Ten Things That Are (Probably) Going to Happen in 2011
I'll be appearing on the Radio 4 Correspondents Look Ahead programme tonight, repeated on New Year's Day (8pm 31 Dec, 1.10pm NYD). The idea is to make bold, unambigous predictions and be proved wrong a year later, getting ridiculed mercilessly by other journalists who actually know what they are talking about. In this spirit I will offer the following Pythian utterances for 2011 (and it goes without saying all kinds of unpredictable stuff will happen as well):
1. A Euro crisis
The markets will have a go at Spain and Portugal, also maybe Belgium. If Spain stands tough and the Euro-authorities back them, the bond vigilantes will turn with redoubled force and drive Greece out of the Euro. The EU leaders will, after dithering, create finally a shrunken but more stable Euro fiscal and political union, even to the point of creating a mini-Marshall plan for Ireland, which is a crucial quasi-offshore financial haven for the whole system.
2. A big cyber attack
Iran has already suffered one in 2010, and also Google. But with so much of the Western security apparatus being reoriented to finding (and launching) cyber attacks I suspect this is the year where we'll get the first big public, ie noticeable, cyber-skirmish between states.
3. Global commodity price inflation
The same combination is out there as in 2008. A tsunami of cheap money, real growth in demand for commodities in the emerging markets, hedge fund speculation and a gold bubble. What I can't predict is whether it will burst mid-year or not. Domestically, in the UK, it probably means they will not do QEII and will switch - probably after much political pressure - to hiking interest rates. (Oh, and Mervyn King will do an interview with Newsnight.)
4. The Sarah Palin bandwagon will stall
Power is too attractive for the career politicians of the American right to see this opportunity to beat Obama after one term thrown away. By December either Mitch Daniels or Marco Rubio (both quiet men with a grasp of statecraft) will have the big mo. If it is the former, I will shamelessly replay my 30 second walking setup shot of me and Mitch in the Indiana Capitol building, at every opportunity.
5. Economic crisis in Japan
I have lifted this straight out of the CEBR's predictions but it's been at the back of my mind for months. The economy is stagnant; debt is 200% of GDP, QEII has barely touched the problem and they are acutely susceptible to the rebalancing of the Asian economy.
6. Protectionism will return to the political agenda in Britain
Not since the 1970s has any British politician advocated protectionism and no mainstream leader will wake up on 1 Jan anything other than opposed to it: but with all three parties committed to rebalancing the UK economy they will learn that other countries are also rebalancing but using protectionist means: like Peter Mandelson they will become converts to tit-for-tat measures - above all, the unstated policy of a weak pound will be pursued. There will be a "signal moment" but I don't know what it will be.
7. A rash of Labour-aligned think-tanks will appear
Labour has learned that it lost the intellectual battle while in office to think tanks on the fringes of Conservatism - the Taxpayers Alliance, Migration Watch, Countryside Alliance, Policy Exchange etc. Funded by the unions it will create the equivalents - hardline fighters for core, "gut" Labour values - leaving the IPPR and Demos looking a bit like last year's thing.
8. The Chilcot Inquiry will drop a bombshell
The theory is, here among the hacks, that Chilcot has to be, for the Coalition, a moment of closure. For that its final report has to say something dramatic. The expectation is it will probably be harder on Blair and the JIC than it was originally expected to be, and also on the actual prosecution of the war and occupation. This will allow both the Coalition, the MoD, CDAS, the wider defence and intel community and also Ed Miliband to "move on" from Iraq.
9. Ukraine will be pulled decisively into the Russian orbit
Various bods who've seen the intel insist it is being relentlessly pulled into Putin's orbit, economically and politically, becoming highly hospitable to corruption and organised crime - and there's nothing the West can do. The West does not have enough will or unity to stage another standoff with Putin over a near-abroad country anytime in the near future. The EU and Nato will draw a line at the River Bug.
10. Finally, audaciously, because I've already said it on the recording of tonight's R4 programme....
The Coalition will fall. Not because of protest, not because of unpopularity but because everytime it tries to do something serious a bit falls off the machine. If they don't get AV and Vince Cable does not get radical banking reform, then by the time the public sector job losses are eating into their popularity, around party conference time, the Libdems will call it a day. Even more audaciously I will predict the outcome: no election but a Second Coalition to be formed between the Conservatives, an inner core of Orange Book Libdem leaders and various Unionists, with a slim majority. One or two Labour rightwingers, disgruntled by Ed Miliband, may also be tempted to join. Cameron will face down the Conservative right and embrace Coalition government as a modus operandi until 2015. Labour, locked in a policy review process and possibly still reeling from (8) above, will avoid an election.
Hit the Comments button - you know you want to! And let's hear your predictions too...