Friday, 31 December 2010

Well that about does it for 2010 (thank heavens) - here's to 2011. Now how does that song go?

Another year sputters to its end. Exhausted, fractious and, like the overtired toddler, definitely in need of a rest. So what do we do? We throw a party. Not just any old party but a big party - a party where everyone has to go out, drink, make a fool of themselves, be happy, sing crappy Scottish dirges while holding hands in an odd way and get all maudlin about what good, bad or tragic occurred in the preceding 365 days.

I guess a bit of remembering is a good thing - taking a moment in time to survey the wreckage of 2010 and to peer into 2011's crystal ball. For my part, I shall look forward rather than back - mostly because 2010 was a pretty crap year for me, bad enough for me to believe that things really can only get better.

So here's some thoughts for 2011 - not predictions, I don't do predictions - just thoughts:

1. May sees an important set of elections - not just those in Scotland and Wales but across English local government. And the Coalition parties stand to do badly. For the Conservatives this is to be expected but for the Liberal Democrats it could prove something of a shock should their dire poll position continue.

In England, the Liberal Democrats will be defending 1,830 seats, Labour 1,600 and the Conservatives just over 5,000. In the equivalent elections in 2007, the Liberal Democrats polled 26% of the vote, about twice its current poll level. A third of the seats in Metropolitan councils and all the seats in the 30 unitary councils are up for election. A total of 124 district councils have all their seats up for election, and 70 have a third.

With Conservatives losing hundreds of seats (although I hope this won't be the case in Bingley Rural), it will be the performance of the Liberal Democrats that will get the focus - if they lost half the seats they are defending it will place further pressure on the deal with the Conservatives. We could see high profile defections to Labour from Liberal Democrat ranks - certainly at local level and possibly a national figure or two.

2. On the policy front, I expect to see the free schools movement accelerating - there are large places without proposals (there are none in Leeds, for example, compared to three in Bradford) and, as the first schools get closer to opening interest will rise. This is the most exciting - and I expect most change-making - of Coalition proposals and one that will benefit the lives of thousands of children many from poorer backgrounds. Coupled with the reassertion of didacticism and teacher authority, this is the most welcome change in education since 1944.

3. We will see further strikes, protests, sit-ins and such - all greated with frothing nonsense by both left and right. Two things will come of this - the police will be granted more power to deal with 'unrest' and those protesting will undermine their argument and their cause. The first is a crying shame (but always happens) and the second is the consequence of protests - 1968, 1981, 1990: remember those protests as the "people" took to the streets, were "mobilised" to fight for their rights. In each case, two years later saw the return of a Conservative Government. Most people don't like violent protest - it's as simple as that really.

4. On other fronts - the public health proposals will see the New Puritans on the rise again as the active campaign against working-class lifestyles takes on a new order. Local councils - and us councillors - will do what we do so well. Fuss, irritate, intervene and generally make a nuisance of our selves. This time in the interests of 'healthy living'. I shall be opposing all this - but will be a lonely voice.

Finally, I hope to find some more remunerative work, spend some quality time with my family and enjoy the company of those few friends I have left. Oh, and see West Ham stay in the Premiership (although this is looking a little unlikely right now). And I'll pen the odd word or two here - including a welcome return to the Friday Fungus.

I hope you all enjoy 2011 - after all 2010 has been and gone so all that rubbish is behind us. And the coming year will be a good one - I know so!


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