The Lustig guide to 2010
Yes, it's time for Mystic Robin to make a fool of himself again with his predictions for the next 12 months.
But first, here's a quick tally of how I did last year. All in all, not too bad: I was right about the economy (although it didn't turn into the global banking melt-down that some commentators feared); I was right about Gordon Brown not calling an election and about growing instability in Pakistan (although I was wrong about the likelihood of more terrorist attacks in India); right about Obama on Iraq and Guantanamo; right about Obama delivering a major speech on relations with the Islamic world; wrong about growing unrest in Russia and China; more or less right about the elections in South Africa; wrong about the end of the Mugabe era in Zimbabwe; right about the outcome of the Iranian elections (although I didn't forsee the scale of the protests); and right about the outpourings of verbiage to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I reckon that's about 7.5 out of 10, so bearing that in mind, here goes for 2010:
1. The UK general election will be on 6 May; Gordon Brown will still be Prime Minister; the entire campaign will be dominated by discussion and dissection of the TV leaders' debates, which in the end will make little difference to the outcome: a Conservative victory with a slim Commons majority of 15-30.
2. China will become the US-EU bogeyman. It'll block a package of new UN sanctions against Iran, and will be "unhelpful" on climate change. There'll be lots of talk about Beijing "flexing its muscles"; Premier Wen Jiabao will gently remind Washington that China is continuing to keep the US economy afloat by lending it squillions of dollars.
3. The US mid-term elections will see the Democrats losing control of the Senate but hanging on to the House of Representatives with a reduced majority. President Obama will say he's "heard the people's message".
4. The US will start bombing "terrorist targets" in Yemen and Somalia following the attempted Christmas Day plane attack, apparently by a would-be al-Qaeda suicide bomber trained in Yemen.
5. The Iranian authorities will crack down hard against opposition protests. There'll be hundreds more arrests, and more protests. The regime will survive.
6. The global economy will stage a slow recovery. In the main developed economies, unemployment will remain high, especially among young people. There'll be more trouble in France among unemployed young people from Arab and African backgrounds.
7. There'll be a resumption of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians. Calls from outside for restraint will be ignored. The Israeli government will say it's determined to do whatever is necessary to defeat "Palestinian terrorism"; Hamas and the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Brigades will say armed resistance to occupation is the only option available to them. The imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti will be released as part of a prisoner swap deal; he will quickly emerge as the man everyone wants to do business with.
8. Silvio Berlusconi will stand down as Prime Minister of Italy on health grounds.
9. The extra US troops will be deployed in Afghanistan; casualties on both sides will increase dramatically during the summer, but by November (mid-term election time in the US), Obama will claim his strategy is working.
10. Climate change negotiations will splutter on, with an increasing emphasis on finding other policy options besides Kyoto-style emission reduction targets. Expect to hear more discussion from the richer countries about the need to control population growth. There'll be a furious reaction from the poorer countries.
Sorry if you find all this a bit depressing, but remember, I could be entirely wrong. Anyway, this was my advice a year ago, and I repeat it now unchanged: enjoy the company of your family and friends; admire the trees and the flowers in parks and gardens; count your blessings.