If you thought that 2015 was an interesting year, you’re just going to love 2016. It started off with a series of 47 dull thuds, then really got going with a large—5.7 on the Richter Scale—bang.
Before we get into details, my apologies for not giving you my forecast for the upcoming attractions earlier—the excuse is that things developed so quickly, I had to rethink a number of possibilities. My track record on reading events is pretty good, even if I say so myself. The Mission Statement of this blog—so important that it merits using capital letters— is to join up the dots, something that most journalists just don’t seem capable of.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I give you 2016.
Several interesting things happening here. Firstly, it would appear the era of ‘spank the banker’ is over. Not because they’ve suddenly cleaned up their act—they haven’t—or because George (UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Osborne) feels the he ought to line up a few lucrative directorships for post-government life. No, it’s because Dave and George have suddenly discovered that they may need to raise more money in a hurry, and bankers are the people who are good at that. Mind you, so are drug dealers—but I’m ruling that method of raising cash out—for the moment, at least. I’ll tell you why they’re going to need cash in a hurry in a moment.
Brexit—will the UK vote to leave the EU? Nope, not in a million years. Why, you ask—and I’ll tell you. Dave is going to do what most political commentators think is impossible. He’s actually going to get the ministers of those countries in the EU that matter (normally that would be code for Germany and, possibly, France, but now includes Poland and other eastern European countries), to agree to most of his demands. Why are they going to do that? Firstly because they think the UK quitting the EU would be a disaster—OK, they thought that before but now, with some EU economies working and others not, the idea of restricting social welfare payments to incoming EU migrants has suddenly become attractive, most notably to Germany. That and the fact that the Schengen agreement has almost collapsed, although nobody is officially admitting it. Oh, and the EU will need to raise an army in a hurry—but more of that later.
UK Politics: Dave might have unwittingly stumbled onto the path to success—or it might have been a cunning plan all along—but Comrade Corbin continues to demonstrate how to A) not lead a political party, and B) how to make it totally unelectable. Either Labour will disintegrate—and lose the 2020 general election—or it will somehow stick together—and lose the 2020 general election. I think we can look forward to plenty more entertaining temper-tantrums this year. Political pundits are saying that both Conservative and Labour parties are in danger of splitting—they are wrong, and you possibly read it here first. I believe that Dave will win the EU referendum because he’s slowly but surely putting together a deal that the rest of the EU can live with—they all know the EU needs reforming, and the UK’s looming referendum is giving impetus to reform. Having delivered the deal, and won the referendum, Dave can then say to the Tory eurosceptics ‘the people have spoken’. Get with the program or get off the train. Most, with an eye to their political futures and pensions, will simply crawl back into the woodwork—the Tory party will not split over the referendum result. By allowing ministers a free vote on the referendum, Dave has headed-off criticisms of being Autocratic, and has made the post-referendum reshuffle easier. If you voted no, you’re out, and if you voted yes you’re (probably) still in. He will leave George and Theresa to fight out the leadership contest, and retire as leader in 2020—most likely a few months before the general election.
The NHS: Doesn’t work, no matter how much cash you throw at it. If the Junior doctors do strike, they will shoot themselves in the foot. The UK is a 24/7 economy, so get over it. Most people don’t get extra money for working weekends, and fail to see why individuals earning £50K+ a year ought to get what they don’t. I think Dave might agree to some sort of cross-bench discussions on the way forward, but he has a problem. Who to talk to? The Labour party barely functions as a cohesive political unit, the SNP are in charge of the NHS in Scotland and their input would be unacceptable to English voters. Throw into the pot the undeniable fact that the NHS is only working because of ‘foreign’ doctors and nurses, and you can expect the start of a painful root and branch reform program—if the junior doctors go ahead and strike. If they don’t, then things will stagger-on as they are for a few more years.
Money, money money: Dave and George are going to need some cash, fast. Firstly, there’s the upcoming, announced, military involvement in Libya to pay for, the RAF is running out of bombs to drop on Syria/Iraq, and then there’s the elephant in the room that nobody is talking openly about yet, the upcoming UN Police Action in what at the moment is North Korea, but sometime 2016—or more likely 2017—is going to become Northern Korea. I’ll come back to that. And let’s not forget we’re going to need some flood defences that actually work. Expect to see UK farmers strong-armed into planting more trees, property developers hammered if they don’t build the houses they have got planning permission for and the resurrection of the ‘pre-fab’ house. If you don’t have enough skilled construction workers, you have two options. Either train them (if you can find anybody to train) or build houses a new (actually old) way.
The Chinese Government are educating the rest of the world at the moment. They are demonstrating that a communist political system and an open-market economy just don’t work when you try to combine them. They have today (Jan 8th) abandoned a system they put in place last week, to try and prevent manic fluctuations in the Chinese Stock market. They have also allowed the Yuan Renminbi to devalue (again). Expect a hard landing for the Chinese economy this year. Normally, this would mean a slump in the rest of the world, but I think the collapse of the Chinese economy has been factored in, if not openly talked about. Also, countries will increased their spending on the military around the world, and that will stimulate most economies.
With the economy basically turning to ratshit, people unable to breathe in the larger cities and political unrest growing, what’s a government to do? In some cases they might hold an election, but this is pointless in China because you know who’s going to win. No, you boost the economy and bang the patriotic drum by shouting at other countries. The Chinese Government has tried this with it’s neighbours, but despite President Obama’s best efforts, America has squared its shoulders and shouted back. OK, let’s try the same thing, but in a different way. Which country can we shout at and not get involved in a shooting war which we would lose? You’ve got it in one. Long-time Chinese ally, North Korea, has annoyed their patron one time too many. Following the North Korean test of (possibly) an H Bomb, China has evacuated several villages near the area and is testing the inhabitants for radiation poisoning. The next step will be to announce that, yes, they are suffering from degree of radiation poisoning, and start making very loud noises.
Oh boy. The North Koreans just don’t realise that they have a problem. According to a former UK ambassador to that country, they have an elaborate system of tunnels and underground shelters which leads them to believe that they could survive a nuclear attack. Apart from the fact that a nuclear attack is so 20th century, they don’t appear to realise that the workers will all be incinerated, so when the ruling élite emerge from their bunkers, there will be nobody left to oppress.
With the testing of what may or may not turn out to be a working H-bomb, the world now has to do something about North Korea. For those who don’t know, an H-bomb gives you more bang for your buck. Now I grant you, making an ICBM is a bit more complicated than spreading a bit of super glue on the nose cone of a missile and attaching a bomb, but there’s over 50 years of experience for the North Koreans to filch to show them how to do it. The latest concern is that they are working on a submarine launched missile. This is being touted as a game changer. It might be, but if the US Navy could track most of the Soviet subs most of the time, I don’t suppose they’ll have much trouble tracking a North Korean one. The thing is, the guidance system doesn’t have to be that sophisticated; with an H-bomb if you hit the right country you’re going to do a lot of damage.
What has previously prevented forced change in North Korea has been Chinese concerns about a unified Korea which is allied to America, and American troops on the China/North Korea border. Now, with North Korea presenting a real threat and the Chinese Government facing problems at home, there will discussions to set the ground rules for the coming Police Action. At the end of the day, a unified Korea will have to settle for being non-aligned, with China and the USA guaranteeing the security of the borders. What’s the hurry to put a stop to all the nonsense? North Korea has close ties with Iran, another nuclear wannabe with ideas of actually using the nukes. If the North Koreans actually do have an H-bomb, the Iranians possibly have the missile technology to make an ICBM possible. Not that Iran has much of a home-grown missile industry—most of their toys come courtesy of Russia. More about the Middle East, and Russia, in a moment.
If the Americans are smart—yes, yes, I know—instead of dropping bombs on North Korea they will drop food. Of course some troops will be needed to distribute the food, and Special Forces will be needed to defend the logistics operation, but there is an odds-on chance that much of the North Korean army, confronted not by bombs and bullets but food, might mutiny. If the Americans set up a mobile phone network and drop mobile phones with active sim cards, I reckon the North Korean Army would be too involved with Social Media to fight.
Election year this year. Obama can’t run again, so will be looking to leave some sort of legacy. At the moment, the old legacy is looking a bit shaky. He has annoyed and alienated most friends and allies, given encouragement to America’s enemies and failed to introduce any meaningful internal reforms. Obama care is a much watered-down version of what he wanted to introduce, and the gun control business is a non-starter. And it all started off so well. He was going to conduct foreign policy in a new way. Great idea, nice try and all that, but when it didn’t work—obvious after just a couple of months—the sensible thing would have been to ditch the idea, not persevere with it. He’s failed to make any progress in the Middle East—if anything he’s made things worse—and he’s failed to put a spoke in Vlad the Invaders wheel. Afghanistan is still a mess—no surprises there—but worse, he’s having to leave some American troops in place to shore-up the Afghan government. Don’t even mention Iraq/Syria. His successor—and not even the Americans are stupid enough to elect Trump—will need two terms to rebuild America’s reputation and standing in the World. Luckily Hillary has the experience to do it. Yes, I know that people are talking about Marco Rubio, but it’ll probably come down to a case of better the devil you know. Hillary may be distrusted/hated/loved—delete whichever is appropriate to you—but voters know what they will be getting, a certainty in an uncertain world. I wonder if Hillary will get her own back on Bill once they are back in the White House?
Vlad may have just stumbled a bit. During 2015 he hardly put a foot—or tank—wrong. He annexed the Crimea, sliced-off a major part of Eastern Ukraine, and has pretty much ensured that his mate, Bashar Assad, remains in power in Syria for a few more years. There is a slight problem on the horizon, though. In retaliation for shooting down a Russia jet, he told the Turks they could forget their new nuclear power station he was going to give them. That was OK, it probably saved him a few Roubles—the problem was he also banned the import of Turkish food products—which means that he’s either going to get the Russians to grow their own, or import from somewhere else. The Russians don’t have a great track record when it comes to farming, and with the price of oil currently around $35 a barrel the Russian economy isn’t looking too spiffy. And of course, there are still some sanctions in place, due to Russian intervention in Ukraine. He’s facing some internal unrest—elections are not on the agenda, and he’s already started a couple of wars. He needs to become one of the good guys again, and get the sanctions lifted. Ah yes, North Korea. He could diplomatically support a UN Police Action, whilst of course hoping that it all goes badly wrong for both America and China.
The Middle East:
With people literally starving to death in what was Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran squaring up to each other over something that happened about 1400 years ago, and fighting each other in several proxy-wars which are all set to become less proxy and more face to face, things are not looking good in the region. With the 47 recent executions by beheading in Saudi Arabia, it’s looking positively medieval. Look for things to improve in about 400 years.
Interestingly, the UK government has recently produced a list of those countries whose policy on capital punishment causes liberal hearts to flutter. Saudi Arabia was not on the list—no, I don’t know why either. I mean, it’s not as if they have any money left to buy stuff from the UK—and the oil price won’t rise any time soon because Iran will be exporting in the near future. Mind you, their (Iran’s) expectations of being able to fund conflicts throughout the region won’t be realised either.
The Saudi plan to raise an army and invade (sorry, I meant liberate) Syria won’t come to anything—and even if it did, they would find themselves up against Russia and Iran, both shoring up the Assad regime.
The economy is a bit shaky, borders are having to be policed and now woman are being attacked and sexually assaulted by immigrants. Suddenly Dave’s plans for restricting free movement and sending aid to refugees in the refugee camps, rather than allowing them in, are beginning to make a lot of sense. The deportations will start any time now, but where to deport refugees to? The other way is to resurrect a British invention, the concentration camp. That would be difficult to do, particularly for Germany, but the indigenous population of Europe, not to mention those genuine migrants who arrived legally start a new life, will not stand for a repeat of the nonsense that occurred over the new year in Germany, Finland and Austria.
The literary year:
Having written and published four novellas in the space of about six months last year, I’ve now embarked on a full-length novel. It’s been fermenting for several years, and over the Christmas period started to demand that it be written. It’s alternative history, and if you want to know more you’ll have to sign up to the newsletter, or buy the book when it comes out. This one may not be self-published—intrigued? Sign up to the newsletter.
I’ll leave you with these final thoughts. The UK health Ayatollahs have just decried that drinking causes cancer, and reduced the amount that they consider is safe to drink. I have two answers to that.
1)Breathing in most cities can cause cancer due to exhaust emissions, are they going to ban breathing in cities, and if not, why not?
2)Public transport increases alcohol consumption. I used to drive to the pub and just have a pint. Now I have my staff bus pass, I take the bus to the pub, and drink just a few more.
What a life! I wish you all a great 2016, and I hope that most of us are here at the end of the year to look back on it.