At the end of another dramatic year in UK politics, Max Liu makes five predictions for 2018, including more Brexit trouble brewing, the end of Theresa May's government and another general election...
"Once a new Tory leader has been elected, how will they claim legitimacy without going to the country? At the very least, [3.9] is worth contemplating as the price on an election in 2018."
Brexit will get even more difficult
If all goes according to plan, 2018 will be Britain's final year as a member of the European Union. In December 2017, Theresa May reached an agreement with the EU's chief negotiators that means talks will soon move to the topic of trade. But Brexit negotiations were extremely tricky this year and will become even more complicated when phase two begins in a few weeks, with discussion over the "transition period". The government insists Britain will leave the EU by 29 March 2019 but the EU's Donald Tusk calls that "a furious race against time." Bettors make Britain [2.39] to still be in the EU after the March 2019 deadline.
There'll be more resignations
Damian Green, Priti Patel and Michael Fallon are gone. Will there be more government resignations soon? On Friday, Andrew Adonis, the Labour peer resigned from his role as head of the government's National Infrastructure Commission in protest at Theresa May's "broken Brexit". Adonis singled out transport secretary Chris Grayling for special criticism and called for the hard-line Brexiteer to resign. Will Grayling be next to go or will it be somebody else? If things unexpectedly start to go May's way, could she feel emboldened to sack the undermining Boris Johnson?
Theresa May will leave office
It's difficult to imagine that 2018 will be worse than 2017 for the PM. But will May see out the year in Downing Street? Small steps - that has to be the PM's mantra at the moment, with the focus on getting from one week to the next, as our volatile political climate throws up crisis after crisis for the government. A year ago, May looked unassailable, although Brexit was always likely to create problems for the PM. With that in mind, she called a general election in a bid to consolidate her position, but ended up losing her majority. Since then she's stumbled on and her government could fall apart at any moment. There are just too many factors - Brexit and the unpredictable DUP central among them - to have confidence in May surviving the year. She's [1.53] to leave office before Brexit is complete.
There might be another one
Sorry Brenda from Bristol, but we can't rule out the possibility of a general election in 2018. As has been well-argued on this site, the Conservatives have nothing to gain from calling an election. Labour are [1.91] to win the next general election, so why would the Conservatives risk calling one now?
If May goes then it's very difficult, at this point, to identify who will replace her as the next Conservative leader and none of the leading candidates inspire confidence. The battle will be ferocious, with the party's hard Brexiteers battling with the moderates and the party's very soul at stake. Once a leader has been elected, how will they claim legitimacy without going to the country? At the very least, [3.9] is worth contemplating as the price on an election in 2018.
Labour to race ahead
If there is an election in 2018 then May 3rd is a possible date as that's when we'll also see council elections, at the local, borough and mayoral level. The results will give us a good indication of the main parties' progress, 11 months on from the last general election. This year (2017) was unexpectedly excellent for Labour, in particular for leader Jeremy Corbyn who went from being accused of failing to provide sufficient opposition to looking like a PM in waiting.
In 2018, we'll find out whether Corbyn's success really does represent a lasting swing left among UK voters. In YouGov's final poll of 2017, Labour were two points ahead of the Tories and some Labour figures argue that, given the government's difficulties, they should be much further ahead. One way of achieving that in Labour in 2018 could be for Corbyn to be clear about his position on Brexit and, ideally, to position Labour as the party to stop it. If he does that then the odds on Labour winning a majority at the next election will tumble from the current [2.66].