27 January 2016

The Political Year Ahead

3 minute read

  • A look at what’s happening between the two main political parties
  • Events that will hold our attention this year

Chris Bose, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, looks forward to what the 2016 political year holds in store.

It's worth remembering that hardly anyone expected British politics to look like it does today. In the lead up to last year's election there was a consensus that no single party would form a government on its own. The polls pointed to a knife-edge result where either David Cameron or Ed Miliband could be Prime Minister, but only with the help of other parties. January 2016 looks very different.

David Cameron defied political precedent and enjoyed a surge in good will as he won the first Conservative majority since 1992. This good will could be very useful as Cameron tries to hold his party together as he prepares to ask the British public; should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU? The referendum, which many predict will be in the Summer or Autumn of 2016, will be a pivotal moment of this Parliament. The Prime Minister and most of his senior cabinet colleagues will campaign to stay in a reformed EU.

Recent polls show a slender lead for the leave camp, but of the two outcomes ‘remain’ seems the most likely. For the Prime Minister the less certain question is what happens to the Conservative Party if Britain votes to stay in the EU. Leaving the EU has been a career-long political ambition for some of his MPs. Holding the party together in the event of a narrow stay vote will be a considerable challenge for the PM, and his potential successor George Osborne.

Meanwhile a bigger challenge hangs over the Labour Party, following the unexpected election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. 2016 will likely see growing tensions between Corbyn and the hard left of his party, and the soft left and centrists who believe that Corbyn is consigning their party to years if not a decade of opposition. On their analysis the Labour Party lost the election because it was too left wing and not seen as having a credible leader who could be trusted with the economy. On this view the current direction of the party could push them ever further from power. A key question of 2016 will be whether dissent at Corbyn's leadership translates into action to depose him.

On 5th May elections will take place to local government, the Scottish Parliament (where the Scottish National Party look near certain to triumph), the Welsh Assembly and the London Mayoralty. The latter is already shaping up to be a fiercely contested and personal race between Labour's Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives' Zac Goldsmith – two candidates with very different backgrounds and political persona. This election looks like Labour's best chance of success.

Alongside this expect some big parliamentary debates, a decision about airport capacity in the South East and the long awaited report into the Iraq war. There will no doubt be a few surprise events and turns along the way too.

About the author

Chris Bose

Chris Bose is the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Nationwide. His role is to help Nationwide understand the political and policy environment and to ensure its interests are represented effectively to policymakers.

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