- UK economic growth will accelerate throughout the year, despite problems abroad (see below). Annual GDP growth for 2013 will round to 3%.
- Bank lending growth will start accelerating by June, with broad money growth kicking in strongly by September. By year’s end, CPI inflation will be comfortably above 3%.
- The Bank of England will raise interest rates once, in November, by 0.25%, and then wait.
- Greece will fail to make a loan repayment on time to its Eurozone and IMF partners. Portugal will announce its intention to seek a voluntary debt swap from its private sector creditors, effectively defaulting. But Italy will knuckle under, not seek Eurozone assistance, and additional Eurozone flare-ups will be kept to the periphery.
- Behind the scenes, Ed Miliband’s team will attempt gently to inquire of Labour peers whether they might see their way clear to allowing the Wharton referendum bill to pass, hoping thereby to avoid having to declare either for or against an EU referendum. They will fail the first time.
- Ukip will come top in the 2014 European elections. That will not trigger any immediate crisis in the Conservative Party, but pressure for a pact with Ukip will grow. Instead, Cameron will heavily publicize the return of the Wharton Bill to the Commons. The Labour front bench will abstain on the return, and the Bill will pass a second time. The second time the Lords will pass it, and the Parliament Act will not be used.
- Following significant advances by fundamentalist forces and a widely-publicised atrocity, the Russians will intervene in the Syrian conflict, putting down the rebels brutally and establishing a new puppet regime, whilst the West watches on in relief. This will be sufficient to restore order in 2014, but an incipient terrorist/insurrectionist movement will continue the struggle.
- The Independence referendum in Scotland will result in a vote of 65% to stay in the Union. Labour will get a post-independence-referendum poll bounce in Scotland.
- Wage rises will match inflation through the year, and some Conservatives will foolishly proclaim the “cost of living crisis” at an end. The events of 2015-17 will make such declarations look ridiculous.
- By the end of the year, opinion polls will show the Conservatives with a modest lead on national percentage support over Labour, though not enough for an overall majority. Multiple Conservative newspapers and backbenchers will call openly for a pact with Ukip and a Unionist or National Liberal party to be established in Scotland. But by then we shall have nothing to offer Ukip at all, and with the improving economy and wage growth, the Conservative leadership will be content to gamble to one last push to a 2015 majority.
Henry Newman: My take from Brussels this week. The EU side wants to ramp up the pressure – not wind down the talks.
Danny Stone: Conservatives are right to fight anti-semitism – but beware making it a political football
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