As the New Year rolls in Alastair Meeks makes his predictions

As the New Year rolls in Alastair Meeks makes his predictions


2016: Things that mostly won’t happen

Making predictions is a mug’s game as I showed in my last post.  So I shall now prove that I have not learned from experience and have another go.

To understand where we are going, we first need to understand where we are now.  Politics has changed out of all recognition since the general election.  Let’s sum up the essentials:

  1. We have a Conservative government with a tiny overall majority.
  2. We have a Labour opposition that is far more concerned about internal party battles than with fighting the Conservatives.
  3. The SNP are utterly dominant in Scotland.
  4. The Lib Dems have effectively disappeared from national politics, for now at least.
  5. UKIP have a body of support but at present have not found a way to turn that into seats at a national level in first past the post elections.
  6. Despite their tiny overall majority, the main opposition to the Conservative government is to be found in the House of Lords and the press.
  7. A referendum on EU membership is looming.
  8. David Cameron has announced that he will not be standing for re-election in 2020.

Some things haven’t changed.  Britain still has a stubbornly high deficit but for now we have respectable growth, an outstanding record in job creation and no inflation to speak of.  As a result, Britain continues to be a magnet for immigrants and the rest of Europe still seems no closer to finding a way to manage the waves of migrants coming from the south and the east.

For now, politics is largely about watching Labour unravel: it’s been like watching a Mike Leigh drama (Jeremy’s Party?).  For as long as this remains the case Labour will languish in the polls.

Nailing my colours to the mast

Enough scene-setting, here’s the meat.

  1. None of the party leaders will change in 2016

Jeremy Corbyn is perhaps under most pressure.  But for as long as he has the support of the membership, he’s safe enough.  David Cameron has indicated that he intends to serve the term out.  While in practice he’ll probably give his successor time to play himself or herself in, that won’t be in 2016 unless he loses his overall majority.

  1. The SNP will not lose its overall majority in the Holyrood election

I don’t see this as a complete certainty.  Getting an overall majority in the Holyrood system is hard.  If the narrative in Scotland turns to the SNP’s record rather than its aspirations, it might lose sufficient support to put the overall majority in jeopardy.  In practice Labour are so weak at present and the Tories have a low cap on their support in Scotland, I expect the SNP to repeat their success in 2012.  Labour will finish second despite their best efforts to hand that to the Conservatives.

  1. Labour will not keep control in Wales

Labour have been polling quite well in Wales.  The problem for them is that UKIP have strengthened in the last four years.  Under the Welsh electoral system they will struggle to keep their overall majority.

  1. Labour will lose a quarter of their current council seats in England and Wales

The local elections this year are in areas which last voted in council elections in 2012, a high point for Labour.  With the bulk of these elections taking place outside Labour’s current metropolitan strongholds, I expect Labour to suffer badly.

  1. Zac Goldsmith will not win the London Mayoralty

I do expect one bright spot for Jeremy Corbyn.  With his strong organisational skills, I expect Sadiq Khan to beat Zac Goldsmith to become Mayor of London. Neither has the profile of either of the two previous holders of the office which means that default party allegiances will be more important.  London is strongly trending towards Labour.  I don’t see the trend being bucked.

  1. The EU referendum will be called, probably in September

It seems fairly clear that there is a will all round the EU to reach an agreement.  So an agreement will be reached.  It will probably slip past February, when we’re told to expect it (it won’t credibly seem worthwhile if it isn’t seen as hard fought).  So we’ll probably get the deal in April, just in time for a polling boost for the Conservatives before the local elections.

Once agreement has been reached, David Cameron will want to call the referendum as soon as he decently can.  After allowing for the holiday season, that suggests late September.

  1. Turnout will not be low

The public think that this decision is important and probably irreversible.  So they will turn out and vote.  I expect the turnout to be at least as high as at a general election.

  1. Leave will not win, gaining roughly 40% of the vote

If turnout is high, the votes of those who are not that fussed by the EU either way will be decisive.  The Leave campaign needs to explain what comes next after a vote to leave if it is to win.  It has not begun to address that question and shows no signs of doing so.  So I expect that it will lose decisively, despite a lacklustre campaign by Remain to date.

  1. Labour won’t split

Large chunks of the Parliamentary Labour party are appalled by Jeremy Corbyn.  But they have no positive prospectus of their own, no infrastructure and no A-list political talent.  So they will stay put and continue with their ineffectual intifada against a Labour leadership that is cementing its grip on the party.

  1. Nor will the Conservatives

After the referendum campaign, the Conservatives will be divided and heavily bruised.  David Cameron will remain in command but with far more vocal criticism from the right of his party after a victory which no doubt will be seen as having been won by deception.  The right will be waiting for its chance when David Cameron stands down.  So it won’t be going anywhere in the near term.  By the end of 2016, we can expect to be looking at two major parties that are angry, divided and seething with intrigue.

It should be fun.

Alastair Meeks

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