Looking back on predictions

It’s easy to do year-end predictions, right? After all, nobody bothers to check them. Wrong. As a piece of fun, I thought I’d have a look at a couple of serious newspapers, and see what they predicted for 2017. How much did they get right?  And how much did they get wrong?

Our two victims are The Guardian (very worthy) and The Financial Times (very serious indeed). To be fair, the FT article was written by journalists. And the Guardian article was crowd-sourced with readers views.

Let’s start with Brexit. The FT was right about Article 50. It did get triggered. The Guardian predicted that Brexit would not happen. I guess they could still be right. But probably not in 2017. The Guardian predicted a bad year for Labour, with an election and huge losses. They could not have been more wrong.

Guardian readers predicted increased nationalism across Europe including victory for Marine Le Pen (who she? Ed.). The FT called Marine Le Pen’s fortunes correctly. But nobody predicted Macron Mania. It hadn’t yet been invented. The FT also predicted a Merkel victory. But Guardian readers were more canny still, predicting that Germany would end up mired in a coalition. Tick.

The FT were also right about the Iran nuclear deal (at risk, but not dead). The FT also predicted that Trump would start to build his border wall “but not much of it”. They seem to be half right on that one. On President Trump more generally, Guardian readers were only stating the obvious when they predicted that he would push the US towards isolationism. Ditto with a prediction that Erdogan would become “increasingly authoritarian”. Guardian readers also predicted an “ugly abortion campaign in Ireland”.  I’m not close to that one, so over to you to decide how “ugly” that debate has become.

The FT was sanguine about ISIS, predicting that it would not be destroyed by a global coalition. They were equally pragmatic about Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, predicting that he would survive an avalanche of scandals. On North Korea, the FT did not think that they would “successfully test a nuclear-capable missile”, as Pyongyang  would be too worried about US retaliation. That feels only half right as the year draws to its end.

Did anyone predict the end of Robert Mugabe? I don’t think so. Did anyone predict a minority Conservative Government? Not that I recall. Did economists predict a slow-down, especially in the housing market?  Yes, many did. Some predictions are easier than others, maybe?

But, overall: it’s surprising how surprising the world can still be. It was Harold Macmillan who, when asked what a Prime Minister feared most, replied “Events, dear boy, events.”  The future, it seems, remains a foreign – and unpredicatable – land. Get your passports ready for 2018…