?
a) Harvey Weinstein.
b) Bill Cosby.
c) Ricardo Medina Jr, the red Power Ranger.
d) The cops who killed Breonna Taylor.
12. Donald Trump
This year’s presidential debates were like looking through the window of a care home on the day the staff thought they’d play prescription roulette. By managing only to speak to his base and alienating everyone else, Trump ended up being the definitive Twitter president. There’s so much wrong with him you could talk about his presidency for ever and never run out of things to criticise. It’s the equivalent of letting a child repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and then pointing out all the bits that aren’t as good as Michelangelo’s. “Is that meant to be God, Timmy? Why is he eating a Babybel?”
In hospital, Trump was given a new drug made by Regeneron, which sounds like the robot who’ll present Match Of The Day once Gary Lineker’s been strapped into the re-education dinghy. He seemed to pull through, but it’s hard to gauge the health of someone who looks like Frankenstein’s monster won a holiday, and who chooses to have the skin colour of a dialysis machine emptied on to snow.
Which of these is not something Trump achieved this year?
a) The most votes for an incumbent candidate.
b) The most retweeted tweet of all time.
c) The highest US death toll in a century.
d) The most golf ever played by a sitting President.
13. The Euros
Scotland qualified for next year’s Euros after beating Serbia. Facing a team that grew up in a war zone in the 1990s, Serbia lost on penalties.
When did Scotland last qualify for a major tournament?
a) Argentina 1978.
b) Italia 1990.
c) France 1998.
d) Mexico 1986.
If only late-stage capitalism could get behind equality and lead us to a golden age where people of all skin colours are considered equally dispensable. For the time being, we needn’t fear AI. The robot that steals your job is expensive. You are cheap. You can only die, whereas it may get scratched.
I wonder if our leaders’ go-to platitude, “We’re all in this together”, will ever ring true? Perhaps after the next wave of austerity, as it blares through speakers in the bunk-bedded dormitory of a derelict Sports Direct, rousing us at dawn so that we can harvest kelp in the shallows in exchange for the fibre waste collected from the juicers of gated communities, wearing nothing but underpants: ones we never seem to fully own, underpants where there always seems to be one more payment due to the Corporation.
We will dream of one day having our own igloo built from blocks cut from sewer-fat, maybe even moving to a better neighbourhood, just as soon as it’s hot enough to slide our house there. As we heave our bales on to the gangmaster’s counter, the ex-performers among us will kid ourselves it’s still showbiz, as we’re permitted to crack a joke, and if the gangmaster smiles he’ll throw us a treat. We opt for a classic: surely no one has ever not laughed at one where bagpipes are confused with an octopus wearing pyjamas? But just as we can almost taste sugar, a mangled tentacle drops from our kelp block into our open mouth and ruins the moment.
Which one of these was not a scientific breakthrough in 2020?
a) The discovery that bacteria can survive in space for several years.
b) A bionic breakthrough that allows people with paralysis to control computers using their thoughts.
c) The confirmation that there are several large saltwater lakes under the ice in the south polar region of the planet Mars.
d) An AI which can alter magnetic fields in the human brain, influencing thoughts.
5. Most to least: Perry, Trump, BTS, Paul.