Following the political turmoil of 2022, which saw three different prime ministers pass through Downing Street, it was hoped this year would provide a period of relative calm ahead of the rough and tumble of a general election expected in 2024.
But Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as Scotland’s first minister set the tone for the year. Rishi Sunak struggled to maintain control of the Conservative Party in the face of Covid revelations and manoeuvrings among his top ministers, while Nigel Farage brought down the head of one of Britain’s biggest banks.
Abroad, the continuing war in Ukraine was overshadowed by Hamas’s deadly 7 October attacks and the subsequent Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which brought hundreds of thousands on to the streets around the world to protest. Across the pond, Donald Trump racked up nearly 100 criminal indictments over the course of the year yet still leads the opinion polls ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
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Here is how the newspapers covered some of the biggest stories of the year.
(Image credit: Daily Record)
When the Daily Record reported the sudden resignation of the all-powerful Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon in February with the headline “I want my Independence” few could have predicted what would happen next.
The resignation and subsequent arrest of Peter Murrell, Sturgeon’s husband and, for 24 years, the SNP’s chief executive, sent the party into a tailspin from which it has never recovered. For years, the SNP was “admired, feared and envied” for its iron discipline, said Severin Carrell in The Guardian, but in just a few short weeks its once “impregnable political edifice” collapsed, and with it perhaps any remaining chance of Scottish independence.
The lockdown files
(Image credit: The Daily Telegraph)
In a major scoop, The Telegraph obtained more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent between the then health secretary Matt Hancock and other ministers and officials at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The conversations were detailed in what the paper called “The Lockdown Files” and they raised “vital new questions about the handling of the pandemic ahead of a public inquiry into the response to Covid-19”, said the paper. Among the multiple revelations was Hancock’s rejection of expert medical advice on care home testing.
Trump in the dock
(Image credit: The Times)
In April, Donald Trump became the first sitting or former US president to face criminal charges when he pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records linked to hush money payments allegedly made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his first presidential election campaign.
Many papers led with variations on The Times’s “Trump in the dock” headline in what The Independent described as “a day that shook America”. But while an extraordinary moment, it was soon eclipsed by further charges brought against Trump related to the unauthorised possession of classified documents, the financial reporting in his organisations and attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
Despite all these, the former president remains odds-on favourite to win the Republican nomination and is leading Joe Biden in head-to-head polling for next year’s presidential election.
A ‘happy and glorious’ coronation
(Image credit: Sunday Express)
The organisers of King Charles’ coronation in May said it would be an “unforgettable spectacle” and this pledge was “gloriously fulfilled on a day that mixed splendour and sacrament”, reported the Sunday Express.
Thousands lined the streets and millions tuned in around the world to watch the royal procession and ceremony at Westminster Abbey, although the day did not pass without incident after anti-monarchy protesters were detained, causing a significant backlash and pre-empting more recent debates around how police deal with protests.
Nigel Farage vs. NatWest
(Image credit: The Independent)
The Independent reported how NatWest lost £850 million in a single day’s trading as Nigel Farage called for the entire board to quit after chief executive Dame Alison Rose stepped down in the wake of his “debanking scandal”.
The row, which rumbled on for months, led not only to the departure of Rose but also Peter Flavel, chief executive of Coutts, as well as an intervention from the UK’s data privacy regulator.
In July the Treasury summoned the heads of Britain’s biggest banks to explain how they intend to ensure that customers are not cancelled for their political views. The scandal cost Rose millions in pay-outs with Farage announcing in November he would sue NatWest, seeking millions of pounds in damages.
‘Britain’s worst baby killer’
(Image credit: Daily Mail)
The conviction of neonatal nurse Lucy Letby – found guilty in August of murdering seven newborns and attempting to kill another six after a 10-month trial – earned her the label of “Britain’s worst baby killer”.
But it was the Daily Mail that highlighted what was to become the focus of public anger over the coming weeks and ultimately lead to the setting up of a government inquiry, reporting on how hospital bosses had failed to “act on a string of warnings”. Letby was sentenced to a whole-life jail term without the prospect of parole.
(Image credit: The Mail on Sunday)
The world was stunned when Hamas launched a murderous attack on Israel in the early hours of 7 October. Some of the most harrowing images from that day came from a video of a student who was abducted from a music festival and heard screaming “don’t kill me”. Her words made the front page of the Mail on Sunday as people around the world showed their solidarity with Israel.
Yet support quickly turned to anger at what many saw as the indiscriminate targeting of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. The fate of the woman in the video is unknown, with Hamas claiming that 50 hostages taken on 7 October have since died in Israeli air strikes.
Useless *******s morons & ****s
(Image credit: Daily Record)
The Daily Record splashed on Dominic Cummings’ foul-mouth tirades on WhatsApp that were revealed at the Covid Inquiry. Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser said that the government’s initial plan for dealing with Covid was a “joke”.
He described the Cabinet Office, at the heart of No.10, as a “dumpster fire” and called Johnson’s absence on holiday in February 2020, as Covid loomed, “insane”. Cummings thought Johnson returning early from his holiday would have been “counterproductive”, said The Times, while The Telegraph said that when Cummings resigned he left the country to be run by a man he described as “unfit for office”.
Suella Sacked (but look who’s back)
(Image credit: Evening Standard)
The Evening Standard was the first paper to lead on the dramatic return to frontline politics for former PM David Cameron. While the sacking of home secretary Suella Braverman had been widely anticipated following her inflammatory comments around Pro-Palestinian protests in the lead up to Remembrance Sunday, coverage of the biggest cabinet reshuffle of Rishi Sunak’s premiership was dominated by the return of his predecessor-but-three.
Cameron is “well-connected on the international stage, which comes in handy when you’re an incoming foreign secretary”, said the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason, and “he’ll have useful words of advice about winning general elections too”. But he also comes with significant “baggage”.