In Europe decades of progress on social justice were swept aside after an attempt to quell an internecine war in the Tory Party backfired, as the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union. To the west Americans elected a demagogue, while fascists celebrated with Nazi salutes; and to the east Syria is bleeding a river of humanity that has spilled across the world.
All around us there is pain and suffering and those charged with governing have no solutions, save for the old tried, tested and failed models. This Christmas, in the sixth richest country on earth, the gap between those who have and have not are at Victorian levels. People sleep rough on icy streets, while families who work hard depend on food banks to survive.
It’s hard to maintain hope against such a terrible backdrop. However, after every storm there is a golden sky, no matter how long we endure the downpour. Among the gloom of 2016 I take comfort in many things. Of course my family and my friends are a source of pride and warmth, but out there in the cold heartless world there is still, after all the horror, enough to justify hope in my heart.
I see cause for optimism in many places; in the generosity of people who volunteered time and gave money to help refugees and in the millions who attended rallies in support of progressive socialist politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. In the months and years ahead those forces for good must be given every support, if we are to rise from the ashes of this terrible year.
It feels so awful in most part because around us all we can see is retreat for progressive ideas and the advancement of ignorance and intolerance. Thankfully, for me at least, I need not look too far for encouragement as my thoughts turn to the future and 2017. I only have to look to my own city for a model and a way forward.
In doing so I am lifted by a heroic struggle that led to the greatest sporting victory of all time; the triumph of truth and justice ripped from the unyielding claw of the establishment after 26 long years. I am of course talking about Hillsborough, justice for 96 lost souls who perished and the survivors of that awful disaster.
Make no mistake, had it not been for the universal values of solidarity and community and the unrelenting spirit of those who fought so hard and for so long, we would never have seen those accidental death verdicts stricken from the record. Those who cower from the long arm of the people today, do so because hundreds of thousands of ordinary people refused to falter in the face of adversity, for over a quarter of a century.
Victory was won and more will follow because people stood together, gave each other support and piled pressure on successive governments. Survivors showed unbelievable courage, reliving past horrors and speaking truth to power, even when the odds seemed overwhelmingly stacked against them. They could do this because they understood that there is such a thing as society. They did it out of love for their brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers and because they could not allow lies to triumph over truth; or injustice to reign victorious over justice.
The establishment may have been quick to draw a veil over their crimes, but crocodile tears at the dispatch box or fake apologies in tabloids will never erase their crimes. This week they sought to shower one campaigner with fools gold, his answer was resounding.
Phil Scraton has fought tirelessly for truth for over a quarter of a century. There are few more deserving of recognition. He was awarded the freedom of the city of Liverpool and has been honoured by his peers; accolades he has accepted with humility. However his response when offered a pointless trinket by the state spoke volumes about the man.
He refused it and rightly so. How could anyone who has had to fight so hard for something that should flow naturally, justice, accept a title from the very people he had fought all those years. This act of defiance gave a huge lift to those who had campaigned for so long. It said that some people could not be bought and that principle and integrity are still alive and well.
For me the courage of the likes of Professor Scraton and all those who battled alongside him, is a beacon for us all. Their contribution to society and British justice should ensure that their names live for eternity in the annals of history. They serve as a source of hope and inspiration to all those who are still fighting for truth and justice.
No matter what the odds are, how many times you are knocked down or pushed away and however your enemies try to divide you, you must never ever give up. As progressives look to the challenges that 2017 will doubtless present, we would all do well to draw upon the boundless lessons and incredible strength of the Hillsborough families, survivors and campaigners.
I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year.