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Mitch Benn’s images of 2022

In the Year of Three UK Prime Ministers, there were more villains than heroes. We remember some of the most memorable


1. 2022 was the year that Vladimir Putin celebrated the completion of his inevitable transition from Shifty Kleptocrat to World-Threatening Tyrannical Megalomaniac with his purchase of that most essential bad guy accessory, the Bond Villain Table.

Whether Vlad settled for one of the more basic models or whether he went for some of the optional extras such as the hidden piranha tank trapdoor release, or the row of switches that when thrown electrocute backsliding underlings, only he and his interior designers know. But at last he sits at the head of a table that clearly says: “I don’t have to listen to anybody, and even if I wanted to listen to them I can’t because they’re 60 feet away.”

2. One imagines that the whole appeal of being the chairman of the 1922 Committee is to become the éminence grise of the political establishment of this country, to secretly wield vast power while remaining largely unknown to the general population. One does not imagine that someone takes on the job of chairman of the 1922 Committee expecting to become one of the most famous politicians in Britain, but such has been the fate of Sir Graham Brady in The Year Of Three Prime Ministers.

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Sir Graham has had to preside over the very public selection of two new PMs this year, first by the time-honoured method of letting the membership of the Conservative Party – ie the 160,000 meanest and most stupid people in the country – pick the winner, and second by the almost as equally time-honoured method of bypassing the party membership after they made a complete Liz Truss of it the first time round.

3. In October there was a fleeting moment of horror when the young activists from the anti-fossil fuel campaign Just Stop Oil flung a canful of tomato soup all over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery. This was followed by a wave of relief when it was established that the painting itself was safe behind glass and unharmed… Reactions to the incident ranged from “undilutedly furious” to “broadly supportive but despairing of the young protesters’ naïveté”. Surely, those more positive commentators opined, this was no way to spread awareness of one’s message?

Photo: Just Stop Oil / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Did it work? Well, ask yourself this question: had you heard of Just Stop Oil before this moment? And are you not still reading about this incident two months later?

4. On September 8, Her Majesty the Queen demonstrated her much-celebrated sense of humour one last time by dying literally 48 hours too late for Boris Johnson to have been the incumbent prime minister at that moment.

Photo: Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The most enduring symbol of the ensuing wave of pride-tinged grief (or perhaps indeed grief-tinged pride) was The Queue; the many-miles-long line of people filing patiently past the Queen’s coffin as it lay in state.

But this is Britain after all, and even here we found the nation divided between “them” and “us”, even if in this case “them” consisted of Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby and “us” was literally everyone else.

5. How will history remember Kwasi Kwarteng? Surely no one individual can have done so much damage to the nation in so short a time, and looked so insanely cheerful while doing it?

Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Future historians and economists will devote whole volumes to trying to fathom the underlying logic behind his September “mini-budget”, which wiped billions from the national economy at a stroke and benefited literally no one except the ludicrously wealthy currency speculators who, by pure coincidence, immediately invited Mr Kwarteng to a celebratory dinner…

Oh well, at least those “think tanks” in Tufton Street will have learned their lesson. We shouldn’t be hearing much from them in future (sigh)…

6. In November, despite having only resigned four months previously, Boris Johnson watched not his successor, but his successor’s successor lay a wreath at the Cenotaph to commemorate those who have given everything in the service of this country. It seems more than likely that, inwardly at least, Johnson counts himself among this number.

Photo: Toby Melville – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Johnson seemed genuinely surprised when his resignation (delivered in a speech in which he neither took responsibility for anything, nor indeed used the word “resign”) was accepted. He then chose to stay on as a lame-duck leader until his successor was appointed rather than make way for a caretaker PM, perhaps in the hope that some loophole could be found in the meantime, and indeed made a semi-serious attempt to slide back into No 10 when Liz Truss’s premiership imploded after just six weeks.

Have we heard the last of him? Well, always remember that Boris regards himself as our generation’s Winston Churchill, and you can’t be Churchill without the wilderness years.

7. Speaking of narcissists who don’t know when to quit, Donald Trump’s ongoing attempt to secure the Republican nomination in 2024 is thus far going about as well as his attempt to cling to power despite having lost the election in 2020.

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Having committed himself to announcing his run before the November midterms, he was then obliged to go through with this announcement despite the promised “red wave” having turned out to be rather more of a red trickle. His “campaign” so far has consisted of a dinner date with Kanye West, which descended into furious name-calling, issuing grumpy missives from Mar-a-Lago (in which he at one point appeared to confess to trying to rig the 2020 result) and coming up with rude epithets for his main rival, the equally nasty but noticeably saner Ron DeSantis.

Have we seen the last of him? See above…

8. Speaking of narcissists who can’t tell when they’ve outstayed their welcome, Elon Musk put in a serious bid for the 2022 JK Rowling Award For Trashing Your Own Legacy when he bought Twitter for $44bn (£35.5bn) and celebrated with the weakest visual pun ever conceived; “let that sink in”.

Photo: Twitter account of Elon Musk/AFP via Getty Images

Elon’s “achievements” thus far include firing most of Twitter’s workforce, reinstating Trump’s account and putting the heretofore hard-won “blue tick” verification mark up for sale at $8 a month. This last brainwave led to an apparently “verified” spoof Eli Lilly account announcing that henceforth insulin would be given away free, thus wiping $16bn off the REAL Eli Lilly’s stock value.

At this rate, Elon will need to build that colony on Mars just so he’ll have somewhere to hide from his shareholders.

9. What can be said about the Qatar World Cup that hasn’t been said already, and indeed that people haven’t been saying since 2010? Even now that the competition is over, many questions remain: why host a soccer tournament in so hot a country that it can only safely be held in winter? Were the stadiums really built using slave labour, and did thousands of migrant workers die as a result? What can it be about this insanely wealthy country that Fifa’s selection committee found so appealing? And is this thing meant to look like a giant beer pump purely to taunt the alcohol-starved attendees?

Photo: GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

10. Just about the only pleasant surprise 2022 brought has been the extraordinary resilience of the Ukrainian people and their armed forces, and the astonishing incompetence of their Russian invaders. As such, in June, it seemed only proper that the Eurovision Song Contest was won by the Ukrainian entry, in by no means the first instance of a former Soviet republic winning the competition in slightly shady circumstances and very much against the run of play, but nobody seemed to mind this time.

Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images

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