2021 was basically a cover version of 2020. Not a real great cover version like Hendrix doing All Along the Watchtower, but the sort of stale insipid cover version used to advertise mobile phones.
As predicted Brexit did indeed turn out to be a shambles, and the Government did nothing to mitigate the problems it caused. Shelves were emptied on a regular basis and the whole UK supply chain is stretched beyond belief. The only reason that there weren’t worse crises of supply this Christmas was because super markets and their stockists worked over time for months to fix it. These temporary fixes can’t go on forever, as companies struggle to recruit reinforcements for burnt out staff. the ratcheting up of Brexit restrictions in January and July 2022 will only make things worse
Rather than admit they signed a crap deal Government have claimed:
1. there are no problems with shortages of goods or workers
2. there are shortages of goods or workers but it’s nothing to do with Brexit, it’s a global problem
3. the shortages of goods and workers are a good thing – they are part of creating a new high wage economy
People who believe in Brexit will believe each of those narratives, even if it means believing the opposite things from one day to the next.
This isn’t unusual, Brexit has always had these strange dissonances:
- The EU is simultaneously over powerful all might empire and a weak dysfunctional bureaucracy ready to fall apart any moment
- The EU is bound to give us a big deal because we are a big economy but also that we should leave because the EU is terrible and slow at making deals with big economies
- If the EU gives us a great deal that proves we. were right to leave AND if the EU doesn’t give us a great deal it proves we were right to leave
- If we leave the EU can do nothing to stop us flourishing AND it is also spiteful and vindictive and will punish us for leaving
- Threatening to leave with no deal is a great negotiating tactic because of the damage no deal will cause but also that no deal is nothing to be scared of and will cause no damage
- Brexit will make us more global but also make us buy locally
The Public Accounts Committee did indeed find massive evidence of corruption in the award of Covid contracts, and over the last few months corruption has come to define the current Government.
Boris does stagger on. For most of this year he looked stronger than ever due to the success of the NHS with vaccine roll out. Right now he looks weaker than ever and his colleagues are publicly on manoeuvres. I don’t fancy his chances of surviving another 12 months.
His one advantage is that the crowd jostling to replace him are a poor bunch. For a couple of hours after the budget Sunak looked like the heir to Blair, now he just looks like a cosplay George Osborne.
Starmer has managed to build a decent poll lead over the Tories, but this is due to softening of the Tory vote, rather than a big leap forward for Labour. The Red Wall in particular are values voters; they backed Boris over Corbyn because they saw more of their own values in Johnson than Jezza. but among their values is a deep seated sense of doing the right thing, sticking by the rules. The same gut instincts that led them to the Tories on issues like benefits and immigration now turn them away
Some of these voters may well drift back to the Tories, but the Tories still have a huge problem when Boris goes – BoJo was such an unusual Tory that he was able to present himself as a clean break from the shambolic cruelty of the Cameron and May eras. The Tories will almost certainly replace him with a more conventional Conservative, who will be much more burdened by 11 years of mismanagement of pretty much everything, particularly with a much sharper and more competent Labour front bench to face up to.
Corbyn did spend a lot of 2021 in court, and has lost all of his hearings so far, and it is only delays with the UK court system that kept things from getting worse. He awaits the verdict in his first libel trial and and the start of his second. He hasn’t left the Labour Party completely to join Peace and Justice Ltd, but he has no way back. In Spring Labour will be picking it’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Islington and it won’t be Jezza. This will lead to a formal spilt, and a I expect (hope) a couple of his mates will go with him – Diane Abbott is standing down at the next General Election and she will probably leave Labour for P&J Ltd, as will Zarah Sultana if she is deselected as PPC for Coventry. Another Corbynite Sam Tarry will struggle to avoid being deselected in favour of Jas Athwal.
Claudia Webbe is still facing a recall petition if she loses her appeal. Whichever way she is doomed as an MP, will never be allowed back into Labour and if she stays in the House will join Jeremy and chums in Peace and Justice Ltd. Former Corbynite MP Jared Mara faces a criminal trial next year too.
The main reason why Labour took so long getting traction on Tory sleaze and corruption is because they had to put their own house in order, which Starmer is belatedly doing.
Trump spent less time in court than Corbyn, but the net tightens around him on multiple fronts; the Manhattan DA is investigating corrupt business deals, financial crimes, federal tax fraud, falsifying business records, grand larceny, and scheme conspiracy, has sworn in a Grand Jury and arrested the Trump Organisation CFO. The New York DA is also conducting a parallel investigation into financial fraud relating to real estate deals. He faces a criminal investigation over his attempts to overthrow the election result in Georgia, and a civil rights case in Michigan. Following the January 6th insurrection the Washington DA is holding a criminal investigation into Trump’s role, Congress has it’s own House investigation and has charged a number of Trump allies with contempt, and there is a tax probe in Scotland over his golf course. In addition there are at least half a dozen civil cases against him.
I expected that the net would close on Trump faster, but I suspect this is due to prosecutors building watertight cases rather than a lack of evidence. It could be that the lack of legal action against Trump is because he is innocent, it could be that the prosecuters lack the courage to take on an ex-president who still has lots of violent and heavily armed followers
Or it could be that Trump’s laywers are dragging out the legal process for as long as possible while Trump fleeces his gullbile supporters for millions in appeals for funds.
I don’t know which is true, but with Trump I would follow the money – his desperate need for cash has been his main motivating factor for a long time
Trump, still cares little for the rule of law or history’s shame with a double impeachment, and his facility for out-of-bounds political behaviour is limitless. He currently believes himself to be untouchable, and calculates that by portraying any investigation into his actions or corruption as a political act against him he can reap political reward greater than any legal risk.
I think he is wrong, but he is so privileged and shallow that he believes he can act without consequences. If he is right and I am wrong American democracy is doomed.
Trump won’t be the candidate in 2024, but he will still be the Republican kingmaker and will insist on one of his own family taking over.
If the votes are counted legally they will lose badly, but I have no faith that will happen.
Covid conspiracism continues and is spreading in a range of forms from anti-lockdown campaigners to full on QANON. Each conspiracy is a gateway to others, even madder. I’m banned from several QANON webforms along with several pro-Corbyn Facebook groups, but the way conspiracy theories merge is common to both. In the internet age is is easy for someone with a crazy idea to find others who share it. They join on line communities where they are exposed to a wide range of other batty ideas. Bit by bit they adopt all the other daft ideas to fit in. Trump fans believe Covid conspiracies alongside election fraud myths and George Soros fantasies. Corbyn FB groups share Covid conspiracies alongside crazy ideas about Zionists controlling the media and the Labour Party.
The one thing I got wrong was predicting a balance of payments crisis. UK balance of payments got worse, as imports increased and exports fell. Instead of leading to a balance of payments crisis, or a Black Wednesday event it created an inflation problem instead – inflation has risen to over 5%. The reason why the crisis didn’t happen is due to Gordon Brown – his controversial decision to reduce out gold reserves and increases holdings of Dollars and Euros has made the UK more resilient to currency speculation and balance of payments problems.
The UK is still likely to face serious pressure due to trade imbalances – whether this ends up with an inflation crisis of a Black Wednesday is uncertain but further serious economic problems are guaranteed.
So what will happen in 2022?
The UK Government has raised taxes to Blair era levels and voters will be expecting similar performance in public services
The preoccupation of the Blair government was making sure that people would notice the new money being spent. They had to see something for their taxes, and Government was ruthlessly focussed on delivery
The Conservatives massive problem is that they don’t have that kind of focus or comptency. They also have the huge problem that for most Government departments real terms spending is still lower than it was in 2010 even though taxes have gone up
Thats because the costs of pensions and the cost of providing NHS care to an elderly population have increased much faster than inflation or government spending. All of the increase in taxes has gone to fund these priorities with nothing left for anything else. Add to that the 2% hit to GDP caused by Covid, and for most Government Departments it all feels pretty austere despite the tax hikes.
What then happens to taxes when the 4%+ hit to GDP from Brexit works through?
Governments claims to be levelling up will have to be achieved with capital projects rather than by increasing government spending in areas. Even those funds are limited, which is why Northern Powerhouse rail was cancelled, to mass outcry.
Boris’s problems will multiply. The massive problem with Boris is that no problem is every solved, it is just bodged enough to keep it off the front pages long enough for Boris to “change the narrative”. He left himself with a huge number of hostages to fortune – Covid, the NHS, the Housing market, Northern Ireland, food supplies, inflation, the labour market, sleaze, easiest deal in history, 40 new hospitals, etc.
Any combination of these problems can and will come back to bite him
His great strength was that he had no fixed ideological position, he didn’t really care for policies, all he wanted was attention, and power. This has always been a massive asset for him when campaigning. he could be all things to all people. Global and parochial, liberal and authoritarian, Thatcherite and Keynesian.
This however is a problem when governing because there is no one group in the tory party who are behind his ideological vision, no-one who will fight to the death for his political project. Because there is no political project, just his ego.
Working in a red wall seat I still meet people who are sticking by Boris right now, particularly those who joined the Tories from UKIP/Brexit Party rather than labour. Labour try and pin him down as incompetent, lazy and snobbish, but this doesn’t cut through because the people who voted for him knew that beforehand
The issues which concern them the most are the failure to stop immigration, his support for policies to mitigate climate change, and Covid restrictions. This list may sound incoherent – migration is way down, and the Covid restrictions have ended, but they are powerful none the less.
The NHS will be one of the hottest political issues in 2022. Waiting lists and times aren’t going to fall for a very long time, and GP access is going to be a massive issue over the next few years.
There is extra money going into the NHS, to deal with the backlog of cases due to Covid, and to deal with an ageing population, but the big problem is staffing. The NHS is critically short of staff, and those staff it does have are exhausted and demoralised. The additional funding isn’t going to do much to change that.
The only way to address is this by finding efficiencies that allow fewer clinicians to see more patients- for example by GP telephone consultations. For those of us who work for a living telephone appointments for GPs are quick and convenient. But we are only a tiny fraction of GP appointments,.
The largest single users of GP appointments are OAPs. The sad fact of British life that we rarely talk about is loneliness. Old people are terribly lonely, and anxious.
They don’t want a quick and convenient telephone appointment. They want to spend a whole morning driving to the GPs, parking, chatting to the receptionist, hanging around the waiting room in the hope of bumping into someone they know. They want to see the GP face to face, if only to talk about the article they read in the Daily Mail health supplement. The same way that they want to visit the bank and talk to the cashier rather than bank on line.
For these patients efficiencies are just reductions in quality.
Because the Government depends on the votes of old people their priorities are the Governments priorities
It is hard to see how the Governments commitments to older voters and the need to make the NHS more efficient can be resolved any more easily than the Governments commitment to a jingoistic antagonistic version of Brexit can be reconciled with the need to recruit Doctors and Nurses from abroad
There is a huge battle going on within the NHS about how much control NHS England and DH have over NHS organisations.
For the last few decades Trusts have been pretty independent and able to make their own decisions – that worked well during Covid where NHS Trusts performed miracles while DH messed up everything it touched – PPE, Track and Trace
The current Government wants to reign in that power and give DH more control for messaging reasons – they don’t want the NHS tell people if they have no money, or there are shortages of Doctors and Nurses. This is a disaster waiting to happen
Clearly there are a group of senior NHS CEOs, including The Jim Reaper, who want to keep their independence, but who also feel that they can be publicly rude about the PM.
For a lot of this year Labour looked like they still still hadn’t hit the bottom yet. At the last general election the Brexit Party did them a huge favour in Northern Seats. Without the Brexiters splitting the right wing vote Labour could have lost half a dozen seats in the North East, including all of Sunderland, dozens across the UK. If there were elections in Sunderland Labour could lose all of those seats just like Hartlepool. Even Durham City is a marginal if you take out the Brexit Party votes.
It’s not just polling numbers which have changed. Ed Davey visited Chestham and Amersham 18 times, but didn’t set foot in Batley and Spen. Keir Starmer likewise gave the Buckinghamshire seat a wide berth.
We aren’t in Grand Progressive Alliance territory yet, but voters are aligning to get the Tories out with a tacit nod and a wink from the leadership.
In many ways Starmer’s performance has been incredible. when he took over as leader Labour were 26 points behind the Tories, now they are a couple of points ahead. By any definition this is a superb performance particulary given the Covid crisis has given the Tories endless airtime, but he still lacks energy or a clear set of policies to define him. Now is his time to find some.
US politics and mid terms could be better for the Dems that expected, but they still have the Manchin Sinema problem – they need to deliver meaningful change which is blocked by their own Senators. Biden has lost his losers early, and if he can deliver he can rebuild his popularity.
His big advantage is that he is up against a contemporary American fascist movement led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. They are united around a leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump. Trump still doesn’t appeal to the vast majority of Amercians and that’s not going to change.
Rest of the World
The last decade has been great for Russia. They carried out assassinations on British soil with impunity, interfered in the US elections and the Brexit vote without any meaningful sanctions, and annexed part of the Ukraine. They can count on the continued support of large parts of the Republican and Conservative Parties including Boris Johnson, a one man security disaster waiting to happen
Their next step will be to re-open the Balkan conflict, a direct challenge to the EU and NATO. Bosnia and Heresgovnia is federal with different repulbics within it reflecting different ethnic groups. Russia is backing Republika Srpska, the Serbian part of secede and unite with Serbia. Is is hard to see how the West can stop this, nor how it can be achieved without a lot of bloodshed
Russia’s client state Byelrus are using refugees to try and destabilise the EU by amassing refugees on the Polish border in revenge for sanctions against their autocractic leader
The odd thing about Putin is that for all he gets his own way he is still insecure and keep to hide any vulnerabilities behind a brutal facade. This is a typical problem for autocrats. They strip away any checks and balances that might provide a check on their power, only to discover that those were the same checks and balances that protected them from being replaced or eliminated.
Of course, post Brexit Britain is irrelevent in these debates, a sad precense on the periphery of global politics, waving union jack bunting in the vain hope that someone notices us. Our Government uses foreign policy posturing to distract from domestic policy failings. We have an aircraft carrier in the South China seas, and a Destroyer off the coast of Ukraine, but with no idea why they are there, or what they would do by themselves if a conflct were to break out. People call Boris a jingoist, but they miss the rest of the song, written about an earlier conflict with Russia?
The ‘Dogs of war’ are loose and the rugged Russian Bear
Full bent on blood and robbery, has crawled out of his lair
It seems a thrashing now and then, will never help to tame
That brute, and so he’s bent upon the ‘same old game’
We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men’ we’ve got the money too
Our problem is that we don’t have the ships, or the men, or the money, or any clear idea what we are doing.
I make no apologies for posting this again
“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true… Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”