So, what to expect politically in 2010?
It's a really tough one, this. Most people I talk to about what might happen in the election are pretty pessimistic about Labour's chances (or optimistic about the Tories, depending on your point of view.) I'm inclined to be optimistic, but with limits. Securing any kind of overall majority for Labour is going to be difficult even if they can reach 35% of the vote (probably the absolute upper boundary for how well they can do - i.e. replicating the 2005 results) and more realistically they are looking at something between 30 and 35%, which might just deliver a hung parliament - probably with the Tories as the largest party, on 38-40% of the vote. The Lib Dems look like they are gonna get squeezed compared with 2005.
Boundary changes make it harder to predict how all this will translate into seats and we could well find that the Tories secure a majority by doing well in the marginals while Labour runs up higher majorities in safe seats. I'm actually quite comfortable with this: whatever your political persuasion, it's hard to argue that a political system where a party with less votes can secure more seats is anything other than insane. And if the Tories were (say) 5 percent down but Labour secured an overall majority I think they'd be justified in taking to the streets to overturn the result by force. And although I don't agree with their policies I'd probably join them. It won't happen of course, because they're as committed as anyone to keeping a fundamentally ludicrous electoral system - they just want to rejig it so it's less biased against them. Which kind of misses the point completely.
My election prediction, I think, is for a hung parliament with Tories as the largest party but short of an overall majority - but not by much. We will probably then see either a coalition with one or more of the Northern Ireland unionist parties (if they are only a few seats short) or with the Lib Dems (or at least some of them, because a Lib Dem - Tory coalition might well split the Lib Dem party. For complex reasons that I'll go into in detail in a post in the new year). Events will then proceed much along the lines of a majority Tory govt - mainly because Nick Clegg is a Tory in Lib Dem clothing anyway, and won't want to change that much about what Cameron is doing. Also Clegg appears to care little about the voting system - he spends very little time talking about it compared with his predecessors, and I get the feeling the guy doesn't even really understand what the Liberal party should be about. Useless rubbish (I mean him, not the Lib Dem party).
So the key message here is to prepare for the economic destruction of Britain at the hands of a vicious Tory government in modernist clothing. These guys are gonna destroy public services (except probably for the NHS which is being saved for later); local government services will be decimated, education is effectively going to be privatised, and the BBC will be emasculated, with the end of restrictions on biased TV news reporting leading to the establishment of Fox News in the UK. Meanwhile, huge public spending cuts will plunge us even deeper into recession. All very dangerous and hopefully leading to a landslide defeat for the Tory government in 2014/15.
But that depends so much on what happens in the Labour party. Right now, Labour could go one of three ways after the election. It could stick with the New Labour free-market mantra of the golden era of Blair-Brown - probably with David Miliband as leader - and get completely blown away. It could elect a complete duffer as a 'comfort leader' - Harriet Harman for instance - and get completely blown away. Or it could choose a radical visionary - someone like Jon Cruddas or Ed Miliband - and be in a very strong position to take advantage of the coming Tory meltdown (if the Tories are indeed as bad as I fear). In the end, whether Labour has the balls (not the Ed Balls, emphatically not him) to repair itself after the election to be a force for the future is going to be THE key question of 2010 politics.
I want to say much more - particularly on climate change and the post-Copenhagen problems we face - but this has already been very long so have a good new year and I will be back at the weekend.