For many 2016 has been a year to forget, and whilst not buying into the 2016 is killing celebrities line, and at the risk of veering dangerously close to the fool’s game of predictions, here are some reasons to be at least a little cheerful about 2017:
No elections and/or referendums in the United Kingdom in 2017. After three successive years dominated by major votes, the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2015 general election, and the 2016 EU referendum, the British public will finally be given a break from often divisive and certainly tedious election campaigning. An early election is not Mrs May’s style, and nor is there any need for one, the public will thank her for not forcing us to the polls once again.
That being said, there are a number of important local elections this year, not least for the new West Midlands Combined Authority Mayor, where Andy Street is well placed to provide dynamic entrepreneurial leadership and take a complacent Labour Party that thinks the Mayoralty is in the bag by surprise.
Labour’s continued poor performance in the polls will see moderates in the party finally start to get their house in order. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership will not be in danger, but some parts of Labour may start to provide half-decent opposition, something any believer in UK democracy should welcome.
Mrs May has so far provided refreshingly spin-light politics, a premiership no longer feeding the 24 hour news cycle, and a Prime Minister happy not to appear on our tv screens every day. The polling evidence we have is that public seem to like this change, whatever the media grumblings about a lack of easy stories being provided, and it seems here to stay.
In international politics the French elections later this spring will finally bring to a close the dismal Presidency of Francois Hollande, such weak leadership in the Elysee has been bad for the balance of power in Europe. It would be foolish to be complacent about the threat of Marine Le Pen, but France’s two round system still makes a Front National triumph unlikely. Instead, the bookies expect we will be reading about France’s new Thatcherite President Francois Fillon in May, he could bring much needed change to the French economy, long the sick man of Europe.
The Euro crisis may rumble on, but is unlikely to come to a head in 2017, despite the problems in Italy.
Across the Atlantic, Donald Trump will prove unpredictable but less cataclysmic than media headlines anticipate, the US markets have been rallying in anticipation of his proposed economic policies of tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Confidence is everything in economics, and the expectation of those policies, if not their actual impact, will help boost global economic performance in 2017. The global recession predicted earlier this year will not materialise next year.
In foreign policy Trump’s departure from Obama’s policies will mostly be in style rather than substance, a more robust rhetoric and a reassertion of America’s role as a global policeman that will make others think more carefully.
In Syria, whilst there is no good solution, the reduced scope in the theatre of conflict will help improve the regional security situation in the Middle East, even if an end to bloodshed in the country is highly unlikely.
Away from politics, Andy Murray has solidified his place as the best player in the world, a combination of declining rivals and Murray reaching his zenith, means there is good reason to think 2017 may just turn out to be his career year, hopefully starting with him finally winning the Australian Open after five final losses in Melbourne Park.
The England rugby team have the chance to defend their Six Nations title and break the record for consecutive international wins this spring, Eddie Jones’s team may not be undefeated in 2017, but it will be another good year for English rugby.
With no World Cup or Euros in 2017 the English football team cannot be knocked out in penalties in the quarter-finals, thereby directly improving the national mood.
Meanwhile, the England cricket team will attempt to defend the Ashes down under late next year, whilst they may not succeed in that endeavour they won’t repeat the humiliation of their last trip down under, when they lost the 2013-14 Ashes series 5-0.
Finally, in the Arts, 2017 might just see the publication, or the announcement of the publication, of the long awaited final book in Hilary Mantel’s magisterial trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell. If The Mirror and the Light can reach the heights of the first two volumes it will be rich reading pleasure indeed.