In a recent email to the rest of this blog’s editors, Jacob requested, in his usual forthright fashion, that we refrain from writing ‘pseudo-insightful piece[s] based around new years’ resolutions’, so I’m not going to do that. However, because it’s Boxing Day (at the time of writing), because I’m full of too much wine and unhealthy food, and most of all because I’m frankly a lazy fucker, I’m going to do the next worst thing: my predictions for the world of politics in 2010. If you think I’m wrong about any of the following, by all means say so. I freely admit most of this is sheer guesswork, with occasional instances of stating the bleeding obvious. (But if any of it turns out to be right I’m still going to crow about it for weeks).
In the months leading up to the election, Labour will start sounding a lot more leftwing in an effort to shore up their core vote. They’ll bring out a raft of populist policies aimed at boosting their share of the vote, but it won’t be enough, and the Tories will win the general election. And yes, I realise that isn’t exactly the boldest of forecasts, so let’s be a bit more specific: the Tories will get a majority of between 50 and 100, the Lib Dems will lose seats but not so catastrophically that they get rid of Clegg, and Labour will be badly hurt but not wiped out like the Conservatives were in 1997; Brown and the rest of the government are obviously pretty unpopular, but at the same time my hunch is that there isn’t enough love for Cameron and friends for them to get a landslide. Caroline Lucas won’t become the Greens’ first MP in Brighton Pavilion, though she’ll probably come close. Galloway will be unlucky too: Bethnal Green and Bow will revert to Labour once he leaves, and he’ll split the traditional Labour vote in Poplar and Limehouse just enough to let the Tories in.
In the election aftermath, Brown will resign (yes, I know, big surprise again), and he’ll give a resignation speech which sets an all-time record for mentions of the words ‘Britain’ and ‘British’, with ‘values’ and ‘duty’ following close behind. Now that they’re sure he’s on his way out, the mainstream media will be really nice about both the speech and the man himself. A mob of pundits will gather to wax lyrical in print and on air about all his good points that were so often overlooked and downplayed by…well, those same pundits, as it happens, but never mind. David Miliband, Jack Straw, Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman and one or both of Jon Cruddas and John McDonnell will stand for party leader. Ed Miliband will look like standing but will stand aside at the last minute and back his brother. Harriet Harman will be unable to come up with any substantial reason why anyone should vote for her other than her lack of a Y chromosome, and the rightwing press will once again paint this as evidence of her radical man-hating feminist nature, rather than simply evidence that she’s a technocratic New Labour drone whose sex is the only thing that distinguishes her from the majority of senior figures in her party, and who – unfortunately – long ago lost touch with anything remotely resembling radical feminism. David Miliband will win the leadership race, and be instantly immortalised as Harry Potter by every unimaginative editorial cartoonist in the land. Jack Straw will come in second despite having less charisma than the common cold (or Harriet Harman). Rising Labour star Chuka ‘definitely not the British Obama’ Umunna will win his seat in Streatham pretty comfortably, and probably get a shadow ministerial brief.
Once in power, the Tories will make lots of noise about eliminating waste in government and cutting public sector fatcats’ pay, then slash and burn everything they can get away with. Budgets for the NHS and schools will probably get off pretty lightly (too easy to mount photogenic anti-cuts campaigns that make the government look bad), but welfare, higher education and anything to do with rehabilitation in the penal system will get hit hard. Immigration policy won’t change much, but the Daily Mail’s hysteria about it will die down a bit. Spurious and unpleasant stories about benefit-cheating single mothers will increase in volume to make up for it, helped along the way by the Tories’ ‘pro-family’ policies (tax subsidies to convince unhappy married couples to stay together – the case for ‘family’ legitimately meaning anything other than Mum, Dad and a couple of apple-cheeked kids will be set back by decades). The recession will deepen and unemployment will rise, thanks to the Tories’ spending cuts, with all the consequences you’d expect – rising crime, increasing urban decay, and so on.
In the wider world, nothing much will continue to happen in the fight against climate change. The pool of deniers will get smaller and people – even Telegraph readers – will slowly pay them less and less attention, but no meaningful action will be taken by any government, as they’ll all be waiting for the others to do something, and the prospects for concerted multilateral action look pretty damn bleak after Copenhagen. There’ll probably be at least one big jump in oil prices for some reason, though it’s hard to guess exactly what. A storm that wrecks some big refineries? Industrial action by hauliers or oil rig workers? Terrorism? Take your pick. Whichever it is, once it happens any worries about climate change in the higher echelons of government will be sidelined as the rush to exploit new sources of fossil fuels (in the Canadian tar sands, in the Arctic and so on) will intensify. The environmental protests will be stepped up in response, but they probably won’t do enough. The old standbys of war, disease and famine will continue to kill millions before their time, and civilisation will continue to lurch towards collapse. Happy New Year.