WITH war breaking out in Europe, three Prime Ministers – including one who crashed the economy- a Supreme Court showdown over independence and strikes, it seemed like 2022 could scarcely have been a more dramatic year.

But anyone predicting 2023 would offer a quieter time in the political world would – well, turn out to be completely wrong.

In a three-part series, we are examining some of the key events of the past 12 months and looking at what the year ahead might bring.

First up - a reflection on some of what’s gone on in Westminster.

‘Let them eat neeps’

In the first few months of 2023, the most precious commodity for many people became the humble tomato. Shortages of some fresh fruit and vegetables were blamed on various factors. Including poor weather conditions, Brexit rules and jumps in energy costs to heat glasshouses.

The response from environment secretary Thérèse Coffey was relentlessly mocked on social media when she appeared to suggest substituting salad essentials with turnips as home grown produce instead.

It was also then reported that Britain’s biggest turnip grower – which was in her constituency – had actually stopped growing them some months earlier due to rising production costs.


Brexit might now be in the words of Boris Johnson “done”, but the impact of leaving the EU continues to linger. In February Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the Windsor Framework for Northern Ireland, to address trading arrangements and remove barriers across the Irish Sea.

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He described it as “the world’s most exciting economic zone”, leading the SNP to question why EU single market access was being denied to the rest of the country. It didn’t go far enough for the DUP, however, which means the Northern Ireland Assembly remains suspended.

Meanwhile the word ‘Bregret’ began to appear as a series of polls showed a growing majority of people think it was wrong to leave the European Union. But never mind the economic damage, lack of freedom of movement and worker shortages – in November it was reported the Tories are set to bring back pints of champagne said to have been beloved by Winston Churchill. So that’s alright then.

WhatsApp messages

Who could have predicted the messaging app more known for inane chat with family and friends would end up dominating the headlines quite so much in 2023? First up was a leaked trove of more than 100,000 conversations involving former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, which led to allegations he rejected testing advice on care homes. In one message he describe the teaching unions as a “bunch of absolute arses”.

But it turns out that was just the start of the explosive revelations, as the UK Covid-19 inquiry heard exchanges in which Dominic Cummings branded the Cabinet “useless f***pigs” and which led to accusations of misogyny.

There was a series of scathing messages about the ability of Boris Johnson’s leadership, while Rishi Sunak (below) was branded “Dr Death” by one scientific adviser over his Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

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General Tory implosion

Sunak started the year with a speech laying out his five key priorities – which included to stop small boat crossings.

By the end of the year, it was this issue which was threatening to bring him down with some Tory MPs unhappy that his new plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – initially ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court – did not go far enough.

The crisis, in the end, was averted as the new Rwanda bill passed its first hurdle in the Commons – but with 38 Tory rebels abstaining.

In between there were plenty of party scandals rumbling along - Andrew Bridgen expelled after comparing Covid-19 to the Holocaust, the resignation of Dominic Raab as Deputy Prime Minister after an investigation into bullying claims, Peter Bone suspended from the Commons over bullying and resounding defeats in England’s local elections and by-elections.

Then there was Suella Braverman, who was eventually dismissed as Home Secretary after describing pro-Palestinian demonstrations as “hate marches” and accusing the police of bias.

The ghosts of Prime Ministers past

Sunak’s attempts to launch a fresh start for his party was somewhat thwarted by the actions of his predecessors. Liz Truss’s famously disastrous mini-budget of September 2022 cast a long shadow over an economy already beset with issues such as inflation, with many households feeling the pain through additional costs for food and mortgages.

Meanwhile the spectre of Boris Johnson loomed large at various points throughout the year – in June he announced he would stand down as an MP in advance of report by the Commons Privileges Committee investigating if he misled the Commons over Downing Street lockdown parties, calling it a “kangaroo court”.

The first ever video footage of one of the rule-breaking parties in Westminster also emerged that month.

Johnson swiftly landed a lucrative column with the Daily Mail with the first one he penned more about eating the beans than spilling them, as he discussed a weight-loss drug. He also appeared before the UK Covid inquiry, defending comments he made about letting Covid “rip” even if it meant elderly people dying.

Johnson is far from disappearing from the limelight with a role as a presenter, programme maker and commentator on GB News lined up to start in the New Year.

The National: Keir Starmer has refused to back calls for a ceasefire in Gaza

Keir Starmer and the U-turns

When Keir Starmer (above) was running for leadership of his party he made a list of ten pledges he vowed to keep – but after a year of U-turns, the promises were quietly removed from his website in December.

Among the issues he has backtracked on include a commitment to free university tuition and plans to nationalise railways, Royal Mail, energy companies and water companies have been essentially scrapped.

In July Starmer also sparked a backlash by saying Labour was “not changing” the Tory two-child benefit cap, despite previously criticising the policy.

Meanwhile the UK Labour leader waded into another row when writing in The Telegraph he praised Margaret Thatcher for bringing “meaningful change” to Britain and “setting loose our natural entrepreneurialism”. Needless to say, it did not go down particularly well in Scotland.

A ‘slimmed down’ Coronation

Mindful of the fact that his Coronation was being held right in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, King Charles was said to be planning a less expensive ceremony to celebrate his ascension to the throne.

So struggling households watched with relief as the taxpayer funded event last just the three days, with only several million pounds worth of jewels and gold coach on display.

There was also huge controversy over multiple arrests of demonstrators at the Coronation, with new anti-protest laws used to detain members of anti-monarchy groups before the event began.