Sunday, 2 January 2011

What does 2011 offer for political nerds?

On 13 January there will be a by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth to fill the seat left by Labour's Phil Woolas. Like every by-election, it is a key test for the three main parties and their leaders, but Ed Miliband and the Nick Clegg have the most to gain - and lose.

Then on 5 May there are so many elections and referendums, political commentators will find it difficult to keep up. There are elections for councils across the UK, the Welsh Assembly, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are all up for election on that date as well, and there is also a referendum in Wales on whether to give the Assembly law-making powers.

Of course, the main attraction on 5 May will be the referendum on changing the voting system in the House of Commons to AV. The vote (only the second UK-wide referendum in British history) will be a somewhat bizarre as most Conservative MPs are opposed to AV, while most Liberal Democrats will support the change. The result will have lasting repercussions for the Coalition, but also for the future of British politics. If the people support the change, there may never be a majority government again.

More inner conflicts in the Coalition are bound to appear over the next year, it will be interesting to see how the two parties hold together, if they do at all. If the Coalition does fall apart it will mean a general election, which none of the main parties want at the moment. 2011 will probably be a troubled year for the Euro and a difficult time for those who experience the government cuts.

Beyond Blighty and across the pond, the candidates for the 2012 Presidential election will declare their intention to run in the next few months. Most will be Republicans, but given President Obama's recent difficulties, a few Democrats might emerge - though they are unlikely to be notable or successful. As for the Republicans, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin are the ones to watch, but American politics has a tendency to bring up surprise candidates. The first presidential primaries are just 13 months away - they'll be here before we know it!

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