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22:19
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21.04.2024
I made six predictions for the UK for 2023. How did I do?
Λονδίνο 2023
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Overall, my forecasts on a possible general election in the UK, the Royal family, Scotland’s future, England’s participation in three sporting world cups, and the Parthenon sculptures, were not bad. But I am not a prophet, yet.

A UK general election

I predicted that the UK would not hold a general election in 2023. This prediction, which was correct, was based on a firm belief that UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, would fail to deliver on his promises to improve the economy, reduce immigration and support the health service. Sunak did fail. At no point during 2023 was he able to call a general election with any chance of winning.

His Conservative party lost heavily in local elections in May and trailed the opposition Labour party by around 20 points in the opinion polls throughout the year. Increasingly, Sunak looks like a loser. My prediction score 5/5.

The Royal family

The fortunes of the UK’s ‘Royals’ now rest upon King Charles III, whose coronation took place in May. My prediction was that the ceremony would be splendid and support for the Royals in the UK would continue. The ceremony was splendid, but arcane. Horse-drawn coaches, swords, gold rings, gloves, sceptres and spurs seemed weird in a country struggling with a very modern cost of living crisis. The coronation received less attention than the troubled adventures of Charles’ youngest son Prince Harry and his American wife, actress Meghan Markle -the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry’s book ‘Spare’, a Netflix series and a Spotify contract earned the couple, millions of pounds by highlighting their family squabbles withKing Charles, Queen Camilla, Prince William (the heir to the throne) and his wife Princess Kate.

Support for the Royals continues, but as they become more soap opera than state institution, their popularity is declining. A survey for the BBC in August showed 58% of people in the UK preferring the monarchy to an elected head of state. This figure falls to 32% among those aged 18 to 24, many of whom were indifferent to the coronation despite it being a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event.

The UK monarchy seems safe enough, for now, but more family problems are likely. For example, Prince Andrew is reportedly ‘bewildered’ at receiving nothing from his mother’s, Queen Elizabeth’s, will. Watch this space. My score 4/5.

Scottish independence

Demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence seem to have subsided. The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), which currently rules Scotland, had a cunning plan. It would demand a second referendum and when the UK government refused this request, as predicted, the SNP would denounce the decision as undemocratic. The anger at being denied a second vote would fuel demands for a second referendum until it was impossible for the UK government to resist. So much for the plan.

Instead of Scotland’s anger being directed at the UK government, much of it was turned against the SNP. The party became mired in a financial scandal involving Peter Murrell, chief executive of the SNP and husband of SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who resigned as Scotland’s First Minister a few weeks before news of the scandal broke. Murrell was arrested but later released pending an investigation. Since then, the new First Minister and SNP leader Humza Yousef, has struggled to gather momentum behind a second referendum. Score3/5.

Brexit (the UK’s decision to leave the European Union)

Brexit continues to hurt the UK politically and economically. A major problem with the Brexit agreement was that Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, remained in the EU’s single market for goods. This separated Northern Ireland from Great Britain as goods travelling between the two parts of the same country must be checked by customs. It also aligned Northern Ireland’s economy more closely with the Republic of Ireland, raising questions about possible Irish reunification.

To address the problem, the UK government and the EU signed the Windsor Framework, whicheased customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, pressed ahead with the framework despite resistance from hardline Brexiteers in his Conservative party. When announcing the framework, Sunak said that Northern Ireland was now’ unique’ in the world as it had access to the UK and EU markets. This is true but ignores the fact that the whole of the UK had this ‘unique’ status before Brexit. The irony of solving a problem caused by Brexit by having closer ties with the EU was delicious but unspoken. Seriously, you could not make this stuff up.

The UK knows that Brexit was a mistake but is unable to admit it. It’s painful and best not to know, like after Christmas when you dare not check how little money is left in your bank account. The Windsor Framework is a step toward the type of closer relationship with the EU that would benefit the UK. But, for the time being, such a relationship remains a long way off. My score 4/5

England and three world cups

England’s performances in three world cups in 2023 was disappointing but not wholly disheartening. My prediction that England would retain the cricket world cup turned out to be embarrassing. The 2019 world champions surrendered their crown without a fight, even losing to Afghanistan – yes Afghanistan. The best team in the tournament were hosts India. They won every match except the final, which they lost to Australia.

In contrast, the England rugby team outperformed all expectations and reached the world cup semi-final, losing by just one point in the final minutes to South Africa. South Africa reached the semi-final after beating hosts France (my prediction to win),by one point, in a brutal game, and then defeated New Zealand in the final by … one point. No country wanted this world cup more than South Africa.

England’s footballing ‘Lionesses’, missing some key players, did not always play well at the women’s world cup. But they won their group, battled to tense victories over Nigeria (on penalties) and Columbia, before convincingly beating hosts Australia in the semi-final. In the final, Spain proved to be just too good and England lost 1-0. I had predicted that England would win, but there was no shame in defeat, just pride in the Lionesses. My score: 0/5.

Parthenon sculptures

Nothing very much happened about the Parthenon sculptures, until November when a tetchy UK prime minister Rishi Sunak refused to meet Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Sunak accused Mitsotakis of ‘grandstanding’ by talking about the Parthenon sculptures after agreeing not to. Asking a Greek prime minister (or any Greek for that matter) not to talk about the Parthenon sculptures when in London is a bit like asking the Pope not to talk about God in Rome.

As everyone knows, the sculptures were ‘acquired’ by Lord Elgin in 1801 when Greece was under Ottoman rule and taken back to England to decorate his garden. All Mitsotakis said, in reply to a question during a BBC interview, was that, in his view, the Parthenon without its sculptures is like cutting the Mona Lisa in half. Despite this comment being very mild compared to the abuse I have received over many years from my Greek family over the ‘Elgin marbles’, UK Prime Minister Sunak had a hissy fit and refused to meet Mitsotakis.

Sunak, however, came off worse. Insulting the visiting prime minister of a strong political, cultural and military ally for having an opinion on an issue important for him and his country, made Sunak look small, petty and silly. My prediction that the sculptures would not return to Greece in 2023 was correct, but opinion in the UK has changed. It’s no longer ‘if’ the sculptures will return home to Athens, but ‘when’. My score 3/5.

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