We asked columnists what fills their dreams about the year ahead – share your wishes in the thread below
Zoe Williams: 'A 2014 choreographed by Danny Boyle'
It's an Anglo-Saxon disease, apparently – the tendency to see poverty and wealth as merely the outward signs of inner value. It is disastrous enough applied to rich people, leading to an overestimation of their intelligence that is both tragic and comic. Applied to poor people it feeds other, harsher attitudes about social security and safety nets, what our responsibilities are to one another and whether we resent them or feel OK about them.
It does appear that the UK, though, unlike the US, has a natural point of retreat: when everybody sees their incomes fall and gets just poor enough to realise that it's systemic, and has nothing to do with how much effort they put in. At that point, generosity of attitude re-establishes itself, and people start ticking "disagree strongly" to Ipsos Mori statements like "I think the unemployed should just look harder for work".
So my hope for 2014 is not for national poverty as such – rather, the re-establishment of the principles and ambitions of social justice, which have been at the wellspring of everything the country has ever done that had any meaning or value. I would like to see 2014 choreographed by Danny Boyle, in other words. And many of the years after that.
Patrick Barkham: 'A piece of land not fracked, a badger not culled'
Nature is uplifting and exhilarating, and yet writing about it is often a gloomy business of confronting the ways in which we are consuming and despoiling it. Each year brings small spits in the wind – a clean energy advance here, a new nature reserve there – but these gobbets of good news are blown away by the logic of global capitalism: nature is a finite public resource to be annexed by private individuals for short-term profit.
After a 2013 of "green crap", species loss and ever-rising exploitation, a realist might wish for 2014 to be a bit less bad. But I would love to see just one glorious occasion where people choose nature over profit – a piece of ground not fracked, a runway not built, a badger not culled. A few such exercises of gentle restraint and voices in mainstream politics and the media may belatedly begin questioning our society's crazy fixation on economic growth as the source of all wellbeing and happiness. Reframing this miserable, myopic vision is too much to ask for 2014. It's probably too much to ask for 2041. But it's never too early to start trying.
The wish closest to my heart would be to see an end to the sweeping cuts being made to disability benefits. These cuts are affecting disabled people and their families in heartbreaking and often tragic ways. Our government should be ashamed. It should also go without saying that I'd like to live in a kinder, more accepting society that treats individuals as human beings, whether it's allowing women to be fully clothed in music videos, refusing to stigmatise those on benefits or giving those with no quality of life the right to die.
As I'm not going to get that, however, I'd settle for people being nicer to one another on the internet. My general rule is, if you wouldn't have the guts to walk up to someone in a room and say it, then don't say it online. From revenge porn to threats of violence against women to slut-shaming to feminists trashing each other, I'd like 2014 to be the year that people close their laptops instead of being nasty – and realise that very little of significance ever happens on Twitter.
Aditya Chakrabortty: 'Policy on real benefit scroungers – employers'
I kept running into a type in 2013: the impoverished worker, on wages too low to keep them afloat. University cleaners doing two or three jobs a day, or staff at high street banks forced to turn to payday lenders. And they told stories of colleagues who were worse off, begging from foodbanks.
Impoverished workers are fast becoming the norm. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2013 was the first year that the majority of people in poverty were from working families.
Something remarkable has happened in Britain. Employers are getting into the habit of giving their staff poverty pay – and leaving the government to top it up with benefits. British taxpayers are ultimately handing cash to miserly bosses.
More effectively than any other contemporary figure, the impoverished worker punctures what the Westminster set thinks it knows about the jobs market. From New Labour workfare to Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne: for decades, the main parties have hammered the unemployed. But they won't face down firms who don't pay enough to live on.
Ed Miliband so badly wants bosses to give the living wage that he's promised tax breaks to those who comply; in other words, a Labour government would continue to subsidise Scrooge employers.
But we won't tackle poverty pay until we tackle the massive inequality of which it is part. Look at Lloyds Banking Group, which racked up £1.7bn pre-tax profits in the first nine months of this year. In 2012 its chief executive, António Horta-Osório, took £3.4m in cash, pension and perks. Yet 45% of his staff are on two salary bands that begin at £13,000 and £17,000 respectively. Unsurprisingly, most of them say they can't manage financially.
So that's my hope for this year: that the politicians start talking about a different kind of benefits scrounger – the corporations who pay their staff misery wages, and expect the welfare state to step in.
Lola Okolosie: 'Education policy made by teachers'
I have one wish for 2014 – that the majority of those responsible for producing countless educational policies have at least two years' experience teaching at the chalkface. This is the case in Singapore, a country whose achievements we are repeatedly told to emulate; 2012 saw it come second in a rank of countries comparing maths, reading and science results.
And if, as I suspect, that wish appears fantastical, I'll settle for something much more realistic – that teachers have more say in the policies that will affect us. A much closer interaction between educators and policy makers, one that does not merely pay lip service to teachers' ideas, would perhaps have saved us from the numerous policy rewrites and U-turns we have seen over the last year. The embarrassing debacle of the policy adviser appointed headteacher of a free school without a teaching qualification who then resigned after a few weeks teaches us one thing: working in a thinktank on education does not mean you understand how things actually work in the classroom.
Jonathan Freedland: 'A breakthrough in Israel-Palestine talks'
One of the unexpected breakthroughs of 2013 was the interim – and far from complete – deal struck between the world's leading powers and Iran over the latter's nuclear programme. My fond hope for 2014 is that the US secretary of state, John Kerry, will reach another breakthrough in an area which is, if anything, even more intractable: the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
I say "fond" because the grounds for pessimism do not need spelling out. Both peoples are led by men who could hardly be described as visionaries for peace and who are, besides, badly boxed in: Mahmoud Abbas's writ does not run in Gaza, Binyamin Netanyahu presides over a coalition dominated by hawks ready to oppose the first sign of compromise. It's long been said that the most Israel could offer falls short of the least the Palestinians could accept. Unsurprisingly, the word that hovers around the Kerry talks is "stalemate".
And yet the process is not over. Leaks have been intriguingly few, which suggests seriousness. Above all, Kerry is stubbornly committed to it, devoting more hours to face-to-face contact.
Polly Toynbee: 'The sudden shaming of this government'
The best hope for this year is the sudden shaming of this government and the unravelling of its plans. Let's hope that more eyes open to the fact that deficit reduction at this ruthless rate never was a fiscal necessity, but a gleeful Tory opportunity to diminish the public realm and shrink the state. The result has been services slashed and benefit cuts that reverse decades of social progress.
Let this be the year Duncan Smith's "scrounger" attacks rebound on him. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies shows government plans for the years after 2015 would require yet deeper cuts, devastating the NHS. So far, many voters seem to believe the propaganda that deficit-cutting is worth the sacrifice, though economic growth has been sluggish and deficit-reduction delayed.
As foodbank queues grow, let this be the year when most people start asking why the highest price is extracted from the lowest-paid half of the population, their incomes falling while the proceeds of growth only flow to the better off. Let this be the year scales fall from the eyes and a majority see beyond doubt that we were never all in this together.