Christmas is fast approaching. I know this because the Baker household is now into week five of our 4yr-old singing ‘Silent Night’ on loop… So this seems a good time to look ahead to 2017.
Fortune favours the brave
The funding crisis in social care finally started to get proper attention this week, but we have always said Theresa May enjoys more political good fortune than most (this is becoming a common refrain from others now, too). Corbyn and the EU’s financial, immigration and Russian problems all potentially strengthen her hand – and even the weather seems to be in her favour with a mild winter postponing more trouble in the persistent political Hindu cow that is the NHS. The real test is whether the Government’s luck holds until local elections next year. That is when UKIP’s 2013 surge will be tested for the first time, revealing the new lie of the land since the referendum and whether the PM can expect a Labour rout and a LibDem revival in a national vote.
Brexit means… the Industrial Strategy
In 2017, the Government will continue to use the evolving Industrial Strategy to prepare for Brexit. The Industrial Strategy has to be seen in the context of Brexit – in fact, they are practically the same thing. The former is being used to put measures in place that can be ramped up to support the economy in the event of the latter. Next year will see more interventions that bend EU state aid rules as far as possible without actually breaking them, as we will still be constrained by the laws of the club until (at least) the day we leave.
The next big thing
This year’s biggest political themes have often been misunderstood. In the American election, for example, I think the candidates’ reputation for honesty played a bigger part than anything else, with Trump’s (sometimes terrifying) candour picked over Clinton’s repeated mistake of not being more transparent about issues that might not have mattered with full disclosure (e.g. her own health, her email accounts, etc). Brexit and the Italian referendum were the result of something different – concern about a lack of accountability in politics – and unfortunately, the EU using ‘trilogues’ to avoid scrutiny of new laws is unlikely to turn that tide. In 2017, the biggest political theme could be economics. In the UK, even before we look at international trade or investment, our national finances are still precarious with debt growing uncontrollably – and we are in considerably better shape than most of our European partners. It will become more and more painful for politicians to grasp the economic nettle the longer they leave it, and any action (or inaction) will have a measurable political effect.
That all sounds a bit glum, but I am actually very optimistic about next year. Businesses are stepping up to the opportunities found in change, as business always does. Politicians are at their best when there are big problems to solve, and there are brave and good people in Westminster. And, with a small Government majority, Brexit negotiations and the economy consider, the public is remembering that politics really matters again – which can only be a good thing.