Our Westminster insider makes some cautious bets on what to expect over the coming year in politics...
FEW IN 2015 COULD HAVE IMAGINED, let alone predicted, the political year gifted to us in 2016. A number of events that would have been year-defining in their own right happened in one 12-month period alone. Bearing this in mind, only a fool would think it was a good idea to try and predict what will happen in 2017. So here are my ‘non-binding thoughts’ on what may pan out.
NO 2017 GENERAL ELECTION. How bad would it need to get for Theresa May to call a general election when she has repeatedly said she will not? Pretty bad.
If the government wins the Supreme Court case on whether they alone can trigger Article 50 then expect the chances to be close to zero. If they lose the case then the chances increase, but it depends on the behaviour of opposition MPs and Tory Remainers. A short Bill that empowers the government to trigger ‘A50’ is fine but, if a series of amendments are added that seek the negotiating strategy to be disclosed in full or delay the triggering, it may well lead the PM to try and circumvent the Fixed-term Parliament Act.
TORY DIVISION WILL GROW. The Conservative Party is being held together by masking tape. It is really only the absence of detail on what type of Brexit is being pursued that’s holding those at the end of each wing from discarding the gloves. Once that detail is released (or leaked), then we can expect one side or the other to cry foul and make life more difficult for the government.
A BREXITEER COULD RESIGN FROM THE CABINET. The PM pulled off a neat bit of footwork when she made the ‘Three Brexiteers’ a core part of the process. Boris Johnson has had a rocky path as foreign secretary; David Davis is at the core of developing the negotiation position; but Liam Fox is presiding over a department that can’t do much formally until we know if we are in a customs union or not. If the hard Brexit starts to soften, will he stay the course?
CORBYN WILL HANG ON... UNTIL 2018. It will be another tough year for Labour with difficulties likely to spring up, including the May local elections, councillor selections for 2018 London elections, and party reforms that may open things up for John McDonnell to have a tilt post-Corbyn. The suggestion is that Corbyn may well be moving aside in 2018 if his wing can be sure of a candidate making the ballot paper and the party victories he has secured being entrenched. If by the end of 2017 he is still hanging on despite poor polls, then the pressure for him to leave will be intense.
EVERYTHING IS ABOUT BREXIT. Brexit means Brexit. It also means Heathrow expansion. And Air Passenger Duty reduction. Plus whatever else it is you want to see happen. It is such a dominant theme that, even before A50 is triggered, most other policies need to define themselves against it, or more specifically to define themselves as important to making a success of Brexit. Expect those lobbying on the big issues in our industry to be aware of this as well.