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Rob Ford @robfordmancs
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OK, time for my 2019 predictions thread....
1. Brexit. I have very low confidence in this, given the huge uncertainty and wide range of options but here goes:
We will go right to the edge of the A50 deadline, maybe even a little past it, but in the end May's deal will get voted through after an absolutely awful March
May's deal has two advantages - it starts with a large pool of votes, and it requires less steps to achieve than any of the other options.
With both Lab and Cons unwilling to co-ordinate on an alternative, and unwilling to work with the Other Side despite internal divides...
...I don't see how we get the necessary votes to change course on to another option. Instead, we will have another three months of steadily escalating rhetoric, backed up by no effective action at all, with both May and Corbyn content to run down the clock.
May could push the first vote back again to further this process, but it doesn't really matter IMO if she does or not. My guess is she doesn't though. First vote fails, then many weeks of ineffective efforts to find an alternative, then the sand in the hour glass runs out.
Either enough Lab MPs crack as March 29th and vote for it/abstain, or we go over the edge, and then the votes come soon after. I think latter is somewhat more likely, as it seems so far public just isn't pricing in no deal risks enough so the pressure isn't there.
2. Brexit aftermath: May govt staggers into early April, having got the deal over the line after months of ugly, ugly argument. Probably reliant on Lab votes. Does the govt fall? Change of PM? My predictions: no, and no.
First one I am really uncertain about. DUP will be hopping mad and there is a strong chance they'll pull the plug. But I don't think they will, in the end. Doing so will achieve nothing as Corbyn's Lab isn't going to offer anything better
DUP will prefer not to risk veto power over the next stage of negotiations. No DUP votes, no election. But why do I think May will survive? To paraphrase Churchill, for majority of Con MPs she's the worst possible PM except for all the alternatives.
The Cons problem is simple to state, hard to resolve: The hardcore ERG have no friends, but enough votes to get a candidate to the membership. They will put one up. Any contest ends up being ERG vs not-ERG in the final two. That goes to membership. Who would likely back ERG.
The prospect of Rees-Mogg/Steve Baker acolyte negotiating the next, even more important, stage of Brexit negotiations isn't one most Con MPs will be willing to risk. This enables May to carry on, if she wants to. Would she want to? Most wouldn't but slogging on through is her USP
I think we will have even more predictions of May's imminent demise next year than in the previous two years. And, like the Energiser bunny she'll just go on, and on, and on because the many, many factions who see her as hopeless won't be able to co-ordinate on an alternative.
3. Local elections: So we will get to May with a deal no one likes agreed, after months of truly awful political turmoil and no small anxiety, with a PM and a govt that are both unpopular, but refuse to quit. This does not sound like a good environment for Cons in local elex.
I think Con vote will tank but it will scatter - and a lot of Remain voters will be hacked off with Lab too for failing to push an alternative to May's deal. Suspect Lab, Lib Dems, Greens and even UKIP will gain ground. Cons will lose a heap of councillors and some big councils.
A drubbing in local elections is another reason I expect if govt doesn't fall during or immediately after the deal is voted through, it won't fall next year. Con MPs will get spooked by these results, and a likely fall in the polls.
4. NuKIP? If we're going to get a rebooted "Brexit backlash" UKIP with Farage back at the helm, my prediction is it happens in June - gives him the whole summer to seek the spotlight before party conference season, and media would eagerly give it him.
Will he take the plunge? I'd rate it 50/50 - wouldn't be easy but it would be his best chance to get back into the centre of the argument - with turmoil at home and lots of excited over-reaction to populist performances in Eur Parl elex in May (abt which more later).
Its a prediction thread so I've got to stick my neck out so I'll say yes...Farage will be back, either via a new party or by taking back control of UKIP (membership would hand him leadership again in a heartbeat I think, whatever Batten might want).
I expect at least one Con MP will defect to Farage's new or old outfit by the end of the year. Probably around Con conference time.
5. Will there be a new centre party? No. There will be at least one, probably several, efforts to launch one. They won't get off the ground. Lib Dems' poll ratings will finally start ticking up though (but only to mid-teens).
6. Will Lab split? Also no, I think. There will be plenty of talk again, but the same problem bedevilling efforts to change course on Brexit applies here - people agree on the problem but not on the solution, and there's no obvious leader for a split. So lots of noise but no plan
Though I expect at least one, maybe more, Lab MPs will resign the whip, probably strong Europhiles in the immediate aftermath of the A50 deadline crisis.
So, in sum, at NYE 2019 we will have: same govt with same PM; same opposition leader; both Lab and Con will be lower in the polls as LDs and UKIP/NuKIP take votes, and both will have lost an MP or two. Everyone will be even angrier but we will all still be stuck.
Which will make the final status negotiations with the EU in 2020 a barrel of laughs.
On to the US. I have at various points thought it was possible that Trump will seek to "do deals" with a Dem House, as he has basically no ideology and likes winning. I've changed my mind. Trump doesn't have an ideology, but he thrives on feuds. House Dems will be his new enemy.
So the first of two stories which will dominate US politics will be endless fighting between the White House and House Dems. Mostly provoked by Trump, with "more in sorrow than in anger" responses from the Dems. The Fed govt will shut down at least one more time.
The second story which will dominate US news will be increasingly feverish speculation over the Dem 2020 primary race. I expect at least three bubbles to be blown up, and then burst, by the media before any votes are cast. The first - Beto - is arguably happening already.
My advice when this happens is to ignore national primary polling, which just reflects and reinforces media bubbles, and look only at candidate activity, endorsements, and polling in Iowa and New Hampshire (and even there, only in the second half of the year).
Will Trump get impeached? No. Impeachment requires a super-majority in the Senate. GOP control the Senate. It isn't going to happen. The House could launch it, but it is exactly the kind of emotive partisan fight Trump thrives on so I don't think they will given they can't win
There are three gubernatorial elections in 2019 - Louisiana (Dem incumbent); Kentucky and Mississippi (both Rep incumbents). These are red states and so, based on how partisanship dominated everything in 2018, I expect GOP to win all three.
US media will over-react to this as evidence of Trump/Rep strength going into Pres election year. Outlier polls pointing to Trump popularity will be used to reinforce the same narrative (as will, once again, vox pops of grumpy Trumpers in W Virginia bars)
(I've totally failed on the numbering scheme btw so I'm just dropping it now)
European Parl elections in May: as usual, the results will be a complicated mess of national political trends and multiple cross-currents. As usual, all but a small community of dedicated Euro Pols nerds will ignore this & focus on the results which fit narratives they favour.
I expect populist radical right will be up, a little, overall, but with big variations. But couple of major advances (incl Sweden where Sweden Dems were much weaker in 2014) will be focussed on and heavily touted by usual suspects as further evidence of ever rising populist tide
Bannon's "The Movement" will fall almost entirely flat, but almost is all he will need - there will be some party assoc w/him that ticks up and grabs an MEP or two. As a result, we will be all over the papers and TV again talking self-aggrandising rubbish, in Britain at least.
Meanwhile, some flavour of new left politics - probably Greens on recent national trends - will make a more substantial advance (at least in W Europe) but this won't get much coverage as hard to square with "End Of The World as We Know It" dominant narrative
OK, on to national elections outside the UK. Going to do a whole bunch so I'm guaranteed to get some hilariously wrong.
Estonia: the liberal centre-rt oppo with a youthful leader will beat the liberal-centre rt govt with a youthful leader to first place. A youthful, liberal centre-right govt will form. The populist rad rt will increase their share, which is the only thing outside media reports.
Ukraine Presidential: What a hot mess. Support in the polling seems split across at least six major candidates and a bunch of others. I have no idea what will happen but I suggest you follow @oonuch who will be able to give you the best insights on what it all means.
@oonuch Israel: Nethenyahu continues to benefit from being the only big force in a very fragmented parliament, and so cobbles together yet another rickety coalition.
@oonuch Finland: The centre-left, the greens and the radical left all increase their vote shares and form a new government. The radical right collapses. Neither of these stories fits easily into the English speaking media's narratives, so they largely ignore the election.
@oonuch Indonesia: Incumbent Joko Widodo will win re-election. This victory for a pragmatic moderate ruling over a massive, diverse, majority Muslim young democracy will be largely ignored in the English speaking world as it doesn't fit our stereotypes about politics in Muslim countries.
India: Incumbent Narenda Modi will under-perform and narrowly lose his majority, as Indians tire of his hyper-active, polarising style of politics and punish him for some major errors like the currency shift. He'll stay on as PM by recruiting some of the small/regional parties
Belgium: The extreme complexity of the regionally polarised, fragmented party system will mean no one in Britain except @CJTerry will understand the result. It will take the Belgians two years to form a new government afterwards. They won't mind.
Denmark: oppo "red bloc" will win narrow victory over governing "blue bloc". Fragmented party system will make results hard for outsiders to understand so they'll focus on one thing: how Danish People's Party do (little change) and what it means for Rise of Populism (not much)
Greece: The centre-right New Democrats will take over from SYRIZA. Paul Mason, Owen Jones et al's interest in all things Greek will come to an abrupt end. Greece's symbolic power throughout the Eurozone crisis will mean everyone will have a bad Hot Take on this one.
Portugal: An alliance of centre-left and more radical left parties will form the new govt. This will be third EU country in 2019 where left/centre-left alliances have taken over (after Finland and Denmark). Those predicting death of the traditional left will ignore all three.
Poland: Governing radical right PiS will win comfortably, again. Probably with a majority. "Rise of populism" and "death of left" types who were quiet when Finland, Denmark and Portugal voted will suddenly have a lot to say again.
Australia: Labour will narrowly defeat the Liberals, as the cost of governing for six years and repeated internal conflict take their toll. The relatively dull pendulum swing between two established parties is a boring story so it won't get much coverage.
Final prediction: a large number of these predictions will be wrong. Some will be hilariously wrong. But they're all useful (to me at least) as a way of learning - going back over this next year will remind me what I thought, and why. I hope to learn from my mistakes!
PS: somehow missed Canada: elections there have been v volatile lately. I expect Liberals' vote will be down & they will lose their majority as Canadian rt recovers some ground. But will still be largest party, so Trudeau will remain PM (whether heading minority or coalition IDK)
If Trudeau loses ground, or loses altogether, I expect it will get far more coverage due to his international "liberal left poster boy" profile. People who ignored left victories in Europe earlier in the yr will over-interpret result as further evidence of liberal left in crisis.
PPS: Have had a few ppl ask why I haven't offered thoughts on a Scottish IndyRef 2 in 2019. Must confess I didn't address it because it strikes me as pretty implausible, though I guess the turbulence of the next six months could change that. I don't think it will though.
1. There's no time to do it before A50 deadline 2. No evidence yet that majority back independence. 3. Setbacks in 2016 and 2017 mean Sturgeon, already cautious, is even more alert to downside risks to SNP so will prefer to wait & see if opinion shifts.
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