Donald Trump will not be the Republican candidate, but whoever is will be beaten by Hillary Clinton in November.
The British will decide, by a narrow margin, to stay in the EU. This time the sighs of relief will come from Washington, but also Brussels and Berlin.
Well, that all went pretty much as expected, didn’t it?
Alright, it’s a bit unfair to pick on Al Jazeera for those predictions, when plenty of others made the same or very similar suggestions. As 2016 lurches to a conclusion, it’s worth taking stock of what actually happened this year. On the political front, as with many others, it’s been a memorable one.
Though it seems difficult to recall, the year began with David Cameron and George Osborne snug in Downing Street, sketching out plans for devolution and trying to stitch together a cohesive agenda for a full second term.
At the polls
In the spring, we had some actual elections. In London, Sadiq Khan beat Zac Goldsmith (a theme this year) to the mayoralty. Nicola Sturgeon remained First Minister of Scotland, albeit slightly short of a majority. Welsh Labour needed one more seat to win a majority in the Welsh Assembly; instead they lost one. In English council elections, the Labour Party’s stuttering performance suggested it is not close to winning power in Westminster.
The year also saw more devolution deals, and further powers for areas including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, London and the West of England. The government wants council leaders to know it won’t wait forever for consensus. North East councils rejected a deal, so the government took it off the table; an East Anglia deal turned into a deal for Norfolk and Suffolk, before further disagreements scuppered even that. More and more spending decisions are now made in our big cities, changing how businesses need to engage with decision-makers.
One nation, divisible?
One thing most won’t need reminding of is the June referendum vote to leave the European Union. There was a distinctly two-nations feel, with urban areas separated from the rural, the young from the old, and even England from Scotland. Whether it was people giving the political class a kick, a backlash against globalisation or a desire to ‘take back control’, the referendum will shape British – and European – politics for decades.
David Cameron resigned while votes were still being tallied, prompting a brutally efficient leadership contest that saw Theresa May installed in the top job. She swiftly cleaned out the Cameron allies in the Cabinet and handed the so-called ‘Three Brexiteers’ (Johnson, Davis and Fox) important portfolios relating to Brexit. A leadership contest ensued in Labour too, showing Jeremy Corbyn has little support in Parliament, but strong support from party members. Probably an episode regretted all-round, as no one came out of it well. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon came across as a woman with a plan, and is carefully laying the ground for a second independence referendum. Don’t bet against her.
Theresa and the Amazing Technicolor Brexit
The May Government is likely to be remembered in large part for how it deals with Brexit. At the moment, politicians and commentators seem more interested in painting than politics: we’ve been told that Brexit could be hard, soft, black, grey, red, white and blue. It’s hard to establish a policy agenda in the teeth of a debate about whether, when, and how we will leave the EU. If the government triggers Article 50 and begins the formal process of leaving by March, as promised, we should get some clarity.
A tale of two parties
The year of UKIP’s ultimate triumph descended weirdly into a leadership farrago: first Nigel Farage was leader, then he wasn’t, then it turned out he always had been, now he isn’t. Paul Nuttall, the new leader, will try to win over Labour voters and fly the flag for a prompt and decisive withdrawal from the EU. As they squeeze Labour from the right, the Lib Dems will try to do so from the left. In standing as the pro-EU party, the Lib Dems appear to have hit on a political strategy, which bore fruit in the Richmond Park by-election. They will certainly look to make hay with the same strategy in the future, and elections in May will show whether the party can be revived.
More than any in recent memory, 2016 has been a year of political chaos and crisis. What can we look forward to in 2017 and what will occupy the attention of the property industry? Watch this space for our preview early in January…