Top posts of 2016

It’s not been the busiest of blogging years for me, but there have still been a few posts here. Which were the most popular?

Most popular overall was actually from 2014: Why do people join political parties (and why don’t they do it now?) This is a post that’s managed (thanks to a vaguely clickbaity title) to get itself high up in Google searches for various terms and it’s rare for a day to go by without it getting some hits.

Of posts actually written this year, the top five turned out to be:

5) Is Will Quince MP psychic? The answer may surprise you – but it probably won’t.
4) The Mandela Effect: because it’s easier to assume alternate universes than faulty memories Some of you have no memory of hearing of this blog post before now.
3) Why I’m stepping back up and running for Council again And if you don’t want to know the result, don’t click here.
2) Why the 2014 coup against Clegg was botched Yes, I wrote about 2014 events in 2016, because that’s how up to the minute my political commentary is.
1) Open to your ‘legitimate concerns’ Open Britain has been underwhelming me (and many others) from the start.

So that was 2016. Now let us never speak of this again.

My best prediction for 2016 was not predicting anything

Back in January, I explained why I wasn’t going to try and predict what happened politically in 2016 because things were just so chaotic as to make predictions pointless:

My only prediction is that all your predictions will be wrong.

Of course, my grounds for predicting that weren’t entirely right, ascribing unpredictability to just the EU referendum and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party, and entirely failing to mention Donald Trump.

It feels like we’re now in a period where politics is incredibly febrile and chaotic and the sort of certainties we base our predictions on are washed away as soon as we seek to put any of our weight upon them. For instance, it’s entirely possible that by the end of 2017 Justin Trudeau could be the longest-serving national leader in the G7: Obama and Hollande are leaving office, Merkel faces a tricky election and Abe has lasted a lot longer in office than most Japanese Prime Ministers have managed.

Trying to predict the politics of 2017 in an atmosphere like this is pointless, there are just too many wildly fluctuating variables that can throw even the simplest and most obvious prediction way out of the realms of possibility. Besides, for all we know, this time next year we could be scraping through the ruins of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, far more concerned about surviving than wondering just who predicted the date and cause of the apocalypse most accurately (though for the sake of completeness: 19th August, and a viral tweet about the crispiness of bacon).

Aside from that, it’s another year of my only prediction being that all your predictions will be wrong. Though please do give me credit for predicting the Bacopocalypse when it comes.

Back, but in a bittersweet victory

IMAG0652Sometime around 4am on Friday morning, I was declared elected as a councillor for Castle Ward, and not only that I’d got the most votes of all twelve candidates and topped the poll. You can see the full results by clicking here (pdf file). Sadly, my colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes weren’t also elected, with two Conservatives filling second and third places.

I’ll write more over the weekend when I’ve had some more sleep and returned to something that feels more normal, but for now I just wanted to thank everyone in Castle Ward who voted for me and I hope I can reward your trust in me over the next four years.

It’s polling day…

clocktowerAfter all these weeks of campaigning, I can give you news of one confirmed loss from this election campaign – several pounds of weight from me. The election diet plan has had a very positive effect on me over the past few weeks, and there’s definitely less of me than there was in March.

That’s what happens when you spend lots of time either out knocking on doors or delivering leaflets, especially in a ward where it’s much easier to get about on foot or on a bike than it is by car. I’ve knocked on over a thousand doors, spoken to hundreds of people and delivered thousands of leaflets during this campaign, all of which meant that taking a day off from it to walk 14 miles wasn’t too much of a hassle.

Overall, it’s been a great experience to get out on the election trail again. It’s been good to talk to the residents of Castle Ward and find out what they want from their Council and to explain how we as a Liberal Democrat team can help to deliver them. Obviously, not everyone was in agreement with me, but if I am elected tomorrow, I will do as I did before and seek to represent all the residents of the ward as best as I can.

I’m still standing for the aims and values I wrote about at the start of the campaign and the last few weeks have shown me that this is the approach Castle ward and Colchester needs.

I also want to do my part in making Colchester a better place for everyone and carry on some of the work I was doing before. It’s about working on big things like the funding we got for the Castle, or the recent investment in the Mercury renovation but also the small things like improving on street parking in various streets, making waste collection more effective or just helping residents have their views heard on planning and licensing applications.

I’m standing again because I think Colchester needs a Liberal Democrat council to stand up to the cuts being imposed on us from central government, and to ensure that decisions about Colchester are made here in Colchester, not handed over to Essex County Council. We need a council in Colchester that invests in local services, not one that seeks to cut them or sell them off. Colchester is a great town at the heart of a great borough, and a Liberal Democrat-run council can keep improving it, creating more jobs and opportunities for everyone. I want to be part of that again, making sure that Castle Ward and its residents are fully represented and supported.

If you live in Castle Ward, then please vote for me and my colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes today. Indeed, if you’re anywhere in the UK there are elections going on today, so please go out and vote so your voice can be heard. Even if you don’t like any of the candidates, use the opportunity to tell them why.

The votes are being counted overnight tomorrow, so we should know the result sometime around dawn on Friday. Whatever the result, it’s been an interesting time but I am looking forward to catching up on sleep and TV at the weekend.

And then we all have the European referendum campaign to occupy our time for the next seven weeks – who knows how much weight I might lose during that?

Corbyn and the EU referendum make predicting 2016 impossible

crystal ballI have occasionally been known to risk a tiny amount of the minuscule credibility I possess by putting forward some predictions for the political year ahead. While there’s a temptation to do that because not only does it allow me to put a post up now, it gives me the chance to write at least one more at the end of the year reviewing them, I’m not going to. The present state of politics in Britain and elsewhere is so febrile and chaotic that making predictions for what will happen in the next couple of weeks seems foolish, let alone casting forward a whole twelve months.

Beyond the general chaotic nature of politics, I think there are two other important factors that are distorting British politics. Both of these have unpredictable outcomes that will resonate across the entire political system and have such wide-ranging effects that trying to predict anything that might happen in their wake is pointless, except as a means to fill empty column inches at the start of the year.

These two unpredictable factors are what happens to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, and what happens in the EU referendum. These share the potential to distort not just the events of the next twelve months, but the fundamental ways in which British politics has organised itself, making any attempt to predict the future little more than guesswork. On their own, either of them would be an event well outside of the norms of our political system with the potential to completely disrupt it, to have them happen together dramatically increases the chance of a major disruption taking place.

The Corbyn effect is already transforming the Labour Party, shifting it towards the left and changing the balance within the party system. It’s a party system that’s already fragile because of the rise of the SNP and UKIP (who stubbornly refuse to comply with the predictions of their imminent demise) and what happens to Labour could be the catalyst for a wider shifting of positions and allegiances within that system, or could even be the trigger that kills the current one and replaces it with a new one. The interesting thing to watch about Corbynism and the Corbynistas will be how much they change the structures of the party and how involved all those new members and supporters get. Perhaps they can change Labour into a mass popular party of the left and centre-left that can challenge the Conservatives, or perhaps they might just become the UKIP of the left – very very popular amongst their core voters, but finding it very hard to attract anyone from outside that core.

While lots of ink has been spilled and blog posts written about the past, present and future of the Labour Party, the fact that we will likely be having a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU sometime very soon is still very much in the political background. Sure, those who have spent most of the past two or more decades obsessing about Europe continue to froth at the mouth and write massive screeds about it but for most people it’s still in the ‘worry about it later’ pile or even the ‘nothing to worry about’ one. There’s a double layer of complacency in play at the moment, with people assuming that Remain will comfortably win the referendum, and that it will have no longer-term implications. These are, of course, the same sort of predictions being made about Scotland two years ago. Saying then that No would win after being neck and neck in the polls for a while and the fallout from the referendum would see the SNP becoming near-hegemonic in Scottish politics would have been a pretty wild prediction. Now that it’s happened, any look to the future has to include the possibility of the EU referendum causing a similar shake up in the politics of the rest of the UK, regardless of the result.

On top of all the other ‘events, dear boy, events’ that can come along and disrupt our expectations, the Labour Party and the EU referendum both hold massive chaotic potential that could make January 2017 so vastly different from today that trying to predict the politics of it is pointless. So in politics, my only prediction is that all your predictions will be wrong.