I see Mark has bit the bullet and has gone over his predictions for this year to see if any of them came true. He did ok. Before I commit to any soothsaying for next year, I think I'd better check whether my crystal ball is in working order.
So, here's what I said 363 days ago.
"1 Obama will have a brief honeymoon and then his popularity will drop like a stone as the recession bites in the US and he fails to magic it all away when he takes office. He has already tried to manage expectations about this - in his victory speech he said that he couldn't do it all at once, but I suspect that people will want too much, too soon from him. I think any blip will be temporary as he has the communication skills to deal with it and things will be better by the mid-terms in 2010."
I was kinda right with this one - he has had a drop, but not that far, which is quite something given the way his much needed healthcare reforms have split the nation. There's still more to come, but he's done well to get as far as he has with it. Let's hope that the next few months everyone in the world's wealthiest country will have access to healthcare. When he started out, his approval ratings were in the 60s and 50s, now they're in the 50s and 40s. He's not been as tough as I would have liked on climate change and I'd hoped that he would have had more of an impact on the Copenhagen conference but he's so many zillion times better than George Bush.
2. There will not be a UK general election in 2009. I don't think the polls are clear cut enough to make Gordon think it's worth the risk. Once he calls the election, there will be a particularly vicious, dirty scrap between Labour and the Tories south of the border which will probably endear neither of them to anybody. Nobody can really predict the outcome and literally anything could happen and I doubt that he would want to take the risk. I think Gordon should announce that he's going in April 2010 and introduce legislation for fixed term parliaments and have done with it.
Well, I got this one right, but Gordon didn't take my advice. The bit about there being a vicious scrap between Labour and the Tories still stands. I haven't seen anything this year that makes me think that either will inspire.
3. The Liberal Democrats will make steady progress throughout the year. This might not come out so much in the polls, but more in the preparation and continuing the structural changes we need within the party. I think that we will do better than we think in the European elections.
I'm going to claim this one, too. I think this has been a fabulous year for us. Vince Cable and Nick Clegg have hardly ever been off the tv. It actually did show in some polls which have shown us neck and neck with Labour but the only one that really matters is the one where people put their bits of paper in the ballot boxes. We are, however, way ahead of where we started in the last two elections which bodes well.
4. Tavish Scott already hit the ground running as Scottish Lib Dem leader in 2009 and will establish himself as the true opposition leader in Holyrood. Annabel is too schoolmarmy and Iain Gray too boring to make an impact. In Tavish we have a warrior with Viking tenacity and fight in him - watch this space as he makes further dents in the Salmond ego and shows the SNP Government up for its failings.
This one is a work in progress. Annabel has shown herself to be nothing more than Alex Salmond's poodle in many ways. There's usually a shadow between Tory words and Tory deeds and nowhere was this more prevalent than when Tavish Scott and the Lib Dems tabled a motion of no confidence in SNP Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop. The Tories had previously slated her on many occasions, but wouldn't commit to voting for the motion.
Iain Gray, well, he's a nice man, but that's about it. He put his party in an untenable position over the release of Megrahi, slating the SNP Government for releasing him, despite the fact that the London Labour Government hadn't exempted him from the relevant prisoner exchange agreement nor had they ensured Megrahi's family had the necessary visas to stay near him in Scotland. He doesn't really land many punches on Salmond at FMQ, not that that display of willy waving should define success in any way.
I'd say that Tavish has made steady progres this year.He's done well on the economy, and his forests campaign and the Hyslop affair were highlights. While commentators thought we would lose our Euro seat, Tavish led an energetic, successful campaign to get George Lyon elected He's taken Salmond to task for not quite having all his facts right in Parliament and he has not only bested him at FMQs, but actually got Salmond to engage in constructive debate sometimes.
The year ended with an excellent victory in a council by-election in Bearsden for the Liberal Democrats - no sign of a bounce for Cameron or Gray or Salmond there.
5. Having screeched to a halt in Glenrothes, the SNP juggernaut actually starts to go into reverse. Questions will be asked about what exactly they have achieved, and if they fail to move on key issues such as their extra national income tax, their illiberal plans to stop 18-21 year old adults buying alcohol in off licences and the joke that is their Scottish Futures Trust to name but 3, then they are going to come seriously unstuck.
Well, they're not seriously unstuck yet, but the glue is starting to come apart. The Scottish Futures Trust is still a joke, we're no closer to being able to fund the vital new Forth Crossing and the SNP's performance both in Glasgow North East and the Euros was pretty dismal. They've picked up some local Council by-election seats, but when they've been faced by a Lib Dem campaign at full throttle, as they were in Inverness earlier this year, and in Bearsden last month, they've done really badly.
6. Unless someone takes Israel by the scruff of the neck and says, ok, unless you stop your disproportionate and aggressive behaviour, we are not going to give you any more money/weapons/invites to the White House for tea and sandwiches etc, then the situation in the Middle East will get a whole lot worse. Obama and Clinton need to give the Israeli Government a good talking to, and threaten them if they have to. It will be better for everyone in the Middle East in the long term if they do.
A year on, Gaza is still a humanitarian disaster. The EU and the US could do a lot more to end the blockade, as Nick pointed out in his Guardian piece last week.
7. The banks will end free banking on current accounts in credit and start charging either a monthly fee, or a charge for every transaction. The last few months has proved that they simply don't care about public opinion and they don't really get what they have done wrong. It's time to make sure that the necessary regulations are put in place to avoid their irresponsible behaviour from putting the economy in jeopardy again. If they won't act in a sustainable way by themselves, then they have to be forced to.
Well, this hasn't happened, and the OFT let down millions of ordinary bank customers by ruling in favour of the banks' ridiculous charges. My bank will now charge £5 for unauthorised overdraft - that's £150 per month, as much as my Council Tax - except to anyone paying that, the bank would take their charges first. This year has proven, though, that bankers don't care, they're having a laugh at our expense, and there doesn't seem to be anyone in Government in possession of the relevant backbone to properly regulate them. They didn't even have to think for themselves how to do it cos Vince told them what to do - split the sector into high risk investment banks which could do what they liked pretty much and low risk personal and business banks which would be regulated within an inch of their lives to protect our savings. Simples, as they say.
8. A major broadcaster will throw all their toys out of the pram in spectacular fashion after being prevented from doing something perfectly legitimate, but mildly outrageous, because of fears of a Daily Mail Brand/Ross style backlash.
Another blank, although the BBC has just been stupidly craven and sometimes just plain stupid. At the start of the year, their refusal to screen the DEC Gaza appeal was unjustifiable. Then, just the other week, they ran a discussion entitled "Should Homosexuals be Executed?" like it was a legitimate question. I despair.
9. Homelessness reaches crisis point as repossessions and evictions force families onto the street and local councils simply can't cope with the demand for emergency accommodation. Preventative action now might help, but I suspect people will have to endure incredible misery before something is done to help them.
While this hasn't been as apocalyptic as it sounded, homelessness and poor housing is still a huge problem. I'd be surprised if any public representative didn't have several people a week coming to them complaining about substandard housing, or about being stuck in a house which is far too small for them, or that they can't even get into social housing and are stuck in punitively expensive private lets.
10. On a lighter note, the Pet Shop Boys new album will be fabulous, as will the new Harry Potter film. And David Tennant's departure from Doctor Who will be spectacular and emotional. Don't ask me who the new Doctor will be - although I suspect it won't be either David Morrissey or Lesley Sharp. Oh, and Andrew Lloyd Webber will produce a fabulous and very catchy song for Eurovision, which will still get trashed in the competition because of political voting.
Right on the first, the second hasn't happened yet, but I still stand by it, right on the third but that wasn't difficult, half right on the last.