Tuesday, 18 December 2012

antifrank verdict: could do better

For the last two years, I've made predictions about the year ahead.  It's important to see how these have panned out.  This year, well...

Here was the original piece:


Looking back, there is much to approve of in the original analysis.  The terrain at the end of 2011 seems well mapped and the grid for 2012 covers all the main foreseeable events.  So the predictions should be good, yes?  Ahem, let's see.

Boris will probably win the Mayoral election, but it will be a lot tighter than is currently assumed

Well, that's a good start.  Boris did indeed win by a tight margin. 

Polling this time next year won't be far off what it is now

Not so good.  At the end of last year, Labour and the Conservatives were both in the high 30s or early 40s, while the Lib Dems were languishing around the 10% mark.  The current UK Polling Report average is Con 31/32 (UK Polling Report itself doesn't seem sure), Lab 42, LD 9.  There has been a sharp swing to Labour from the Conservatives.

With the best will in the world, you couldn't say that polling isn't far off what it was last year.  (Except for the Lib Dems, who seem comatose.)  Why was I wrong?

I spotted the risk myself, and highlighted it twice:

"The net effect of all of this, when no one commands public support, seems to be that the public are following Newton's First Law of Motion, proceeding in a straight line with no outside force operating on them.

If this is correct, then we should not expect events by themselves to make much difference until sections of the public are persuaded from their current default settings by the analysis of those events put forward by one or more public figures."

"The public seems to have formed settled views of the respective merits of the three main parties. In the absence of anything persuading them to take a fresh look, they probably won't change their opinions."

What changed the public's mind?  This is easy: the Budget.  Whatever the economic rights and wrongs of the Budget, politically it was a disaster for the Conservatives.  A section of the public concluded that the rich were getting the gravy while the poor were getting the blame.  Labour's support rose accordingly.

If my comments last year about the public's detachment from politicians is correct, this may prove a major problem for the Conservatives in the year ahead.  There's no obvious reason why this polling should change.

Politicians will mostly stay put

Not too bad, I suppose.  Generally, that was correct.  The party leaders are, as I expected, in situ. 

The Cabinet went through some change, but it was quite limited, considering that it was a reshuffle year.  I named four potential departures, of whom two are no longer in the Cabinet (Caroline Spelman and Kenneth Clarke).

Chris Huhne eventually had to step down when charged and Andrew Mitchell resigned over plebgate.   Andrew Mitchell to me was the outlier - his formal offence was not particularly egregious.  But what he was accused of was resonant.

I note that John Bercow is still in office.  What a pity there was nowhere to bet on that being so.

The minor parties will continue to miss trick after trick...

You'd have to be charitable to give me many marks for that prediction.  UKIP now appear, despite their best efforts, to be taking tricks at the end of the year.   Is this a temporary phenomenon?  We'll know more in 2013.

... except for the SNP

The SNP has done OK, but it hasn't been as good a year for the SNP as 2011.  Through self-inflicted wounds, blood has been drawn.  Alex Salmond has looked slippery and the SNP's independence proposition has looked flaky at times.  But as 2012 closes, the SNP still look the dominant force in Scottish politics.

Undaunted by my mediocre predictions, I shall have another go for 2013 before the year closes.


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