Political predictions for 2017

There’s a saying that all predictions turn out to be either lucky or wrong. And there’s another one which says anyone who claims to know the future must, by definition, be either a fool or a charlatan. Nonetheless, the appetite for political forecasts is a thirsty one, so let’s take a look at the year ahead and hope I prove to be a lucky fool.

There will be rows over international development spending

Britain’s aid budget will come under pressure as an old row resurfaces over international development spending. This is already in the early stages: in recent weeks there have been a slew of tabloid headlines over the cash Britain supposedly wastes on the third world.

Some aid supporters fear these leaks originate from close to Priti Patel, the international development secretary. The Brexiter has previously made no secret of her dislike of the department and may, the argument goes, be preparing the ground for a trimming of its commitments.

This wouldn’t be easy. Those commitments are enshrined in law, and any effort to repeal them would surely meet parliamentary opposition. But on the other hand, the determination of those who want to axe aid spending shouldn’t be underestimated. One to watch.

Jeremy Corbyn will remain leader of the Labour party

His position is safer than ever. The Labour leader’s parliamentary colleagues, stung by their failed attempt to jettison him last summer, have resigned themselves to keeping quiet and hoping he fails on his own terms. There won’t be any more coup attempts for the time being.

Corbyn sees his task not as winning elections but building a “social movement” which, later on, can be handed over to a younger successor. An early general election defeat could feasibly hasten that transition. But that’s emphatically something I’m not prepared to speculate over.

We’ll have a hard Brexit.

Hard? Soft? Red, white and blue? Theresa May has actually been pretty consistent: we’re heading for a sharp cut-off without any perks such as single market access. Most recently, the prime minister told Sky News: “Often people talk in terms as if we are leaving the EU but we still want to keep bits of membership of the EU. We’re leaving; we’re coming out.” Sterling promptly fell. Expect more of the same.

Europe: the populist wave will either break, or…

Much has been written about 2016 being a pivotal year which will assume the same historical significance as, say, 1848, 1914, 1979, or any other ominously portentous date you vaguely remember from school. The Western liberal order, we are told, is crumbling before our eyes.

Well, maybe, maybe not. Important elections are taking place in 2017 in Germany and, particularly, France, which will give us a clearer indication of whether the populist surge is the explosive arrival of a new epoch or the last rattling gasp of the old one. No, I won’t say who I think is going to win.

People will keep making inaccurate predictions

The last few years have been tough for psephologists. Pollsters, political scientists and ten-a-penny pundits have all been routinely embarrassed by confident pronouncements which later proved not to be worth the Twitter feeds they were posted on. One thing I can say about 2017 with absolute certainty is that this will continue.

Written by Nick Reading, Senior Account Manager (@NickReading1)

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