2015 Preview – Politics

To continue the preview of the year and really embarrass myself in advance, how about attempting to predict the year in politics?!

Perhaps the biggest election anywhere in 2015 is the UK General Election. My own instinct is this will see a surprisingly similar outcome (in terms, at least, of seats) as the last one. The Liberal Democrats will lose votes of course, but they will retain most of their support in seats they hold (particularly where the incumbent is defending) and thus 40 seats is not beyond them despite all. The SNP will pick up seats, but the swing will be nothing like as uniform as projections are suggesting and thus they are unlikely to make as many gains as some suspect – indeed an SNP/Labour split may see the Conservatives nick a couple of extra seats north of the border. Similar Labour/LibDem splits will also see the Conservatives gain a few seats in England, but there will also be some tactical voting by former Liberals for Labour candidates which will see Labour take some Conservative seats to repair some or all of the damage from seats lost to Nationalists in Scotland. UKIP will likely prove a headache more than anything, and may win one or two seats on the back of split votes between two or even three of the other parties, but a serious breakthrough is improbable. The outcome, therefore, will be much as you were.

What will change in the UK is Government formation. It is possible that a continuance of the current coalition will be the only possible majority, yet the Liberal Democrats cannot afford to walk into another one. The usual price would be electoral reform, but actually the current system will probably have favoured them, so they may suddenly be less keen on that. A deal for a minority Conservative government with support on “confidence and supply” from the LibDems (which could be a good thing as it would restore real power to Parliament) or outright instability (less good, but nothing like the apocalypse some suggest) are the likeliest outcomes.

A country which has the same electoral system as the UK and which has already gone through all the projected types of chaos we can expect (from Nationalists as main Opposition, splits on the Right and baffling third party breakthroughs) is Canada, whose election is due by October. This should see the end of Stephen Harper’s long Premiership and the return of the Liberals and another Trudeau.

If you want real instability, however, try Sweden (which is now not re-running this year’s election as originally planned in March, but will nevertheless struggle for stability) or, better still, Spain, where a start-up populist party has emerged atop the polls. No one would dare make any predictions there!

Closer to home, local parties will already have started to breach the timeline of the “Stormont House Agreement” by May, by which time they will also have defaulted to rowing about flags. The Alliance Party is the only party with any prospects of stemming the inevitable subsequent flow to the extremes, and even then only if it shifts from the “middle” to “way out in front”. Wherever “Unionist Unity” is attempted it will fail, as it always does. The rest of the year will see the timetable of the Agreement slip even further, with the consequent withdrawal of the £500m for “Shared Education” due to lack of agreement between OFMDFM and the UK Government, and open suggestions of a delay to the transfer of Corporation Tax powers. The year may well also see the UK Government agree to transfer Corporation Tax powers to Scotland (not least with the SNP stronger at Westminster post-May), rendering that offer less useful to Northern Ireland in any case.

What say you?!

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