David Radestock (who, for the purposes of smugness and ridicule come the end of 2014, tweets here) gazes into the Pagefield crystal ball and makes some political predictions for the year ahead.
#1 UKIP win, then crumble
There is a very good chance UKIP will come out top in the European election ballot in May. There is even a chance this success will translate to an impressive showing in the corresponding local elections. But that may well be it for the party as a meaningful force. Farage will be excluded from the TV debates (full details of which will be announced at some point later in the year), and the electoral machines of the major parties will begin to use their experience to squeeze their competitor. This is not to say UKIP won’t be influential come the general election, but 2014 could be decidedly less rosy than 2013 for the party.
#2 Decoupling goes public – and personal
This is one of the safer predictions we can make – the two coalition parties have to start separating and differentiating themselves before the general election. But this may not take the form of policy differences and co-ordinated spats. Politics is increasingly personal, and there is no reason for this process to be any different. Expect claim and counter-claim to be made in terms of personnel as much as politics and policy, and expect it to get messy.
#3 The more things change, the more they stay the same
Such is the public antipathy with politics that neither major party seems able to do much to radically shift the needle. Improving economic conditions may help the Tories narrow the polling gap, but only if voters begin the feel the effects on their daily lives. Similarly, Labour’s policy review may begin to deliver some favourable ideas to claw the points back, but only if voters truly believe they can be delivered. Come the end of 2014, expect the landscape to be unremarkably similar.
#4 Game changers
As we move closer to the precipice where every event, no matter how small, is viewed through the filter of an upcoming general election (if we’re not there already, that is), the number of events labelled as ‘game changers’ will increase. Already we’ve had Ed Miliband’s conference speech held up in such high esteem, but there will doubtless be others accorded the questionable mantle. Our prediction is therefore that no single event will have repercussions that genuinely affect the election outcome, no matter how they are portrayed at the time.
#5 A Kingdom united
In amongst media disinterest south of the border, and campaigns which may well later be deemed unworthy for such a historic choice, Scotland will vote to stay in the UK. It will be closer than the polls are currently showing, with Alex Salmond to the fore, but never close enough to ignite the passions of the masses. A truly momentous occasion will pass into the history books as a damp squib, but not without consequences. The SNP may well realise they are out of time to regroup before defending their Westminster seats in 2015, and Alistair Darling, reputation secured, will lead the charge for a Scottish Labour landslide.