As we say goodbye to the last, fleeting shadow of 2013, we must naturally look to the year ahead. With the general election just over 17 months away, the temperature will certainly rise in 2014, not least helped by the potential breakup of the UK in September. Certainly next year will not be boring, nor without the need to door-knock. So what can we look forward to?
Euro and Local Elections:
In May, nearly exactly a year away from the general election, we’ll go to the polls to elect our MEPs and councillors. Certainly the preparation will start in January, with a gradual build up in activity until the fateful day, the 22nd of May. Getting out the vote will be imperative, as European elections have famously low turnouts. The last one, in 2009, sported a dismal 34% representation of the electorate. The polling is favourable: the last Survation/Daily Star poll in November shows Labour with a 7% lead over UKIP, probably as the Farage aura of appeal wears off and is replaced by a smell of stale cigarette smoke and BO. Another friendly positive is the likely departure of Nick Griffin from Brussels/Strasbourg as the BNP implodes around him, as well as the home coming of Nigel Farage, as he prepares for his ascent to Westminster. Although I don’t see Labour returning to pre-1999 levels, when we commanded 62 of British MEPs, I certainly imagine we will make gains at the expense of the Tories and Lib-Dems, just like UKIP. We also must challenge UKIP’s record in office as the laziest party in Europe, cashing in their paycheques and expenses, but turning up to minimal votes or debates and, when they do, being extremely racist and/or sexist. Hopefully the council elections occurring at the same time will raise turnout and prevent any more Griffin’s from representing us in Europe.
These local elections seem also to be favourable. In London, Labour should make gains in swing councils, preparing the way to win the constituencies. The Metropolitan Boroughs seem in safe hands. Again gains will be made by Labour and UKIP at the expense of the Con-Dems. However, there is the looming implication that voters will punish Labour councils for cuts in local services, as Labour councils have been worse hit by cuts handed to local government by Whitehall. Whether this will actually happen, or, as I hope, these fears are unfounded.
Whatever happens, these elections will be a dry-run for the general election, and the party that comes out on top will definitely receive a sizeable morale boost.
September the 18th Scots will go to the polls to vote for independence or union. Alex Salmond has set out a confusing and muddled plan for an independent Scotland, with black holes in the budget and constitutional issues yet unsolved, such as the currency of the new People’s Republic of Salmond. It would also spell a one thousand year Tory Reich, as the loss of Scottish seats will mean that Labour will no longer be able to win a majority. Thankfully the polls have consistently showed a two digit No lead, although there is plenty of room for a so far ineffectual Pro-Union campaign to ruin this. Better Together must put forward not only a practical but a principled argument for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom.
When conference season comes around in September, there will be just over half a year until the general election, and the intensity will certainly be heightened. This’ll mean that the parties will be unveiling cornerstone policies in their leader’s speeches. Hopefully Milliband will announce a Labour party commitment to railway nationalisation (please) or banking regulation (pretty please). In all cases, 2014 will be the (relative) calm before the storm of May 2015, when Lynton Crosby will ensure that this general election will be the dirtiest, nastiest and most unscrupulous campaign in British history.