Predictions for 2020 (better in hindsight with 20/20 vision)

 OK – it’s New Year’s Eve. Time for political predictions. They’re largely pointless, of course, since the prophets tend to be at their best explaining what has happened rather than what will happen. That said, I’ll give it a shot. The SDLP: It’s possible the John Hume party will have a resurgence that drives back Sinn Féin.  Possibe in the way that your Auntie Isobel doesn’t like using any reference to the lavatory and drinks her tea with a raised little finger, then from tomorrow will take to shouting obscenities in the faces of total strangers and to hoisting her skirt to have a pee in the public highway. Possible but not probable.Claire Hanna (am I allowed to say this or will there be an outburst of  red-eyed fury on all sides?) is a good-looking, pleasant young woman who can spin a verbal web with the best of them. The fact that it’s not always clear what her point is shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance. The other SDLP MP, Colm  Eastwood,  is youthful-looking and earnest, and he’d have to do more than win the Foyle seat again before I’d see him as having convincing leadership qualities. Chances of further resurgence:

4 out of 10.

Sinn Féin. The party has hit a patch of unique decline in seats, both in the north and the south. This has coincided with the assumption to leadership of Mary Lou McDonald, but don’t assume post hoc propter hoc. In fact her presence may have prevented further losses. She is a tough-talking woman from a middle-class background who will give no quarter to anyone, middle, working-class or smarmy toff. Expect to see a chastened SF make some modest gains, before it recovers its earlier sense of destiny and powers towards a united Ireland.

                                    6 out og 10

The Ulster Unionist Party: don’t make me laugh.

                                    1 out of 10

The Democratic Unionist Party. Would sell its soul to the Pope to get back into Stormont. It knows it desperately needs to show signs of success, otherwise people might start thinking of the Alliance Party as the other big beast in the political north. Don’t forget, they won 8 of their original 10 seats in Westminster, but on the other hand there’s talk of Edwin Poots replacing Arlene as leader, which would be the kiss of death  – if you can imagine Edwin kissing anything, or anything allowing him to kiss it. 

6 out of 10.

Alliance. Is enjoying an unpredecented place in the sun, as it sucks votes away from moderate unionism and nationalists who are afraid of a united Ireland. But we’ve been here before. When the main parties sag, they sag towards the middle. Don’t hold your breath if  you’re thinking of Naomi Long as First Minister material. (See, Virginia? You don’t have to say anything about how the public see a politician when assessing their worth. I hope you remember that.)

5 out of 10.

The Greens.  Should have made serious gains, given the public concern with the climate crisis. If they can’t succeed now, when? 

2 out of 10.

Progressive Unionist Party. If Billy Hutchinson can get his message articulated more clearly, without doubling back in every second sentence, and if the unionist working-class can see what a pup they’ve been sold for years by the DUP, a much-desired  unionist working-class party might emerge. Unlikely, though.

1 out of 10.

All in all, this should be an exciting year. Stormont will be reassembled. Both the DUP and to a lesser extent Sinn Féin believe it’s vital to their political health, which is a depressing thought. There’ll be an election in the south, which should show us if Sinn Féin is capable of re-inflating and bouncing up the voter poll once again; there’ll also be a northern election to Stormont – even more depressing – and Sinn Féin and the DUP will make impressive if modest gains.

Most important of all, as Fine Gael does the splits, trying to say it wants discussion of a united Ireland but don’t for God’s sake start talking about actually creating a united Ireland, I mean are you mad, the British economy will start to show what a brilliant idea it was to break away from a giant trading bloc and sail off on a leaky raft in search of fish wih a pearl in their mouth. Good luck with that, chaps.

Comments are closed.