Five Years

Written by Gavin Stebbing on 8 May 2015

Labour supporters will be reflecting on a disastrous Election Night for their party. Meanwhile, the triumphant Tory voters may well be singing to them the opening words of David Bowie's iconic 1972 song "Five Years":

"Pushing thru the market square,
so many mothers sighing.
News had just come over, 
we had five years left to cry in"

Labour will be powerless to stop the Tories as they potentially change the political landscape of the UK over the next five years more dramatically than has ever been seen before.

Here are my predictions for the next five years, as Labour sob on the sidelines:

1. Boundary Changes

One of the principles of a fair Parliament is equal-sized constituencies to ensure equal representation for all citizens. At the moment, constituencies vary in size from less than 22,000 to more than 110,000. The four national Boundary Commissions are the independent bodies responsible for reviewing constituency boundaries in the UK. Their last proposals for reform in 2012 failed to get through the last Parliament, mainly due to the Lib Dems blocking the changes because they would have had a significant benefit to the Tories. The proposals would have seen the number of constituencies reduced from 650 to 600 and based on the 2010 election results, the Conservatives would have ended up with 287 seats out of 600, rather than 297 seats out of 650. A new review will be held in 2015 in time for approval in 2018, and this time it seems certain that the Tories will force through the proposed changes. Such boundary changes are likely to have a materially beneficial impact on Tory prospects at the 2020 Election and therefore, seem to be a certainty for this Parliament.

2. Scotland

The meteoric rise of the SNP will not, in my view, lead to Scottish independence over the next five years. Instead, I see Cameron giving more power to the Scottish Parliament, including total fiscal autonomy. In return, he will force through the principle of English votes for English issues and given that the rest of the UK will be fiscally independent from Scotland, it will mean that Scottish MPs will cease to have voting power on the annual Budget, including tax changes. This is probably irrelevant for the next Parliament, but it does mean that if any Labour government gets into office in the future with the assistance of the SNP, they will have their powers severely curtailed because traditionally there has been a Conservative majority outside Scotland, even when Labour have been in government.

3. Europe

There will definitely be a Referendum on the EU in the next Parliament. I see Cameron using the looming vote to renegotiate the UK's deal with Europe. Europe needs the UK as much as the UK needs Europe, so I see the Referendum as political posturing with the UK ending up with a better overall deal, although not as good as perhaps Cameron would hope for. Nevertheless, I see no chance of the UK actually leaving Europe.

4. Tax

I expect the Tories to reduce the top rate of income tax back to 40% as soon as possible (i.e. from 2016/17 onwards), and I also see some big changes to inheritance tax coming, possibly even abolishing it altogether. Both corporation tax and VAT will remain at 20% for the term of the Parliament, and there will be no material changes to the capital gains tax regime. We may see income tax and national insurance combined in some way, but this is fraught with political difficulties and so remains a remote prospect. Tax avoidance will continue to be castigated as being morally reprehensible.

5. The next Election

Boris Johnson will succeed Cameron as the Tory leader before the next Election, and his challenger in the red corner will be David Miliband. Despite the boundary changes, it will be a hung Parliament, with UKIP and SNP holding the balance of power. The Tories will continue to govern as a minority government, but there will be a second Election that year.

I am already looking forward to 2020 to see whether in fact I had 20/20 vision or not!