Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Forecasts for 2012

Belatedly looking back at the forecast for 2011, I got three out of the four right. Vince Cable remained stubbornly at his post, but as otherwise foretold, there was no general election, Labour won Oldham East and Saddleworth (part of an ongoing train of by-election victories) and AV failed to get past the electorate in May. If I get the lottery numbers right, I'll let you know.

For 2012, Mystic Hack sees the mists part and the following will come to pass....

There will be no general election. Unless Dave reckons that a putative post-Jubilee and post-Olympics poll boost makes the odds worthwhile, but even then I think the economy will be so dire that it would be too high a risk and I don't think Cameron's that much of a gambler. The coalition will also survive the year, although at least one Liberal Democrat minister may not. Cable seems immovable - if the waste of energy that was the AV vote, tuition fees and the European debacle didn't cause him to use his nuclear option, you really struggle to see what would trigger Cable flouncing out of the Cabinet. Perhaps Osborne barbecueing kittens in the rose garden at the back of Downing Street might be sufficient, but even then, Clegg would be arguing that this was just necessary after Labour's poor feline stewardship. Cable will only leave if reshuffled.

I've heard different commentators putting different spins on the chances of Boris winning re-election to the London mayoralty in 2012, explaining why a win or a loss would be bad news for Cameron. Actually, I think this is a lose/lose issue for Dave. If Boris wins, he continues to have a high global profile across a summer of events focussed on London and also marks himself as a winner, even in the most challenging times for the Conservative party - something that may prove attractive for the party at a later date. If Boris loses, he can cheerfully shovel the blame onto the Prime Minister, seek a safe seat back at Westminster and prowl the corridors, biding his time until the PM falls under a bus. I think we can be assured that Boris will continue to be an irritant for some time to come, wherever that may lead. Actually, I reckon that the election will be tight in London and I think it is too close to call.

Labour taking control of Birmingham City Council is an easy one, so I'm not going to predict that. The political winds have been blowing that way for some months now and with only a handful of seats required to see the council change hands, it would take a brave forecaster to bet on anything else. This isn't premature triumphalism, just recognising the reality of the situation. And no, I will not forecast the result in Acocks Green or anywhere else in Yardley.

I am going to forecast a marginal win for the campaign to bring a mayor to Birmingham, although voter apathy and antipathy to elected politicians may provide enough help to the otherwise woeful 'No' campaign. Following that, we should have a mayoral election in November, coinciding with the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The only thing I feel sure of with regards to that contest is that it is almost certain to be a Labour mayor - not premature triumphalism, but a recognition of the weight of Labour votes against all opponents. If you pile up all the Labour votes across Birmingham in elections over the last decade, you struggle to find occasions where another party could possibly win. The main contest will be for the Labour nomination and there are some strong candidates already declared, although I suspect that the fight will be a very close one between Sir Albert Bore and Sion Simon.

Economically, I suspect that we are very close to slipping back into a recession and, no matter how much George Osborne bleats about, much of the blame will rest upon his shoulders for a policy that has raised deficit reduction to the level of a fetish. Nobody believes that the deficit is sustainable, but the pace of reduction always carried a huge risk in the effects that public sector cuts have on the overall economy. Combined with the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone - which is a long way from being resolved - then I think it is more than likely we'll slide back into recession over the course of the year. That's not something that I take any pleasure in predicting - especially as my contract is likely to end at the end of March. (Job offers are welcome at the usual address...)

There's another election across the pond and this is also looking interesting. Romney looks to be the reluctant choice of the Republicans - if they can bear the taste of his Mormonism - and remains their best hope of removing Obama. That said, the economic situation in the US, while bleak, is showing some hints of the greenest of shoots and if that is sustained, I would expect voters to stick with Obama, so I'm going with a second term for the incumbent. 

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