Well, thank God that’s over. I know it’s a sign of age, but 2011’s dizzying pace was a bit too much for the likes of me. What I’m looking for now is a nice, quiet year. So, let’s play that ludicrous and dangerous game, and make some New Year predictions..
1. BASHAR AL-ASSAD WILL GO, EVENTUALLY But probably not before he’s killed thousands more of his own people. The guy we once thought might be a moderate has turned out to be a full-on lunatic, cheerfully slaughtering the populace to hang onto power that’s already draining away. When the Arab League starts asking what’s going on, you know you’ve gone too far. At some point, Assad will go, but whether that necessarily means the lives of ordinary Syrians will improve one jot depends greatly on what happens next.
2. BARACK OBAMA WILL BE RE-ELECTED Though it won’t be pretty. The line-up of potential Republican nominees looks like a rogue’s gallery at a particularly lousy waxworks. Eventually, one of them will bumble through. But there’s every chance it’ll be someone so obsessed with appealing to the party’s base they’ll never manage to reach beyond it. Obama will try, and largely fail, to get some electoral credit for bringing troops home from Iraq and neutralising Osama bin Laden, but in the end America will, with some doubt and reluctance, give him another four years to try again.
3. NICOLAS SARKOZY WILL NOT BE RE-ELECTED He’s spent so long nestling next to Angela Merkel at endless crisis summits, Sarkozy’s forgotten to keep an eye on what’s going on at home. And that may well be enough for Francois Hollande, a man far more boring than Sarkozy, but with perhaps more of an air of statesmanship, to become the French President.
4. THE EURO WON’T COLLAPSE Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if the frothier end of the Tory right got their wish, and the Euro fell apart. “Unspeakable economic catastrophie” doesn’t even come close. Regardless of your views on the single currency, it’s here, you’re stuck with it, and the consequences of collapse are unbearable. So Eurozone countries will do whatever they deem necessary to keep it going. Along the way, they’ll finally accept something they should have agreed to ten years ago - you can’t have a single currency without a single economic policy. And that means Britain will stay firmly outside the inner circle throughout 2012.
5. THE OLYMPICS WILL BE OK (ISH) It won’t be the endless sunny triumph of Sydney 2000, or the shambolic, over-commercialised disaster of Atlanta 1996. But London 2012 will be OK - reasonably well organised, reasonably successful commercially. We’ll do a little better than normal in the medals table. There’ll be the ever-present threat of transport disaster, but no athletes will spend five hours stuck on the North Circular Road. After six months of grumbling, most of us will buy into the idea a couple of weeks before the opening ceremony, maybe getting an Olympic tea-towel. We’ll muddle through, in that slightly chintzy, British way that we usually do.
Of course, when in 12 months Assad’s still in power, Obama’s packing up his belongings, Sarkozy’s wearing his “I am President” badge, Euro notes are being sold on ebay and the judicial inquiry into what went wrong at the Olympics is underway, let’s just agree to forget all about this, shall we...