Sunday, 1 January 2017

Political predictions for 2017

Yes, it's that time again. As I've done for the last few years, I'm risking embarrassment by making a series of political predictions for the year ahead. The focus is on British politics and the usual caveats apply: these are intended as accurate predictions, not aspirations or wishes; they are not to be taken too seriously; and you are very welcome to disagree! 

As usual, I'm simply outlining the predictions without any particular explanation. I am aware that if one or two of these prove to be wrong, several others are likely to be knocked out of kilter too. That's what happened in 2016 as a result of wrongly predicting that the EU referendum would result in a vote to remain (that, in turn, had something of a domino effect). 

1. There will be no early general election. 

2. Article 50 will be triggered in the second half of the year. Freedom of movement will be the source of continued political debate, with sharp divisions on the issue in the Labour Party helping the Tories push through new proposed restrictions on immigration. 

3. Boris Johnson will be demoted from the role of foreign secretary. Michael Gove will return to the Cabinet (unlike Nicky Morgan and Iain Duncan Smith). 

4. Health and education will be important political battlegrounds, but the Tories will quietly climb down on the whole issue of grammar schools. 

5. Labour will go a long way to closing the polling gap with the Tories within a few months, establishing a pattern of being around 6% behind the governing party in polls of voting share (compared to recent polls indicating Tory leads of 13% or 14% over Labour). 

6. Jeremy Corbyn will continue as Labour leader, with no further leadership elections, and party membership will stabilise between 600,000 and 700,000 members. 

7. Labour will retain its Copeland seat in Cumbria, winning the by-election with a lead of at least 5% over the Tory challenger. 

8. Len McCluskey will be re-elected general secretary of Unite by a comfortable margin - over right-wing candidate Gerard Coyne - on a turnout of between 15% and 20%. 

9. Ukip will continue to do fairly badly in polls - it has suffered a significant decline over the last two years - showing no signs of revival under Paul Nuttall (who will continue as leader throughout 2017). Douglas Carswell will continue to be a Ukip MP, but he will also continue to function as maverick independent, and Arron Banks will distance himself from the party. 

10. The Lib Dems will continue to languish in the polls and show little sign of revival. 

11. The SNP will continue its slight tilt to the right, tending to emphasise its credentials as a respectable party of Scottish capitalism. There will still, however, be no revival for Scottish Labour whatsoever. 

12. There will be a modest but important increase in the prevalence of strikes, with the wave of December 2016 strikes proving something of a harbinger, resulting in a number of good settlements for striking workers (if not outright victories). 

13. The Green Party will continue the pivot the right which has characterised it since Corbyn's ascendancy to the Labour leadership, and even more markedly since the EU referendum campaign. The party's right wing (or liberal wing) will flourish, while its left wing will be marginalised. 

14. Momentum will continue to be plagued by factional in-fighting in the early part of 2017, but settling down after that, and will play a modest role in the prospects of the Labour left; many left-wingers in the party will bypass it and instead focus directly on the party's own structures and activities (though the Right will often continue to defeat the Left at constituency level due to greater activist numbers, rootedness and organisation). 

15. There will be no growth in the British far right - whether in its electoral or street-fighting versions - and it will continue to be largely irrelevant and marginal.


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