I’ll start all this by saying I’m quite glad 2015 is almost at an end. In political terms, this was a year to survive as opposed to savour (unless you’re a Tory or a Scottish nationalist). Both of the large centre-left parties in parliamentary terms (actually, to avoid fights let’s rephrase that as the two largest non-Tory parties in the Commons on 1 January 2015), Labour and the Liberal Democrats, entered the year each with realistic hopes of being in government at the end of it. Both lost the general election, at a level much worse than a worst case scenario for either, to the benefit of the Conservatives who gained a majority no one, they themselves included, thought was possible.
After the champagne had been drunk, however, Cameron and Osborne found themselves faced with having to do all of that stuff in their manifesto they had never intended to do, things that had only been put there to please their right-wing with the idea being the Lib Dems would block it all in Tory-Lib Mark II. But thus far, that storm has been weathered rather well. I thought there would be endless fights between different factions of the Conservative Party, but they have been a remarkably tight ship. I doubt I’ll be saying that this time next year when the EU referendum has come and gone, but Cameron is always full of surprises.
Labour meanwhile, well, it hardly needs saying it’s been a bad year for them. To go from the biggest worry being potential coalition partners and their toxicity to being on the verge of existential destruction is quite the journey. It’s been no less harrowing for Lib Dems, who have seen their party go from being in government and talked about daily to an almost total disappearance from British public life.
Can 2016 be as weird a year for British politics as 2015 was? That’s a high bar to jump, but you never know. The EU referendum could have a few twists and turns in it yet, and the aftermath will be something to behold, I suspect. Plus, Corbyn is planning a night of the long knives extremely soon, with most of those who defied him on Syria destined to return to the backbenches to make way for loyalists. What happens then, is well, I’d like to say unpredictable, but it is actually entirely predictable: nothing at all. The moderates will lick their wounds in silence, hoping Jeremy stuffs up some more things making a coup a possibility. Corbyn will screw up, possibly monumentally in the next twelve months – it will not make a blind bit of difference to whether he remains leader or not. Jeremy Corbyn’s health is the only thing that will determine whether or not he will end 2016 as Labour leader.
And what of the Lib Dems in 2016? Brightest spot should be the May elections, where losses from 2012 should be gained back from Labour in a healthy chunk. If not, it is something to worry about for the party: the re-found purity of opposition not enough to make up for losing the “a pox on all your houses” tag.
Both will be in the same position as this year unless Labour implode completely. Lib Dems don’t know how close they are to the masses and their votes but 2 linked issues (used to be 3 till they firmed up on defence) will leave them static. The first is perception that they are euro groupies and will give our powers to grey men in Brussels . The second is immigration. Do not underestimate the feeling of resentment and anger of the working and middle classes of feeling like foreigners in their own town centres. Fortunately UKIP are still full of racists but if they get their act together they could progress like the SNP have in Scotland.