I am not normally given to making predictions, especially political ones. They have a habit of going wrong and can often be plain embarrassing.
But it’s a new year, and it has the dreaded 13 in it, no doubt it will be unlucky for some – but we can’t all be losers – so I thought I’d speculate and try and think who’ll find 2013 lucky for them.
The first nomination must be the UKIP leader Nigel Farage. He had a very good 2012, with his party climbing to 15 per cent in the opinion polls and pushing the Liberal Democrats into fourth place – and a lowly fifth place in Scotland! As the European Union will continue to stumble from one crisis to the next, and as its centralising one-size-fits-all solutions make it unpopular with practically everyone, UKIP should continue to be rewarded for doing what other mainstream parties refuse to do – countenance Britain having a looser, even independent relationship from the Brussels bureaucracy.
Two years ago Farage was nearly killed in a plane crash, now he’s flying high – and may yet reach for the stars – for if there’s a by-election in Eastbourne (that could come about if the Liberal Democrat ex-minister Chris Huhne is found guilty and jailed for dodging a speeding offence) Farage would have a strong chance of a win if he were to enter. It would change British politics – not just because it would give UKIP more prominence, but because the BBC and other braoadcasters would have to start giving a more just coverage of the party’s existence and what it stands for. It would certainly liven up the debate.
My second nomination is for Ruth Davidson, the young Scottish Conservative leader, to come out of her shell and define herself and what her Tory Party stands for. In many ways, 2013 will be a make or break year, for elections are rarely won in the four weeks of the campaign when they are held but in the period during the run-up. That’s when leaders are able to develop a personality and build a strategy that makes them contenders at the moment when the campaign actually starts. One of the many problems for the Tories over the last dozen years or so is that they have not been contenders for anything much – and the public prefers to vote for people that have a chance of holding power.
Davidson needs to find a small number of policies and messages that will become her new brand and announce that she will work with any leader after the next Holyrood elections to make them happen.
Coalition politics is the new black in Scottish political fashion and if Davidson does not position herself and her party in this way during 2013 then she will be toast in 2015.
My third nomination is that Johann Lamont, the Scottish Labour Party leader will build on her achievements of 2012 – in fact, I expect her to be awarded politician of the year during 2013. Unlike the two Edbangers, Miliband and Balls down south, Lamont is showing a willingness to confront the Labour demons – such as the facile belief that the welfare state should be a freebies-for-all state – that helped get it into the mess that lost it the 2007 and 2011 Holyrood elections.
I expect more tough talking that will upset many people, not least the MacChattering Classes – those professionals in the public sector that live on salaries attracting the higher tax rate and think their jobs, their organisations and their lifestyle choices are the model, for a modern Scotland.
The type of people that will buy Fair Trade coffee no matter how ghastly it tastes. The type of people that demand comprehensive schools for the masses but choose their kids’ education by purchasing a deluxe property – or even using independent schools. The type that demand free tuition fees for Torquil and Tasmin but don’t care that FE students face record cuts. I look for, and expect, Johann Lamont to trade in the support of these transient political transvestites – those being one person but politically dressing as another – for the real voters that drifted away to Labour but are there to be won back.
So I’m going with these three people to have a good year – but I wouldn’t bet my house on it!
I haven’t made any suggestions for the SNP or Alex Salmond, but then I generally think it will be a tough year for them and until the party addresses some of real problems facing Scotland rather than focusing on independence. As I’m trying to be optimistic the best I can do is not mention them – not that any SNP supporters will expect me to get it right anyway!
What other predictions can I make – well there’s the certainty that Hibs won’t win the cup (I say that in the hope that I jinx my own prediction); that the Washington Redskins won’t win the Superbowl despite making the NFL play-offs and that Scotland won’t qualify for the World Cup. One thing is certain – I would never have made it as a bookie!