Will Mapplebeck doles out his predictions for the new year.
To misquote Sir Alex Ferguson; Politics, bloody hell.
2016 was crazy enough. But what can 2017 bring? I’ve got a terrible record when it comes to predictions. If you’d listened to me there would be an Ed Miliband-led Labour Government in 2015, a narrow win for remain in the EU referendum and a Rubio/Clinton contest in the US with Clinton emerging the winner.
Anyway, here’s a few predictions for 2017 that I’ll probably regret in twelve months when the exact opposite turns out to have happened.
Brexit will be triggered in March and this will start a two-year negotiating process that will likely take up too much time and energy in both Brussels and London.
However, this will be the least of Europe’s worries this year. The Centre Right Les Republicains led by Francois Fillon will win the French General Election in May – although it’ll be closer than many think.
In October I expect Merkel to hang on in Germany. I won’t even try to predict events in Italy but expect more political instability following their vote against constitutional reform which means a system that has produced dozens of short-lived post war Governments will continue.
Meantime, continued conflict in North Africa and the Middle East will drive fresh movements of migrants across the Mediterranean. That will cause more headaches for European leaders who will, in turn, sit on their hands caught between domestic concerns and the EU’s increasingly untenable commitment to freedom of movement. That means the West’s biggest political and moral failure of the early 21st century will continue in 2017.
Theresa May will have a difficult year with Brexit dominating just about everything she does or tries to do. I think it’s highly unlikely she’ll go to the country in May, a move that would be seriously out of character for a PM who looks increasingly risk averse.
Labour will hang on to Copeland in Cumbria when the by-election is held early in the year, but find its majority greatly reduced which will pile renewed pressure from the parliamentary party on to Jeremy Corbyn.
Another event that will add to the pressure will be May’s local elections in Scotland where a number of councils that are hung or Labour will go SNP. This will provide more evidence of Labour’s decline in influence North of the border. For me the only solution to this problem for Labour is a truly independent, pro-independence (but with certain ties to the Union) Scottish Labour Party, but I can’t see that happening this year.
Despite their best intentions, I think the Lib Dems pro-Europe credentials won’t lead to a revival in either their national or local fortunes. UKIP will take council seats off Labour in northern towns and cities, but I still don’t think there’s enough to provide a real shock to a Labour leadership that still lives in a North London bubble.
Outside the bubble, the election of the first Metro Mayors will be interesting. In the West Midlands I think the Conservatives will be hard to beat and will pour resource into their campaign. Expect all the mayors to become big players on the regional political scene and be feted by their respective parties during conference season.
I think 2017 might be the year the public begins to question austerity – we will have had almost a decade of spending cuts – and if Labour is clever, a quality it has not shown much evidence of over the last 18 months, it can use the social care crisis to land a few blows. The task for Corbyn is to channel some of that electoral anger and paint Labour as the insurgents, pitted against the forces of darkness on the right.
Trump’s first year will be very interesting, but I don’t think it’ll be quite as explosive as most people think. For all the foreign policy bluster, I think he’ll follow Presidential form and spend his first term concentrating on domestic issues – in his case this will mean trying to roll back some of his campaign promises.
As for foreign affairs, it’ll be the usual bogeymen. North Korea will continue to sabre-rattle but I doubt we’ll see regime change North of the 38th parallel. After all, Trump needs Kim Jong-un almost as much as Kim Jong-un needs Trump.
Notoriously hard to predict, but I’ll have a go. Obviously Celtic will win the Scottish Premiership, but I think the size of their victory this year could prompt some serious thought about whether the top Scottish teams should compete in a UK Premier League. The practicalities are hard to work out – which teams would be involved and in which English league would they start – but the Scottish league is starting to seem farcical to fans and, more importantly, to sponsors.
Still on football I’d expect England to do well in the Women’s UEFA Finals to be held in July. I think a semi-final or final spot is more than achievable given their World Cup showing.
In tennis, I think Murray will nail another major, as well as Wimbledon. At 29, he’s approaching late middle age in professional terms and I think his hunger will see him lift a trophy in the US, Framce or in Oz as well as SW19