Peter Bingle sets out his political predictions for 2017…
After a year like 2016 in which, with very few exceptions (me!), every political commentator and polling company made fools of themselves it is perhaps slightly brave to forecast what is going to happen in 2017 but as my old mentor Doris Stokes used to say …
Let’s start first with Theresa May and the Tory Party. Despite very healthy personal ratings and strong opinion poll ratings, the PM and her closest aides know that Tory MPs are in a fractious mood. She has a tiny overall majority and there is a small but obdurate group of Remainers who are determined to make her life as difficult as possible.
‘Trousergate’ had nothing to do with the PM’s rather fetching if expensive leather trousers. It was merely an indication of the Tory turbulence which is bubbling away underneath the surface at Westminster. Expect more turbulence.
The PM knows that there is not a majority in the current House of Commons let alone the House of Peers to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act. It follows that she is unlikely to secure a safe passage of the Great Repeal Bill. This, combined with increasing trade union militancy and terrible Labour Party polling, is the perfect political storm and will allow the PM to argue that there is a constitutional crisis which can only be resolved by an early general election. The Labour Party will agree to a request from the Tories to find a way of neutering the Fixed Term Parliament Act. They can hardly oppose an early election can they?
The PM will win a majority of over a hundred at the general election and will then create a government in her own likeness. It will herald a new Tory hegemony in which we are governed by grammar school boys and girls! Etonians will retreat to their country estates and weep. The staff are running the country!
2017 will be another terrible year for the Labour Party. Whatever the outcome of the general election (and even if there isn’t one) Jeremy Corbyn will have retired to the obscurity of North Islington before the year is up.
Corbyn clearly doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight. His long held political views put him at odds with his own MPs let alone mainstream public opinion and there are ongoing and increasingly strong whispers at Westminster that his heart isn’t in it. Did he really try to resign during the mass resignations earlier in the year?
An early election thwarts (at least in the short term) the political ambitions of Sadiq Khan who is already showing signs of boredom at City Hall. This leaves space for three potential pretenders to the Labour Crown – Clive Lewis, Lady Nugee (Emily Thornberry) and Sir Keir Starmer. Westminster watchers will be analysing their every move from 1st January. Ironic isn’t it that as the grammar school old boys and girls take over the Tory Party, Lady Nugee and Sir Keir are best placed to take over the Labour Party?
After a crushing defeat at the general election, the Labour Party will implode and then enter its darkest ever days. The odds must be evens at best that the party will have split by Christmas. There might even be a few defections …
Under the leadership of Paul Nuttall, who gives a very plausible impression of being a Scouse bouncer, UKIP will give up the pretence of being a national party and focus instead (rather like the Northern League in Italy) on becoming the major challenger to the Labour Party in the North of England. The greater the exposure the more plausible and popular Paul Nuttall will become. If there are by-elections during the year in the North-East then UKIP is very well placed to win them.
The Lib Dems will continue to try and become the political repository of Remain voters who aren’t prepared to accept the referendum result. They might do well at the local council level but one thing won’t change in 2017 – Tim Farron will continue to be a figure of fun.
The SNP will continue to annoy and aggravate everybody who isn’t Scottish. Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems will grow even less relevant and the kick boxing Tory Ruth Davidson will become even more popular. 2017 will confirm the Tory renaissance North of the Border.
2017 will see the political rebirth of one of the smartest operators in modern politics : The Rt Hon George Osborne MP. We are going to see a softer, kinder, tieless and much more self effacing George as he seeks to rebrand himself as a political nice guy. The strategy might work. George is actually great fun and best company. He is also a Wagnerian! George simply needs to let the public see the real him. 2017 will be a critical year. If the strategy works George may still one day become Tory PM.
Conversely, the much heralded attempt by Tony Blair to return to British politics will fail and come to nothing. Some brands are so damaged they cannot be repaired.
So another great year awaits us. Hang on to your seats!