2017 minus 14: 2016, the YEAR of MRD

Posted: 18 December 2016 in 2017 minus

Every so often, I’ll mention on this blog something entitled MRD Syndrome. You can click on the link to learn more about it, and examples of it, but to save you the time, it’s named after Mandy Rice-Davies and her infamous comment when a public figure/politician denied having had sex with her: “Well, he would [say that], wouldn’t he?”

2016 seems to have been both, and self-contradictorily, the year of people saying and doing things you’d not expect, while also and simultaneously, being the most fertile of grounds for MRD Syndrome to flourish.

While Donald Trump made a speciality of saying things that no other person running for President could have said, or more accurately could have said and survived as a candidate, pretty soon, it became not only unsurprising that he’d said something offensive or ridiculously or untruthful or just plain stupid… but it became surprising, nay astonishing, if he said anything other than something offensive or ridiculously or untruthful or just plain stupid.

Bernie Sanders – by the end of his campaign – reminded me of nothing so much as one of Maggie Thatcher’s calculated put downs of Geoffrey Howe: “And then Geoffrey made that speech that he always makes so well…” While Sanders was original and promoting policies that no other candidate had promoted, by the end of the campaign his rhetoric had long since ceased to be original and exciting and had become stale and ‘as expected’. It didn’t surprise me at all that he lost, nor that he conceded – eventually – with good grace. Nor that he hit the trail for Clinton. Of all the candidates running for the Presidency, he was the only candidate by whom I was more impressed at the end of the primary season than I was at the beginning. Not nearly impressed enough to want him to have been the nominee, but far, far more impressed by him than I had been.

Hillary Clinton was possibly the epitome of MRD Syndrome over the pond this year; no matter what was thrown at her, you knew in advance what her response was going to be. Whether it was a good response or a bad one, the answers she gave to questions, the statements she made, none of them were anything but “Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?”

That’s not quite true, of course. She did vary off script occasionally, and it was notable that the moment that she did, she was hauled by her campaign back into the middle ground; the primary example of this was her ‘basket of deplorables’ line. In almost any other candiate’s hands, that could have been something to run with, but Clinton’s campaign pulled her back from it because, and they were probably right about this, she wasn’t a candidate who could convincingly back up the charge, even though the charge itself was pretty accurate.

The Repubican party reacted to trump pretty much as you’d have expected them to: mocking his run, then being scared by it, then acquiescing to his nomination, then celebrating it and finally “I always liked him, you know…” after he won. At no point did the party machinery surprise any observer (other than by the supreme level of its cowardice and craven submission). It’s a mark of how far away from any sense of honour the party is that one of the people held up as honourable is Senator Lindsay Graham.

Over this side of the Atlantic, David Cameron resigned from Prime Minister after losing the Brexit vote, finally giving some weight to the view from some that he’d achieved everything he wanted to the day he walked into Downing Street as Prime  Minister having won an election. Nothing he did during the Eu Referendum campaign, or indeed afterwards, surprised anyone. Despite his comments, everyone expected him to resign if he lost the vote. His statements to the contrary were the very exemplar of “well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” As were his statements that he would carry on as a backbench MP after he resigned from the job of Prime Minister. A reminder for those who are unfamiliar with the UK system: it is – or at least was – traditional for ex-Prime Ministers to stay in the House of Commons until at least the next General Election. Several reasons for this, one of which being the polite fiction that a politician’s main job is the one they were elected to by their constituents, the “member of parliament for upper nowhere upon tweed”. And indeed, in the past, former Prime Ministers have served in cabinets of their successors. But both  Both Blair and Cameron pissed off as soon as they left Number Ten, despite the latter’s assurance he’d do nothing of the sort. I don’t think many would have been surprised had he stayed; few were surprised that he left.

And the rest of the Tory party similarly did what’s they were expected to do, and said what they were expected to say (with the notable exception of Boris Johnson who somehow fucked up running for the leadership and hasn’t – as Foriegn Secretary – caused Britain to go to war with everybody.)

With Labour, it’s the same story: no one really surprised anyone this year. Corbyn won re-election as leader after a series of shadow cabinet resignations that everybody saw coming a mile off. Labour’s antisemitism scandal continue, exactly as everyone expected; the defences were made by the usual people, mouthing the usual platitudes, and achieving the usual nothing.

Moving north of the border, The EU Referendum vote gave First Minister Nicolas Sturgeon the chance to take centre stage again – if only briefly – and she did so, but said and did nothing that couldn’t be said to be covered by “she would say that, wouldn’t she?’

I’d be remiss at this stage if I didn’t mention Nigel Farage. 

There. I’ve mentioned him.

Across the world, then 2016 has been a year full of events that seemed obvious and almost inevitable in hindsight but which no one saw coming. And yet all the statements made about those events were trite and obvious and… well, yes, I would say that, wouldn’t i?

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