With all but one of my 2022 predictions wrong, let's get right back on the horse

With great humility, I present my 2023 forecasts. Remember the ones I get right and forget the ones I don't

Former British prime ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson attend the National Service of Remembrance in London in November. Reuters
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It’s a game for idiots, this. How can any sane person predict the year ahead? Do you remember our collective failure to predict the extraordinary events of the year that has just passed?

Correct me if you yourself are verifiably psychic, but did anyone really predict the first major land war since 1945 to threaten peace across Europe and dislocate world food supplies? I don’t recall any specialist in British politics predicting a Westminster political circus so bizarre that 60 government ministers resigned and we had three prime ministers in successive months. Or did any American political analyst foresee that rather than Joe Biden being humiliated in the midterm elections, he would have some of the best results of any sitting president in the past century? Or that Donald Trump would endorse Republican failures and be beset by investigations into his businesses and allegations of criminal activity? In big business, I do not recall any predictions about the entertainment value – and real value erosion – of Elon Musk on Twitter.

The only thing I predicted with any degree of accuracy was that Argentina have a great football team and might do well in the World Cup. Clairvoyance, as you can see, is not my thing. So with great humility, I have a few thoughts for the year ahead that I hope you will remember in the unlikely event I get something correct – and please forget what follows if it all sounds silly by next Christmas.

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It’s obvious that a threat to humanity anywhere is ultimately a threat everywhere

First, Ukraine. Given the nature of the combatants, the best we can hope for is an uneasy peace, and perhaps not so much peace itself as a nervous stalemate. This would involve an end to hostilities but no formal settlement on territory. We already have something like that on the Korean Peninsula, between North and South, a conflict that has been (mostly) in suspended animation since the 1950s yet remains on a short fuse. I hope that I am wrong and a real peace becomes the big news story of the year, but I see no obvious mechanism through which that can be achieved.

Elsewhere, in American politics, the big question is who emerges to fight the 2024 presidential election. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis looks like the person to beat on the Republican side, despite Mr Trump’s sniping from the sidelines. But perhaps one of the biggest stories of 2023 will be the legal and business challenges to Mr Trump himself. Is he – whisper it – potentially facing bankruptcy? What of the other investigations into the January 2021 events? The Democrats have their own problems. Put bluntly, do they need a younger candidate? Will Mr Biden step aside despite his successes in the 2020 election, and if so for whom? Mr Biden is already the oldest person ever to assume the US presidency. Now aged 80, he could fight again in 2024 but how wise is that for him personally, for his country and for the Democratic Party?

And that brings us back to the potential for stability in British politics in 2023 compared to 2022. Stability? Maybe. We appear to hover almost on the edge of a British general strike over wages and inflation. The benign scenario is that after the soap opera of the Johnson years, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gets a grip on the Conservative party and Boris Johnson goes away to spend more time with his money.

A snowstorm as extreme winter weather hits Buffalo, New York, late last year. Reuters

More probably, Mr Johnson continues mischief making and after his lucrative speaking tours he tries, once more, for a comeback. I’m baffled why anyone pays money to listen to Mr Johnson. I would pay a modest fee never to hear from him again. He failed profoundly in the highest political office in Britain and his entertainment value is that of an ageing crooner whose voice hits only the wrong notes. In 2022, Mr Johnson made a speech to British business executives where he spoke about the children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig. At the UN, he referenced Kermit the Frog. Would you pay to hear a middle-aged politician talk about the Muppets?

But no look ahead to the New Year should end on pessimism.

If 2022 was a year of turmoil, let 2023 be a year of facts and reality. In Britain, a majority now accepts that Brexit is a mistake. We need to repair damage with the EU in 2023. In 2022, the climate crisis caused disruption – fires, floods, storms, intolerable heat. In 2023, talk – including at Cop28 in the UAE later this year – needs to result in real climate action. Coronavirus, migration, global heating, the threat to world peace, economic and supply chain failures all point to one simple fact. We are all connected. There is only one planet Earth and we have messed it up. It’s obvious that a threat to humanity anywhere is ultimately a threat everywhere. International co-operation is our only hope and now is a good time to start, otherwise in a year’s time we may look forward to 2024 and wonder why we are still talking about the same problems we failed to address in 2023.

Happy New Year – I hope.

Published: January 04, 2023, 7:00 AM