As I get older, as, last year, a few dear friends slipped this mortal coil far too early but, in their desperately sad passing, gave us what Wordsworth called Intimations of Mortality, as I see so much hate and selfishness in this World yet also never cease to be amazed by the kindness of others, by the wonder of Nature, by the simple hope and flame of optimism of humanity, those words “peaceful, healthy and prosperous” take on greater significance and they are not passed on to you lightly.
I thought I might take a few moments to look back on last year and then perhaps we could have a few guesses at what 2017 will bring. We cannot look back on the last year without being filled with admiration for all our Olympians and Paralympians in Rio. Beating the Chinese into third place in the medal table! And the feats of Andy Murray have been heroic and historic.
It is an ancient Chinese curse to be wished to live in “interesting times”. Well, around the democratic world 2016 certainly kicked the ball out of the stadium on that one. Indeed, the ball is still in orbit!
The Great British Public voted (by, in psephological terms, a decent margin; it wasn’t close) to be done with the European Union. They wanted their Country back, they wanted to feel democratically in control again. The result of the Referendum in June was an enormous surprise to almost everyone (even Nigel Farage conceded defeat before midnight) and the Establishment Elite (especially in London and the South-east) are still in shock. The ramifications of this decision, the hows and the whens, the wheres and the whos, will define political careers, ruin some and make others, shape our economy for years to come, change the global landscape forever……..and set the people free.
We were just getting over the heart-stopping moments of 23rd June (as if it wasn’t enough that little Leicester City won the Rich Man’s Members-only Club Trophy, the Premier League, at odds of 5,000-1) when 2016 threw us all another curved ball. An egotistical, misogynistic, racist, self-publicising, staggering wealthy businessman and TV star from New York, without one minute of political experience at any level, anywhere only went and won the Race for the White House. In just a few days’ time, my friends, the most economically and militarily successful Nation in the World will have as its CEO Donald Trump. November’s staggering USA Presidential Election result saw to that. I am reminded of that lovely old joke from one of the greatest comedians who ever lived, Bob Monkhouse:- “When I was growing up, I told my parents I wanted to make a living as a comedian; they just laughed at me. Well….they’re not laughing now!”
And as such a politically momentous year drew to a close, the “deplorables” as Hillary Clinton fondly called them, the “swivel-eyed bigots” as Ken Clarke was heard to label them……the ordinary Joe’s (or Giuseppe’s in this case!) who have had enough of the Establishment Elite telling them they know best when they have delivered no real rise in living standards, enormous and immediate change to communities and social fabrics with immigration in numbers seemingly out of control and when (in Europe’s case) they are even prepared to submit to unelected, overpaid and out-of-touch officials in Brussels ………just went and did it again; in Italy this time. That upset the apple cart once more.
And where that one will end up is anyone’s guess……..but don’t rely on the prognostications of the “experts”: according to them a No Vote in the U.K. was going to lead to death of the First Born by Friday week, after we would have already been visited by a plague of locusts and financial Armageddon the day after the vote. A remarkable and pleasing aspect of the latter part of 2016 has been the resilience of the British economy to the disgraceful but palpable chagrin of the Remoaners who continue to indulge in the GRS: the Great Remain Sulk. I am beginning to believe they and their cheerleaders in the Financial Times (whose Editor actually received and accepted an Award from France for his efforts in the Remain cause; how’s that for an objective, balanced attitude to editing a serious newspaper?!) want to see our Country fail so they can smile the knowing smile of the Establishment and look down at the ordinary Jo and say “J’ai dit ca” ……..or whatever German is for “I told you so”!!
And so, Dear Reader, 2017 has arrived. What can we expect?
Well, Leicester City won’t be repeating their fabulous efforts of a year ago, that’s for sure. But no gloating…….this Villa fan would change places anytime!
On a sporting theme, will England’s all-conquering 2016 rugby team (beating the Aussies four times in six months is amazing in any year, but when three of those are, for the first time, a series whitewash in their own backyard it’s cap-doffing time) go on, beat France early doors and take the record for themselves of the most consecutive wins by a team of the white shirt and red rose? My money’s on Hartley’s men, especially with Leicester Tigers’ men at prop and scrum half!
Theresa May will be PM throughout the year; she must look across at the Marxists they call the Labour Party front bench these days and say “there is a God!”
Monsieur Fillon will be esconsed in the Elysee Palace in Paris, beating Marine Le Pen in the run off for the French Presidency……..but whilst it is to be welcomed that France goes for a centre-right rather than far-right leader, one is tempted to ask “so what”. The first attempt at labour market reform (the lack of which is the real blight on the French economy and the primary cause of record levels of unemployment) and the Unions will strike and, as sure as La nuit suive Le jour, he’ll give in. We forget just how difficult it was in this Country to beat Red Robbo, Scargill and their fellow travellers intent on bringing down a democratically-elected Government …….and the Leaderene was made of different stuff to the well-intentioned Monsieur Fillon.
A Putin-backed Assad will have won in Syria, with the connivance, indeed open support, of a Trump presidency. But the wider war against Isis will be waged quite successfully by America on different fronts, in different ways with Vlad’s support. Expect to see Russia making the most of its warm-water port in the Med and freer trade through Trump’s easing of sanctions.
The real angst for us all in a globalised 2017 should be saved for the way China deals with the Donald. From the trade issues of dumping and protectionism to expansion in the South China Sea, from acknowledging Taiwan’s right to exist to what to do about North Korea……….as those two great Elephants stamp around the jungle, a lot of lesser creatures are going to get crushed or run for their lives. It will not be pretty.
Oil will end 2017 some $25 a barrel higher than it begins it; Putin will like that, so will Saudi Arabia’s enemy Iran …….and Riyadh cannot prevent it; it is difficult to believe but they need the cash as well. The biggest beneficiary of such a hike will actually be the USA. The shale gas and fracked fossil fuel whose extraction was rendered uneconomic to undertake at such low oil prices will come back into the reckoning…….and a Trumpian America with no reliance on or skin in the game of the Middle East will be one helluva unpredictable beast.
The UK economy will carry on much as before; each breath, every single word from a Minister will be dissected to glean a Brexit snippet (really, hasn’t Grub Street anything better to do?!) but it will be much “as you were”. Interest rates will stay much the same; Governor Carney dare not increase them. But the Eurozone is in for a really rocky ride; Italy will see to that. Germany can cope with Greece as a basket case; it’s small enough; but 62 million population Italy in the tank………that will give Frankfurt on the dosh and Berlin on the politics sleepless nights. And some of you will remember how the Establishment Elite told us all in 2001 and 2002 that Armageddon would visit us here in this Scept’red Isle by teatime if we didn’t join the Euro! Plus ca change, mes amis, plus c’est la meme chose!
Happy New Year everyone. Just remember if you fear the worst……it could be far worse than this ……. you could live in the Socialist Republic of Islington!