But then we won. We. Won. I remember pacing the room laughing. I’d been on the road, covering elections for the Daily Telegraph since Scotland in 2014 – and in among all the celebrations and tears and history, I realised what it meant for me personally. I was going to have to go on. America next. The convention in Ohio. Obama campaigning in North Carolina. Trump in Pennsylvania. The victory party at the midtown Hilton, where the results came in and I realised that this thing was only going to get bigger. More motel rooms. More mini bars and tiny soaps.
The problem with journalism is that it’s in the moment: you don’t have time to stop and think about what’s just happened. A few memories of stillness stand out, some of them sad. Nothing affected me more profoundly in 2016 than the death of Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was murdered by a Right-wing lunatic shortly before the referendum. It was distressing enough to think of a family losing a wife and mother. But I was also deeply hurt that some Remainers declared that we Leavers were to blame. Hurt, in part, because I was worried that it might be true. I’m not a believer that free speech comes without responsibility. If you choose to air an opinion, you have to accept that it could have consequences. It didn’t have to be said by so many Remainers – particularly with such partisan enthusiasm – that talking about national identity or immigration could affirm bigotry because, well, that’s blindingly obvious. I worry about that. But I continue to do what I do – to write what I write – because I’m convinced that we can find a better way to live if we reason things through.
I am a confirmed democrat now. This year has given me new faith in the process – and not just because I won. Because I grew up in an era, the Nineties and Noughties, when we were told there was no alternative to the liberal order. In that atmosphere of patronising elitism and political correctness, apathy grew and whole communities dropped out of politics. The referendum, for all its many faults, rekindled public debate. It was ugly and often very stupid, but only when the result came out did I realise what it had accomplished. Speaking on a panel during the campaign, Gisela Stuart, the Labour Brexit supporter, said to me that she'd never known such excitement – the feeling that people were taking charge of their lives again. Frank Field, also Labour, told me that the electoral roll in his constituency had increased dramatically. It was all the poor people, he said. People who'd never voted before. After two decades of falling turnout, there was joy in participation.
And when that result came in I felt, for the first time in a long time, a sense of connection to my fellow countrymen that spanned class and region. After all this time, it turns out that we were all thinking the same thing! And even if we disagree, at least now we all know each other a little better.
This year I have ridden a camel in the African desert, visited Stonehenge, built a bookcase and watched Hillary Clinton try to crack a joke in Philadelphia. There has been a lot of pain and I need so very much to rest, but I refuse to allow miserablism to rewrite the history of 2016. I think it's been a bloody marvellous, gold-bottomed corker of a year. The most exciting year of my life.