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Sunday, 31 December 2017

My predictions for 2018


Philip Hammond: could he be sacked for being too competent?
(Photo: The Independent)
Every year I make some predictions - inevitably some are more accurate than others. There is no real reason for doing this other than for a bit of end-of-year fun, but it's become something of a tradition and I will stick with it!

How did I do last year? Why don't you take a look for yourselves? Clearly I didn't get everything right, especially on the political front, but it's becoming near-impossible to make accurate political predictions at a time when the once-unthinkable daily becomes terrifying reality.

So I've decided to consult my crystal ball once again, and have looked into 2018 to let you know what we can expect in the coming twelve months. 


POLITICS

The Liberal Democrats

* This will not be a terrific year for the Liberal Democrats. The focus on Brexit means messages on other issues are inevitably drowned out, and this has an effect on public perception. The party will remain at 7-10% in opinion polls, but will continue to make steady gains in local elections. 

* Tim Farron will continue to make statements on religious issues – always, of course, from the evangelical Christian perspective. Later in the year he will retire from politics to take up full-time employment with a Christian organisation. 
* Willie Rennie will continue to make clear his opposition to Scottish independence and any further referenda on the issue. What will be less clear is what the long-held aspiration of federalism means in practice. 

The Conservative Party

* The Brexit negotiations will go from bad to worse. It will become increasingly apparent that the government has no real strategy, and that it has seriously underestimated the complexity of leaving. This will lead to significant delays, potentially jeopardising May’s arbitrary leaving date, and leading to a series of government defeats on EU-related legislation.
* Confidence in the Prime Minister – especially among the fanatical Brexiteers – will suffer.  However, there will be no election and May will survive largely because no-one wants to openly challenge her and most Tory MPs appreciate there is no alternative who can actually hold the party together (I would say unite, but this is the Conservative Party we’re talking about).

* While May will survive, several of her cabinet will not. Boris Johnson will finally be removed as Foreign Secretary after he is recorded making derogatory and sexist comments about fellow cabinet members in what he believed to be a private conversation with a Daily Mail journalist. Andrea Leadsom will also experience a fully-merited demotion when she is replaced by someone with a modicum of understanding of the energy and climate change brief.

* Philip Hammond will be removed for being far too competent for the job, much to the delight of the Daily Mail. 
* Liam Fox and David Davis will announce fantastic potential new trade deals with Zimbabwe, the DR Congo, Mauritania and the Republic of Nauru. This will prompt an angry response from the Nauruan government, which will state that a polite response to a tweet from Bill Cash doesn’t represent official interest in such a deal.
* There will be no General Election. Yes, I know I said that last year.  But the Prime Minister will not wish to risk another election given the outcome last time and with Labour beginning to pull ahead in the polls. 

* Ruth Davidson will struggle to keep the Scottish Tories in order - and will then surprise everyone when she successfully applies to be the Conservative candidate for an English by-election in a historically safe Tory seat. She wins the by-election by the narrowest of margins following a campaign in which she criticises the direction of the UK government on key issues. Her victory will leave the Scottish party in turmoil and will create fresh concerns for an increasingly nervous Theresa May.

The Labour Party

* 2018 will be Corbyn’s year - largely by fortunate accident rather than because of any real effort on his part. Only a year after ridiculing him as being unelectable, the Tories will be genuinely fearful of him. The policy adopted by both May and Corbyn towards the Brexit question – i.e. that of broadly constructive ambiguity to keep their respective parties united – will prove impossible to maintain as details become clearer and difficulties arise. As May becomes embroiled in difficulties of others’ making, especially in relation to Brexit promises, Corbyn will be able to poised to benefit. His new strategy of opposing the Tories at every turn will be opportunistic but effective.
* There will not be a Scottish Labour leadership election.  Richard Leonard will bring renewed energy to Scottish Labour and will appeal to many former supporters through his emphasis on socialism; however, he will face the same struggles as his predecessors in challenging the SNP and will be no more successful than they were. 

* Labour will not develop a distinctive stance on Brexit, but this won't actually matter. Ironically, Corbyn will seek to place himself as a "moderating" influence between the Tory "hard Brexit" and the Lib Dem/Green/SNP "anti-democratic" pro-EU positions.

The Scottish National Party

* Not a great deal will change for the SNP. The question over whether and when to call Indyref 2 will loom over the party and the First Minister. Eventually, the SNP will decide to play it safe – focusing on challenging the Tories for the time being and building for an SNP majority in the next parliament. 
* The SNP will have a pretty good year, with the Scottish Tories in retreat and Scottish Labour making only a moderate recovery. The First Minister will continue to command high approval ratings, but faces growing criticism on key elements of domestic policy.


UKIP

*
Labour will not be the only party to benefit from the Tories’ Brexit farce. UKIP will also see a resurgence, with Nigel Farage resuming the leadership he claims he doesn’t want after being heavily involved with undermining Henry Bolton and effectively forcing his resignation. In spite of all the internal backstabbing, UKIP will overtake the Lib Dems in the opinion polls and will do reasonably well in by-elections without winning a seat. 


International

*
Not much will really change in Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa, who replaced Robert Mugabe a few weeks ago, will be determined to prove himself on the economic front but will inevitably struggle to make the kind of early impact he hopes. He will, however, be very careful in his cabinet selections and will prove adept at creating problems for his opposition, who struggle to unite around a single candidate in the general elections. Zanu-PF, which will use the election to emphasise that this particular leopard has no intention of changing its spots, will take advantage of this disunity to emerge victorious with 112% of the vote. 

* Vladimir Putin’s re-election in Russia is even more of a formality than Zanu-PF’s win in Zimbabwe.  The consequences, of course, will be more widely felt.

* Tensions will increase between the USA and North Korea, as Donald Trump appears ever more determined to undermine peace via his twitter account. Fortunately, the US President’s attentions are diverted elsewhere after the Democrats make gains in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

* The supposed political crisis in Germany will prove to be nothing of the sort. Angela Merkel's CDU will find new coalition partners and put together a workable government. 

* The depth of Russian intervention in the EU referendum and the US presidential election will become clearer. This has serious consequences for Donald Trump - and for social media companies. Nigel Farage will claim it is all a BBC-created conspiracy.

* The Cuban elections will produce a Communist majority. No surprises there. Meanwhile the UK media will continue to ignore Hungary, where Viktor Orban will use his huge majority to undermine democracy (and the EU). 


Football

* Manchester City will be champions this year (yes, I'm sure there won't be too many suggesting otherwise). Manchester United will part company with Mourinho after a poor run in the second half of the season sees the team miss out on European football. The relegated teams will be Bournemouth, Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United. Macclesfield Town and Wrexham will return to the football league - with Forest Green Rovers and Barnet going in the other direction.

* Celtic will win the Scottish Premiership (again, I'm sure you knew that). Dundee and Ross County will be relegated, being replaced by St Mirren and Greenock Morton, the latter beating Dundee United in the play-off final. 

* England will not win the World Cup. No surprises there. Neither will Russia, who will go into the tournament believing they can be the first host nation to win the cup since France in 1998. As for who will win – that’s more difficult, but I’ll go so far as to say it will be a Europe v South America final. 


Elsewhere

* In regards the Church of England and same-sex relationships...no, I can't possibly publicly predict what will happen there. I can only hope it isn't what I fully expect.

* The future of the Northern Ireland assembly will remain unresolved. Against the backdrop of Brexit and the border questions it raises, there will simply be no way for politics at Stormont to resume as normal. 


Personal


* Myself and my friends Mathew and Michael will raise a significant amount of money for the Campaign Against Living Miserably. We will also help raise awareness of the high suicide rate among young males in the UK.

* My folk band will become world famous after a random and unexpected TV appearance. 


In lighter vein...


The month of May will be dominated by talk of a particular wedding (I would say coverage, but we’re talking about way more than reporting of the actual event).  Fortunately the Scottish Cup final being played in the afternoon will mean that at least one other channel will have something else to focus on. 

* Bitcoin's value will soar to around £50,000 before crashing spectacularly. No-one will really have much idea about what happened, or why. 

* There will be plenty of talk about creating a new "centre party", with most of it being generated by that most centrist of former politicians, George Osborne. "Centre" is finally launched in July, led by one of Osborne's former interns. No-one takes any of this seriously, apart from Paddy Ashdown who - without speaking with any of the leaders of other parties - immediately proposes a new "progressive alliance" in which the new party would help to finally "break the mould" of British politics. 

* The Commonwealth Games will be a surprising success in every respect. However the real talking point is Boris Johnson's speech closing the games, when the event is formally handed over to Birmingham. Johnson manages to insult legendary Australian swimmers, invokes colonialism with an ill-judged joke about aborigines, makes sexually inappropriate comments about beach volleyball and finally falls off the platform while attempting to demonstrate the British origins of water polo. 

* Piers Morgan will make a visit to Liverpool, during which he is stunned by the lack of welcome. He will attribute this to there being "too many liberals, women, transgender and non-binary people" who just don't understand how much he does for the world. In the summer, he will leave Good Morning Britain for an "exciting new venture" - which turns out to be a new show on Russia Today.

* The EU will order that all its member states change their passport colour to blue, just to anger the UK.

* Resigned to the inevitability of Scottish independence and following Donald Trump's example, Theresa May will decide pre-emptive action and will opt to build a 20 foot high wall to separate England from Scotland.  The Polish builders responsible for construction do the job in lightning quick time...between Chester and Hull. 

* There will be heavy snow in parts of the UK during February. This will allow the Daily Mail and Daily Express a break from demonising immigrants, high court judges, "Remoaners" and transgender people as they instead speculate about how many might be killed by freezing temperatures in Boscombe. 

* Nigel Farage will finally get his much desired knighthood...for services to television.