Making predictions is a fool’s errand, and fools that we are, we persist in doing so. This week, we hosted our annual Field View event, looking ahead at 2022 with our wonderful panel of journalists, John Pienaar (Times Radio), Rachel Sylvester (The Times) and Chris Hope (The Telegraph).
2020 and 2021 were dominated by Covid, while 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 were dominated by Brexit. So wouldn’t it be lovely if this year we get to move on to something fresh and new? War with Russia perhaps? Or soaring inflation? Or the escalating climate crisis? We can hardly wait.
Our event included a number of audience polls, one of which gave a series of options for what will be the dominant domestic theme of the year. Given the choices of: covid; Brexit; levelling up; cost of living; NHS backlog; culture wars, or other, a staggering 84% predicted cost of living. To demonstrate the scale of the victory, NHS backlog came second on 6%. At least among our audience, there is an overwhelming consensus. In 2022, it’s the economy, stupid.
Naturally, there was ample discussion about the future of Boris Johnson, and the sight of Chris Hope relaying intel from angry backbench Tory MPs in real time, was something to behold. But Boris Johnson’s fate is intrinsically linked to Keir Starmer’s, and so we also spent some time discussing Starmer, and if he has what it takes to really sink the Prime Minister. John Pienaar’s perspective was a little mixed on Sir Keir, who he deemed ‘wholly unable to excite or energise’ the public and ‘lacking charisma in a way you will rarely come across.’ But he did note that at recent Prime Minister’s Questions, Starmer has finally managed to blend the humours of prosecutor and politician to skewer Boris. The underlying point remains however, that the main person skewering Boris, is Boris. On whether Starmer is impressive in his own right, a firm conclusion has not been reached.
On wider predictions for 2022, we covered all sorts of ground, from culture wars, to the World Cup, to the Royal Family. Rachel Sylvester passionately spoke on Prince Andrew, who she thinks will have another humiliating year, while the Queen will – of course – look dignified in comparison. As for culture wars, as Chris Hope put it, these are battles mainly fought on twitter. Most ‘normal’ people did not spend 2021 arguing about pronouns or statues quite as much as commentators did, and we hope that that holds true for this year as well.
On the most important question of them all – England’s fate in the World Cup – we asked the audience. The prevailing view: out in the Quarter Finals. Ah well. One thing is clear, in 2022 the stubborn realism of the British people is going nowhere.