Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Reviewing my predictions for 2013

It's that time of year again. It's time to look back at my predictions for the year - and compare them with how things actually turned out. See 'My predictions for 2013'

Almost 12 months ago - on New Year's Day 2013 - I recklessly made a series of 20 predictions for the political year ahead. Some turned out to be correct, some were only partially correct, and some were utterly offbeam (intriguingly my predictions for domestic politics tended to be nearer the mark than when I ventured further afield, but this is a generalisation).

I will be doing the same exercise again on 1 January 2014, and will no doubt have very mixed results again. Let's take a look at some of those predictions and see what patterns can be identified.

Global politics

My first observation is that my predictions for the Middle East have turned out to be dismally inaccurate. I predicted that Israel would attack Iran, Morsi would still be president in Egypt and that Assad would be overthrown in Syria. All of these, of course, were wrong. Developments in connection with Iran have been in a quite different direction; a military coup removed Morsi in June; and Assad has proved more resilient than I expected. This unpredictability illustrates the continuing volatility in the region.

At the end of 2013 the picture of the region is that direct US influence continues to become weaker, while the pro-Western sub-imperialist states of Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia all have an uneasy, tense relationship with the world's sole superpower (and with their own neighbours). The US and its allies were unable to intervene overtly in Syria, while broadly positive developments in relation to Iran have lessened the likelihood of a major new war in the region.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that public and political pressure stopped an assault on Syria, but unpleasantly surprised by the military's effective counter-revolution in Egypt. My prediction a year ago was based on an assumption that the country's military-industrial ruling class would prefer a more or less stable Morsi government to outright counter-revolution. In fact the Moris government became somewhat more unstable than most predicted, but the outcome has been the disabling of the revolutionary movement and a strengthening of elite military power. Generally speaking, it's been a bad year for progressive and popular movements in the Arab world.

Elsewhere in the world I was largely correct about growing tensions between Japan and China, about the political picture in Greece, and about US gun laws remaining unchanged (predictable, perhaps, but recall this was in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook school massacre). I actually don't know if my prediction of growing anti-rape and anti-sexism protests was accurate, as I don't have enough information and it is hard to assess. However, my prediciton of growing unrest - especially in the form of mass strikes - in a number of specific European countries has turned out to be over-optimistic.

British politics

What about domestic politics? I was right about the coalition holding together, Osborne remaining chancellor (a year ago there was widespread speculation he was heading for the exit), and Nick Clegg stessing his differences with the Tories more but with no discernible effect on his party's ratings.

I was also right to emphasise a continuing rightwards lurch over immigration and the EU, with Ukip capitalising on this, but I failed to predict the electoral breakthrough Nigel Farage's party made in May's local elections. And I was correct to predict that the hype about Boris Johnson as future Tory leader would fade.

I was right, predictably enough, to say that local government would be destroyed in all but name, but a little too optimistic about the resistance to that destruction. I was also accurate about the growing centrality of attacks on welfare and the poor to the whole austerity project, and how it is justified ideologically.

I stand by my point about Labour commanding a healthy poll lead and most commentators failing to grasp the near-inevitability of a Labour majority in 2015; I am still confident there will be a Labour victory in the next general election, regardless of the 'recovery' and any fluctuations in polling. I did, however, somewhat overestimate Labour's successes in 2013's council elections - the big story was in fact Ukip.

The resistance and the left

My predictions for the unions were almost uncannily accurate, both in respect of the positive and the negative elements in the picture. Pay has indeed been a more central issue and there has been more strike action, but I was also right to be cautious about the idea that we might see a return to 30 November 2011 levels of co-ordination.

There was one exception to my accuracy here though: I underestimated the vote for Jerry Hicks in his challenge to Len McCluskey for the leadership of Unite.

I was right about the People's Assembly being an enormous breakthrough (at a time when it hadn't yet even been announced), there being no significant developments in left-of-Labour electoral politics (no, I don't regard the Left Unity founding conference as significant here - when they actually stand in elections it may, or more likely may not, be different), and about the revolutionary left failing to grow (I didn't predict the SWP's implosion, but that was more for reasons of tact than anything else!).

Finally, I correctly predicted Margaret Thatcher's death - but I also predicted the demise of Castro and Mubarak, both of whom remain with us. As I have no medical knowledge denied to the rest of the world, such predictions are of course nothing more an enjoyable stab in the dark.

Now I had better get out my crystal ball in preparation for my New Year's Day blog post...


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