Feature highlights: Our picks of 2010

Off the beaten track in 2010
Off the beaten track in 2010

Grumpy councillors, rural voters and rioting students have kept our in-depth reporting entertaining in 2010.

Feature: Downgrading the expenses storm

February 6th: A local government conference at Arsenal's Emirates stadium gave us the opportunity to tap the opinion of those on the doorstep. The mood, at the start of an election year, was strangely uncertain. Were the public fed up because of the expenses scandal, or because of a deeper disengagement?

"Jim Clinkscales, our Lib Dem in Southend-on-Sea, warns that, as politics is not the public's 'favourite subject', they would rather watch soap operas. He says jokingly: 'If the election day is on an EastEnders day, the turnout will be affected.' But the underlying tone is disturbing. 'The mood on the doorstep is fed up.'"


A brain dump

March 11th: The Local Government Association's annual campaign against ridiculous jargon prompted this parody of the dreadful language in use in town halls up and down the country:

"A wave of jargon is sweeping across the public sector. If coterminous thinking outside the box is not immediately meaningfully dialogued, plain English champions are warning there is a grave danger the government will go bottom-up."

Election focus: Oldham East and Saddleworth
Election focus: Oldham East and Saddleworth

April 27th: Hindsight is a strange thing. We didn't know, when we picked this Labour-Lib Dem marginal as one of our key battlegrounds for the 2010 campaign, that the result would be as close as Phil Woolas' 103-vote margin. Or that his challenger Elwyn Watkins would succeed in overturning the result on a court appeal. With the by-election looming, much of what was written back in the heat of the campaign remains relevant:

"There's a reluctance to confront the unpleasant side-effect of such clearly-defined communities living close together. Overt racism, built more on resentment and half-understanding than bigotry, lingers here like an unpleasant smell. For the candidates in the 2010 election, skirting around the issue is about as good as it gets."

Feature: Solving the 2010 election riddle

June 30th: Despite a string of unpredictable results on election night, the exit poll proved eerily accurate. What made 2010 so unusual? Speaking to some of the key candidates who made the difference helped us build up a picture of why May 6th proved so unusual:

"The expenses scandal's impact was to dampen the importance of the national debate when it came to election time. People weren't as prepared to listen to the argument being played out on television as usual. It's why, though they might have been impressed by Clegg in the leaders' debates, their decision about where to place their own vote wasn't as dominated by the big picture."

Coalition's first 100 days: Cameron's Big Society

August 20th: The summer gave us the chance to get to grips with Cameron's Big Society agenda, which until then had baffled us, like all other Westminster hacks. The result proved promising, yet flawed, in equal measure:

"This is the prize which Cameron is after; a focus on improving the overall standard by encouraging postcode lotteries rather than frowning at them. It's likely to outrage as many people as it will excite - the true meaning of a radical policy agenda."

Liverpool 2010: What the Lib Dems are really thinking

September 22nd: The Lib Dems' first government conference for a long, long time did not prove the divisive affair some had expected. Instead the general mood was upbeat, with the hammer blows of the spending review and tuition fees still to come:

"Judith Ost suggests the reason the coalition deal was so good for the Lib Dems was precisely because of the party's 'robust' habits. 'We're a pretty bolshy lot and we stand by what we believe,' she adds proudly. 'It had to be put together in a way which is acceptable.'

International development's moral crisis (interview: Barbara Stocking)
Interview: Oxfam's Barbara Stocking

November 30th: Our interview with Oxfam's chief executive Barbara Stocking yielded some surprising admissions about the agonies of the charity's involvement in Afghanistan:

"'Afghanistan is one where our judgement is right down the line,' Stocking acknowledges. It is 'on the cusp' of being deemed too politically sensitive. It helps that the Afghan government is seen by the international community as legitimate, so that the governments supporting it are in a 'stronger moral position' than they were when backing the invasion of an existing state. But the risks of being linked with western forces are huge."

Hampshire calling / Hampshire answering

May 1st: As the final week of campaigning got underway, politics.co.uk was in Hampshire to investigate the Lib Dems' defensive prospects against a strong Tory challenge. The highly personal campaigns were full of tension, with passions running high:

"I'm here for three days, checking out the lay of the land in the Golden Triangle, the Lib Dem's collection of three important Hampshire seats: Winchester, Eastleigh, and Romsey and Southampton North. But this isn't just a local issue. The Tories need to win seats off the Liberal Democrats to earn a majority. If the Golden Triangle holds firm, David Cameron's entire project could fall apart."

Streatham: The luckiest constituents in Britain?

April 29th: One of south London's more interesting contests during the election was in Streatham, where two promising candidates fought a good-natured campaign:

"Labour's Chuka Umunna and the Tories' Rahoul Bhansali might just offer a little hope to those losing faith in British politics. The first impression one gets of them is how similar they are. 'We're both follicly challenged,' Bhansali jokes."

Interview: Ed Miliband

September 10th: Our interview with the man who would, within a month, become the leader of the opposition saw Ed Miliband open up about civil liberties, Tony Blair and why he voted for ID cards:

"The trouble is, Ed Miliband is no less associated with New Labour than his rivals, even if he was the first to disassociate himself from it. I point out to him that despite his civil liberties rhetoric he once voted for ID cards. 'Yeah, I did,' he replies. 'I was part of the government and I take collective responsibility for that.'"

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