The old cliché that a week is a long time in politics never rang so true than in 2022.
Not many people sat down with their crystal balls last January and predicted we would have three prime ministers and four Chancellors, that Russia would invade Ukraine, or that we would see energy prices and record levels of inflation plunge us into a cost of living crisis.
But De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU) Associate Professor in Politics, Alistair Jones, has agreed to stick his neck out - as he does for TV and radio shows every year - and take a look at what he expects to happen in 2023!
Inflation will fall naturally – but not by enough.
For the next few months, inflation is going to come down naturally. We have already seen wholesale petrol prices and gas prices fall and that should be enough for inflation to follow suit.
To what extent energy companies keep prices artificially high in order to increase profits and keep shareholders happy is something we will have to find out.
But I think inflation will fall from a high of around 10 per cent to about five or six per cent this year. The Government target is two per cent and they are not going to see that this calendar year. They may get it down to that for the next General Election (which isn’t due until January 2025 at the very latest) but that also depends on things we may not be aware of yet, coming out of superpowers such as the USA and China.
“Yes. A week is a long time in politics. So, saying what will happen over a year is a fool’s charter!”
Is it really Hasta La Vista Baby for Boris Johnson?
“Boris Johnson said he would be back during his famous Hasta La Vista speech in Parliament after he stepped down, and he is indeed back, but there is a huge caveat attached to his return.
“He is still under investigation by the Privileges Committee for repeatedly misleading Parliament. If he is found guilty they will recommend Johnson is suspended.
“Will Rishi Sunak whip that vote or allow a free vote?
“The evidence is a mile-high showing that he lied and that he told Jacob Rees-Mogg to lie to The Queen. I envisage he will be found guilty.
“Now, if he is suspended for 10 days or more as a result of that, his local constituents could have a recall vote. If enough people recall him, then Johnson will be sacked as an MP and cannot stand in the subsequent byelection and he leaves Parliament.
“His constituents have suggested that he would be deselected. They are incensed that he has not turned up for surgeries and he has been taking paid speaking jobs and going on holiday. So, the outcome of the investigation will stop his comeback.
“It may not be a case of Hasta La Vista Baby after all!”
Local elections will be an opinion poll about the Government
There are going to be local elections at district and borough councils and some parish councils in May. These elections will not be used as a focus on local politics. They will be used as an opinion poll to how central government is doing and the nation delivering an opinion on Rishi Sunak’s performance as prime minister.
Opinion polls currently place the Conservatives as taking 20 per cent of the vote. If that were in Parliament it would be the equivalent of less than 100 seats for the Tories. The feeling is they are going to take a hammering. This happened before in Theresa May’s Government in 2019 and before that in the dying days of Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher.
The fat of the Conservative Party was cut off in 2019. We are now going to see a deep cut into the flesh. It means a lot of good Conservative ward councillors will lose their seats.
Having said that, Rishi Sunak is actually safe
Rishi Sunak will be safe for the time being, simply because there is not a viable alternative. Boris Johnson could have been that alternative, but a lot of Tories do not trust him anymore and he is facing suspension. So, put him to one side.
After that, there is nobody. If the winter turns bad and we see increases again in energy and fuel prices and the cost of living crisis gets worse or the Tories have their worst ever local election results there could be a case made to remove Sunak as party leader.
But it has already been said that the grown ups left when Boris Johnson was voted in. The parents are away and the kids who are left have had an almighty party and there is nobody to clean up the mess. So, Rishi Sunak keeps his job by default.
We still need to get Brexit done
It is six years since the referendum. Boris Johnson said he would get Brexit done and we left the EU. But Brexit is a process. There are 33 parliamentary committees still going to make sure that the Brexit process is carried forward by us and by the EU.
Politicians on all sides are saying that the Brexit Dividend – the financial benefits of Brexit – is yet to appear. The economy is four per cent smaller than it would have been if we had remained in the EU and there is still an issue surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Looking further ahead there is one scenario where Labour win the next election in 2025 and Keir Starmer says the only way to get Brexit done is to develop the Norway situation. This would enable all UK businesses to broker deals in the single market. Then in the 2029 elections it may be decided that we are a rule taker in the EU so we may as well re-join - and so there is a subsequent referendum. By that time the voting demographic will have dramatically changed. The Institute for Government has said that all those who were aged four or five during the 2016 referendum will be of voting age and most will vote to re-join the EU. While at the other end of the age scale many, the majority of whom voted to leave, will have died off. That’s only a point of view, predicated on a Labour win in 2025 and it is all a very long way off.
The war in Ukraine will continue
The war is not just affecting our economy. It is affecting the world economy. Ukraine is a major producer of grain and sunflower oil which are products we all rely on for manufacturing food. There is also an issue with Russian gas, although the majority of the UKs overseas supplies come from Norway.
The war will continue for some time because Putin’s enemies have been weeded out and he will continue as president.
Ukraine’s army is making gains as the West pledges more and more sophisticated weapons and Russia is upping its attacks on Ukrainian civilians as Putin sees the West attempting to keep Russia down via the Ukrainian troops.
The Coronation will showcase Britain to the rest of the world
The death of The Queen and the state funeral highlighted to the world how good Britain is at pageantry. The Coronation of King Charles this year will do the same.
The one question is over how this extravagance is going to be received during times of national hardship.
But I am sure the Government will feel it should not cut back on the event as it will be the first time the vast majority of the nation will have experienced a Coronation. The UK will do it well and the US will lap it up and it will be shown around the world. There will also be a feel-good factor around us all having an extra Bank Holiday this year.
Posted on Friday 13 January 2023