Monday, 4 January 2016

Top five political predictions for 2016

Making predictions can lead to trouble. People either get unhappy with the prediction and / or the prediction turns out to be wildly wrong. The media is always eager to use comment and speculation by experts as a helpful way of explaining often complex issues. During 2015, I was really pleased to have appeared on a range of media including the Today Programme, BBC World News, and Share Radio as well as having comments included in the Times, Le Monde, Daily Mail and CNBC.

So as we near the end of 2015, what can we expect from the political news for 2016?

  1. Jeremy will be challenged (or will live to fight until 2020). The elections in May – particularly those in Scotland and London – could seal the fate of Jeremy Corbyn one way or the other. There is speculation that Labour could come third to the Conservatives in Scotland (more likely in terms of votes than seats) which would be a disaster for Labour. From Labour having led the Scottish Government to being the third party in the space of a few years could signal a challenge to Corbyn. Losing to the Conservatives in Scotland would be hugely symbolic. It was also implicit in Corbyn’s anti-austerity message during the leadership election that places such as Scotland would return to Labour. However, if he can get through May then there will be little to stop him going through to fight the general election in 2020.

  2. The collapse of UKIP. There are a number of problems facing the party that seemed to dominate politics in 2014 and into 2015. Despite the setback in not gaining seats at the election, it did well in terms of share of the vote. Now they face the prospect of financial backers spending their money on the European referendum campaigns and most damaging of all, the emerging fight between Nigel Farage and the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell. Unless the party can get fully focused in the early months of 2016, it will be irrelevant in the European referendum campaign. Also recent history suggests that the momentum of such surge parties rarely lasts – see both the Green Party of the late 1980s and the Referendum Party around the 1997 general election as examples.

  3. Europe will come to the boil. By the end of 2016 we will know whether David Cameron’s strategy has succeeded and whether he has a deal he can sell to the British electorate. At some point during 2016 as well, both the pro- and anti- campaigns will really start to get going. Full page adverts in newspapers, constant complaints about bias in the media and a constant European angle on stories will become the norm (especially if the referendum looks likely to be held in early 2017). Both sides will be looking to build up some momentum during 2016 so that they can dominate in 2017.

  4. No decisions on airports. Despite the ridicule that followed the lack of a Government decision on the recommendations of the Davies Commission, there is no guarantee that a decision will come in 2016 either. Details of the new air quality studies have yet to be announced. Then how will the Government consider these and, critically, will there be any further consultations around the issues, for instance on the findings of any new reports. So whilst a vague mention of Summer 2016 has been made, that does not mean a decision will be made. The Government has shown that it is happy to ride out the adverse comments from, especially, business so there is no reason why it will not do so again.

  5. Open season on charities will continue. The media was full of stories about charities during 2015 and there is little to suggest they will stop trying to run them in 2016. Along with Thomas Cook, ranked the top corporate crises of the year by PR Week, charities could hardly be knocked off the front pages this year. Added to that were Government and other reports as well as various inquiries by Parliamentary committees. All of which also added to the coverage and criticism. Charities need to ask themselves the difficult questions and be ready if the media, or the regulator, comes calling again in 2016.

This blog was written by Stuart Thomson and was originally published on the BDB Law blog. Stuart’s book, ‘News, Views and Hullabaloos’ is now available through Urbane Publications.

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