Political Predictions for 2023. You’ve got to be kidding after 2022!

Only a fool would venture to make any serious predictions about what will happen politically in 2023. After all who called 2022? Anybody? From Johnson resigning to Hancock on Celebrity TV to the Truss v a lettuce premiership you couldn’t have made it up.

I have waited to write this weeks blog because I saw the two big speeches from Sunak and Starmer were being trailed, and I might have something new to say! I have to admit it wasn’t worth the wait for the Sunak speech. As Chris Mason from the BBC put it to the PM in the Q&A section – “was that it?”

There are a number of ways 2023 will be seen though. It is the final year (if he survives) before Sunak can define himself ahead of a General Election. And it is the year that Starmer and the Labour Party need to define what they are for in the eyes of the public ahead of an election. Despite the poll leads for Labour the outcome of the next general election is far form certain.

I get the feeling Sunak has no big ideas or political drive. I am still to understand what he is in politics for. He doesn’t look comfortable and is certainly a really poor orator. The big idea to emerge from his speech aside from the 5 pledges ( A tip to those who remember the Labour 1997 Pledge card!) was making maths compulsory to those in school up to 18. Really. Seriously. It has been quite easily ridiculed on social media. I am also unsure which group of voters were supposed to think – “yes the economy and country are going to the dogs and what we really know is a bit more Algebra.” I hear his wife wanted to make it known they were more in touch than people believed so some of her friends briefed Tatler magazine to say as much. It all seems a little bizarre from No10 and the Instagram PM looks a little creepy.

The speech highlighted just how out of touch he is with the mood of the country. I do keep banging on about it but it feels as though we live in a country in decline and unprepared for the size of the problems we face. I feel angry about the state of the country.

However, whilst those of us who follow politics will have seen how facile these pledges are – the general public will not have been following the clever threads on twitter which debunk the pledges and show what a waste of time they are. Sunak needs a narrative that gives him a glimmer of hope in 2024. If he can convince enough people that inflation falling and some slight economic growth are down to him and that he should be given longer to do the job, he may survive by denying Labour a big working majority. It is certainly what I would expect their message to be in 2024.

We have been a country unwilling to face up to our decline for over a century. As highlighted in this excellent New Statesman Leader. The last decade has accelerated this problem thanks to Austerity and Brexit. We live in a society with the toxic combination of high inequality and low growth added to an overvalued sense of our position in the world.

In response the Starmer speech seemed much more serious and well balanced. It could be summarised by one phrase he used – We need to push forward and rise to the moment, prove we can be a bold, reforming government. That’s his task this year. Don’t mess up and show Labour can be a bold reforming government in waiting.

He has been cautious in rebuilding the Labour Party and for many this will be disappointing. More vision is probably required but the cautious approach I am afraid is right. Labour has not won the election yet. And there are many competing groups of voters who need enticing inside the tent!

The problem for Starmer is obvious. He has to deal with the issues that hold Labour back in the eyes of the general public. These remain his leadership, Labour’s spending plans and the hang over from the Corbyn years. My friends on the left will hate this, but just listen to voters and depressingly too many people think the ‘hard left’ is waiting in the wings to take over a Labour government. It is irrational nonsense but if that is a perception it needs tackling head on. He has done as much as he can to show he has changed the Party. But this year it will be about how much he can show how he will change the country for the better with the limited economic resources he will inherit from the Tories. The economy wasn’t great in 1996-97 when we came into office but it was nowhere near the mess he and Reeves will inherit. Being exciting whilst being realistic I am afraid isn’t as exciting as promising to spend £billions more!

Some of the Big issues in 2023.

The NHS is in Crisis. Every year we see those headlines so we tend to just accept them without giving much further thought. But it REALLY does feel this winter the NHS IS in crisis. A deep crisis.

I am not one of those who simply believes that the NHS is the best in the world and that all it needs is more money. Generally and objectively the NHS is not the best health system in the world in its delivery and outcomes for patients, although the fact that it remains free at the point of use is to be envied. We have to be capable of accepting that we cannot just spend our way out of the current position. This is a really difficult message to get right politically. When people talk about ‘reform’ it causes a different reaction. In relation to the NHS people get edgy. They assume its privatisation, as if no other kind of reform is possible. I am not sure how we got stuck defending the 1945 settlement for the design of the NHS and why we can’t look to better health care models around the world that are still free at the point of use, but are delivered through differing systems. Having said this money is important. As this graph shows we manged to make a massive difference to waiting times and lists in the last Labour government. It is criminal what the Tories have done with our legacy since 2010. Austerity was a choice not an economic necessity.

Transport – makes Britain feel it just doesn’t work any more like so many public services. Again reform is needed and plenty of models from across Europe look far more attractive. It doesn’t have to be full on nationalisation v Privatisation. There is so much potential for getting a mainstream consensus about what a decent public and integrated transport system could look like. Look what is happening where Labour Mayors are taking over Bus services. Still far from perfect but setting out on a plan to deliver a proper and affordable service. What we have locally is a joke. But will the public continue to back the strikes if the inconvenience continues? I have had too many occasions recently of being impacted by the strikes. Events cancelled and family members left stranded with no way to get home. At the moment I blame the government and support the staff in their desire for rail safety and decent wage. I feel the same for Doctors and Nurses, but I wonder how long the general public will stick with the strikers.

The economy and cost of Living Crisis is at the heart of this governments’ troubles. Levels of poverty and inequality are impacting every community. This is no longer about ‘feeling the pinch’ but for millions being unable to heat their homes or put food on the table. It is impacting families who thought they were ok and wouldn’t find themselves making such difficult choices.

I am not 100% sure Sunak will last the year but as yet a don’t see an alternative. From the outside -because of the chaos from last year – he makes it look a stable government. To the public not interested in the drama of Westminster boring might look ok. But the divisions in the Tory Party run deep. They must decide how they want to lose the next election and the various factions fighting it out will make matters worse for them. As I said earlier I am not sure what Sunak is for, so Party management will decide the fate of the Party

Brexit will remain an issue as more people regret what has happened as it slowly destroys our economic competitiveness… just as we said. Politicians from most Parties are still too scared of running the 2024 election on a Brexit theme so the public will be ahead of the politicians on this one for a time. The Polling I shared this week from the Independent highlighted the shifting sands and was my most widely shared tweet of 2022! 

https://twitter.com/AndyJReed_OBE/status/1609841933483999232?s=20&t=Gq0I0ntvjkj4RYbQnUwqZw

So quick fire predictions:

Sunak will survive – just. But more Tory MPs will resign the whip. Parliament will be impossible to manage as the ERG exert more pressure on Sunak and his government. Starmer will continue to set out a vision that chimes with the mood of the country but the caution will continue to frustrate many on the left. Sadly I think the war in Ukraine will drag on for the year. The Brexit disaster will continue to unfold and linked to his internal strife with the ERG Sunak will find it impossible to find simple and sensible solutions to the problems. Having said that the mood music on the NI protocol sounds good. It will be the year the majority should take on the DUP and ERG and get a sensible and workable solution! The economy will continue in recession and Unemployment will rise. Industrial unrest will continue over the year, as the government tries to ‘take-on’ the Unions. Hoping the public will take its frustration out on Labour and the Unions not them! This is a high risk strategy!

Something completely different…

And finally. I was recalling a piece of casework I did right back in 1998, when sadly a young man died whilst he should have been looked after better by the Social care system. If I had my time again I would have dug a lot deeper and been far more critical of the system. I had just come straight out of public service and felt that all parts of the system were there and set up to look after vulnerable people. I think over the last 25 years I have learned to to be less trusting of authority and not to assume ‘the system’ was right and everybody did their best. I was asked if I had regrets and had learned from mistakes. This is certainly one family I would like to go back to and say sorry. We never got the full truth about what happened to your son. I wish I had pushed even harder.

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