|Clyde - will the mascot be quickly |
forgotten after the games?
The Labour Party – Ed Miliband will struggle to convince the British public that he is a Prime Minister in the making. His party will continue to maintain a lead in the polls, but his personal credibility will take a battering when he concedes that a Labour government would effectively have its hands tied on the spending front. He will also lose popular support when he refuses to condemn a shadow minister embroiled in a financial scandal.
The Conservative Party – it won’t be such a bad year for the Tories. The economy will continue its steady improvement, but insufficiently for George Osborne to make the claims he wants to for the Tories’ role in reviving it. The party will remain openly divided on Europe, immigration and marriage equality, with a backbencher resigning the whip in anger at “creeping liberalisation”. Esther McVey and Theresa May will put on a united from in their quest to convince the public the Tories are nastier than ever. In spite of the obvious drift rightward, the Conservatives will do moderately well in the European elections, playing off the threat from UKIP with skill and a fair degree of success.
Boris Johnson will resign as London mayor to stand for a safe Tory seat in a by-election. He will win comfortably and dedicate himself to undermining ministers and openly declaring his ambitions to become Prime Minister “at some point in the future”.
The Liberal Democrats – the party will face a real test in the European elections, but will be buoyed when they retain all but two of their MEPs. It seems a corner has been turned. It also becomes apparent that many British people have used the elections to send a message of support for continued EU membership. A strong performance in a by-election appears to confirm that, electorally speaking, the worst is over. Voices within the party express further concern about the direction of the coalition and the Lib Dems’ role within it – and not merely Matthew Oakeshott. Tensions will be increased when the government approves new illiberal measures to curb immigration.
There will be an acceptance from the leadership for the need for more distinct messages to be communicated. This will have some effect, which will be inevitably aided by Conservative MPs complaining vocally about our ruinous effect on their key policies. Clegg’s standing will improve moderately however, with the Deputy prime Minister going to great lengths to avoid the language of business and politico-speak that has characterised him so far and instead adopt a more human, in-touch approach.
Here in Scotland, Willie Rennie will attempt to portray the Lib Dems as the only real alternative to an SNP government that he perhaps a little unfairly describes as incompetent and ideologically redundant. He doesn’t completely convince, and isn’t helped by one or two untimely interventions by Tavish Scott. Rennie will find it difficult to communicate the Lib Dems’ progressive views on Scotland’s constitutional future as his voice is drowned out by the unimaginative negativity of his Better Together partners. Fortunately Nick Clegg will decide not to visit Scotland, which helps both the Scottish Lib Dems and the “no” campaign.
The SNP - it will be a tough year for the Scottish National Party but they have reasons for optimism with the independence referendum looming and the public showing an increased appetite for change. Alex Salmond will remain the most popular leader at Holyrood and will continue to outsmart both Johann Lamont and Ruth Davidson with ease. The SNP will, however, become unstuck over the question of an independent Scotland's prospective membership of the EU and also wider questions of an economic nature.
The SNP will take full advantage of the Commonwealth Games and the Bannockburn commemorations to talk up Scotland's potential, which will have some effect. The SNP will also look to take credit for falling unemployment, while Derek Mackay will look increasingly like a future leader as the year progresses.
UKIP – 2014 will see UKIP taking a move backwards for the first time ever, with them making losses in the European elections. Nigel Farage will place the blame firmly with the media, which he accuses of savaging them and making his party look like a club for homophobes, misogynists, racists and Tories who don’t like blue. In truth, UKIP will have been found out by a combination of their own unimaginative campaigning, a slick and canny Conservative election machine, the positive case for the EU made by other parties and their own shallowness on the policy front. They will also have massively overestimated their appeal to right-wing Tories. Nonetheless, they will remain a potent force and in addition to retaining a considerable number of MSPs will also continue to have a strong influence on political discourse (with Nigel Farage appearing on Question Time at least once a month).
The BNP – Nick Griffin will lose his seat in the European parliament and will exit as leader of a party drifting towards obscurity. He will make an appearance in “I’m A Celebrity – Get me on TV!” where he will prove himself to be even more insufferable than Nadine Dorries and will be voted off at the earliest opportunity – but not before being taught some valuable lessons in race relations from fellow Jungle-mate Linford Christie.
Independence Referendum – this will be much closer than many imagine, aided by a feel-good factor following a hugely successful Commonwealth Games and Better Together’s inability to articulate precisely what a “no” vote will mean. The result of the referendum will simply be the beginning of a new chapter in Scotland’s constitutional history, with many uncertainties still requiring to be addressed. What will not happen is for a new era of co-operative politics to be ushered in. The SNP will proclaim victory in either eventuality.
The Monster Raving Loony Party will finally win a council by-election, at which the only others standing are the Labour, UKIP and continuing SDP candidates – the latter claiming that the Socialist Workers’ Party aren’t sufficiently left-wing. In a close-run thing, Ed Miliband ruins the Labour campaign by confirming he doesn’t have an alternative proposal to the government’s spending plans while the Loonies successfully win over Tory voters with the slogan “U-kip if you want to, the loonies aren’t for kipping”.
Equal marriage will become law in the UK (except, wrongly, in Northern Ireland). Expect outrage from conservative religious types who fail to appreciate that the extension of marriage is not a redefinition. Included in the protesters will be Tory MP Peter Bone, who will complain that his own relationship with Mrs Bone has now been compromised by “the success of the militant gay lobby”. In spite of these objections, the sky will not fall down, the earth will continue on its orbit and no-one will be forced to marry anyone they don’t want to.
Romanians and Bulgarians appear not to have the appetite for emigrating to Britain assumed by UKIP and the Daily Mail. Fears of invasion are proved to be false and, as with marriage equality, are shown to be little more than the product of scaremongering tabloids.
Pressure will continue to grow on Russia on human rights issues. Putin will blame his country’s poor performance in the Winter Olympics on various demonstrations, which he will claim “distracted and disadvantaged” Russian athletes. He will also refuse to answer any questions on Pussy Riot, freedom of speech, LGBT rights and Dobby the House Elf.
Uganda’s government will also come under pressure after passing unashamedly homophobic legislation leading to riots and hate crimes. The Commonwealth will act by holding immediate, and indecisive, discussions. The UN will be paralysed with indecision, as the situation worsens. Nigel Farage says that Ugandan LGBT people seeking refuge would be very welcome in Britain – so long as they convert to Christianity and don’t shop at Waitrose.
The situation in the Central African Republic will worsen and fears of a potential genocide spark the French into action – they send a peacekeeping force to the stricken African nation with some initial success.
In Egypt, new elections will take place following which ex-President Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party will again be the largest party. Democracy will thus have failed to resolve many of the significant political problems facing Egyptian society. Elsewhere, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe will stun the world when he calls a snap Presidential election but surprises no-one when he emerges victorious with 135% of the vote.
In North Korea, Kim Jong-Un will continue to govern in erratic style, with his personal insecurities dictating his relationships with those close to him. In a drunken rage he will purge his entire cabinet, replacing them with pet cats.
The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will prove to be an enormous success. All events will sell out – including the hockey matches at Ibrox – as the public fully embrace the games. Alex Salmond will be pictured everywhere, usually near an unfurled Saltire, by the press – who will appear to forget that the games are about athletes rather than politicians. Team Scotland will perform sensationally well, including some notable triumphs over their English counterparts in the cycling competitions. Fortunately everyone will forget the mascot, Clyde, immediately after the games finish.
Football – With the Scottish Premier League now about as competitive as the Ashes, the real question is which team will finish second. Motherwell will emerge victorious in the tense struggle for the runner-up spot. Hamilton and Dundee will replace Ross County and Hearts. Morton will be relegated from the championship, thus avoiding the dubious privilege of hosting Rangers at Cappielow in 2014/15. Albion Rovers will miss out on promotion, losing to Clyde in the play-offs.
In England, the closest race for the Premiership title in decades will go to the wire. A recovery from Manchester United will bring them back into contention and with Chelsea and Arsenal dropping points in the unlikeliest of places the two Manchester clubs go into the final game level on points. United will win at St Mary’s with a late goal from Wayne Rooney while City slip up, losing 1-0 to West Ham thanks to a Joe Hart blunder, and finish third in the table...behind Everton.
Everton will win the FA Cup, making Martinez the first manager to win the trophy in successive seasons with different clubs.
England will do reasonably well in the World Cup and do what Scotland failed to do previously – they’ll beat Costa Rica. Having scraped through the group stage they’ll go all the way to the quarter-finals where they’ll lose to...Germany. Uruguay will play Brazil in the final, in which Luis Suarez will be sent off for violent conduct after headbutting the Brazilian goalkeeper following an argument about which came first – the chicken or the egg.
The Pope will make some further concessions to Catholic liberals but, on the big “moral questions” of LGBT rights and the woman’s right to choose, maintains the traditional line. Rumours that he is having a secret affair with Keith O’Brien will be publicly denied, thus giving them credibility.
There will be some localised bad weather in Southern England that will dominate the BBC’s news coverage for a week.
Justin Beiber will continue to appear on our TV screens far too often. As too will Peaches Geldof and Katie Price, who will be awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to media.