A General Election: My boldest prediction is that Gordon Brown will call a honeymoon election soon after he becomes Prime Minister. In 2007 he will have the benefit of lots of media attention and will announce a raft of measures to clean up British politics and fight crime. He’ll go to the country on the basis of wanting his own mandate and polling suggests that the public won’t object to him holding a General Election only two years after the last. He’ll make a virtue out of the fact that his indebted party will be outspent by the Tories. Many pundits think Brown is too cautious to go for an early election – and they may well be right – but the economic and political environment is unlikely to get better for Labour in 2008 or 2009. Unless Mr Brown visits Her Majesty to request a dissolution of parliament in the first half of the year – a very unlikely scenario – he’ll probably miss the opportunity, however, to fight the election on the current boundaries which are friendlier to Labour and, of course, Mr Brown’s great ally, Ed Balls (whose seat will be abolished).
Conservative Party: David Cameron will lead a more balanced conservative ticket. He’ll focus a lot more on crime, security and waste of taxpayers’ money but without ditching his gentler, greener conservatism. David Davis will enjoy a more prominent role throughout the year and he’ll be charged with keeping the right of the party onside.
The LibDems: Ming will continue to limp on as his party’s leader. A group of Tories will start to organise against the possibility of Labour-LibDem cooperation in the event of a hung parliament.
Scotland: The Scottish Nationalists will do very well in the Holyrood elections but Scotland’s Tories will not join a Tartan-Green-Blue coalition.
Islamism: British politicians are catching up with the electorate in terms of concern about the hostility of a sizeable minority of British Muslims to their host country. How to deal with this hostility will become a major topic of national debate and there’ll be great effort invested in promoting moderate Muslim leaders.
Direct democracy: The internet’s influence on UK politics will explode in ways that are difficult to predict but e-surgent campaigns for and against candidates, ministers and legislation will become powerful players.
USA: Bush won’t go green in a big way as The Economist is predicting. He’ll focus on compassionate conservatism again with lots of initiatives focused on disease and poverty in Africa. The race for the Republican nomination for US President will be between John McCain and an ascendant Rudy Giuliani – who may shrewdly announce a socially conservative running mate at the start of the primary process. Hillary Clinton will enjoy a relatively easy ride towards the Democrat nomination but there’ll be excited talk of a Clinton-led dream ticket with Barack Obama.
Europe: Our continent will not enjoy any real leadership. Chirac and Blair will be exiting the stage and Merkel and Prodi lead governments that are too divided.
Australia: John Howard will face a very tough re-election battle against the new Australian Labor leader, Kevin Rudd. Should Howard lose it will be devastating for his party – already out of office throughout the nation’s states.
Global challenges: Politicians will continue to spotlight their concern for global warming and other problems – that they can do little about – and ignore problems that, although very difficult, demand more urgent action. I think of Iraq’s need for more troops, Darfur’s need for security and the deployment of missile defence systems to protect the world from nuclear proliferation.