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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2008, 12:57 GMT
Leaders look to year ahead
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

It may have been the year he finally won the job he coveted for more than a decade, but Gordon Brown may still be happy to see the back of 2007.

Gordon Brown at liaison committee
Mr Brown needs some sunnier weather in 2008
The botched autumn election stunt, Northern Rock, missing data, donorgate - the list of horrors which engulfed the PM just goes on and on.

So surely he must believe that, in 2008, things really can only get better.

David Cameron, on the other hand, will clearly hope Mr Brown's run of bad luck - or incompetence as he has it - continues and that he manages to continue capitalising on it as successfully as he did in 2007.

The Tory party's fortunes have certainly been revived by Mr Brown's black period, but Mr Cameron - undoubtedly with the help of his new media chief, former tabloid editor Andy Coulson - has made the most of his opportunities.

As for the Liberal Democrats, they have yet another leader who will desperately want to use 2008 to unite his party and start looking outwards to voters.

However, the more gloomy in his ranks fear that, after a brief honeymoon period, he might just spend much of the next year attempting to fully secure the job he won with the slimmest of margins.


There are, of course, big set piece events throughout the political year, chancellor Alistair Darling's first budget, party conferences a Liberal Democrat leadership election (OK Perhaps not the last).

David Cameron
Mr Cameron will want to continue advances
The economy seems set to dominate throughout the year with gloomy talk of a global recession, the continuing fallout from the sub-prime market crisis and the future of Northern Rock all likely to present the chancellor with headaches.

Early in the new year there will be the report into the "donorgate" row over anonymous donations to the Labour party.

The prime minister insists he knew absolutely nothing about these donations but the report is certain to spark another debate over the possible public funding of political parties.

There will be big political rows in the Commons over the government's much-opposed plans to extend pre-charge detention to 42 days - a vote Mr Brown currently seems set to lose thanks to the combined efforts of the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour rebels.

Similarly, the new EU "not-the-constitution" treaty will be debated at great length in the chamber, amid continuing Tory demands for a referendum on it - which they won't get.

The danger is, with this piece of legislation taking up so much time, other planned laws may be squeezed off the agenda.

London mayor

Then, perhaps most importantly, there will be the usual batch of local elections in May - covering just about every part of England and Wales - and mayoral elections, including in London.

In the capital, the battle between Ken Livingstone, for Labour, and Boris Johnson, for the Tories, seems certain to provide a huge amount of entertainment and, perhaps, even some enlightenment.

Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg faces local election test in May
For example, has Mr Livingstone's popularity finally started to wane and can Mr Johnson show he has the ability to run anything apart from a bicycle.

The Liberal Democrat's candidate, controversial former-copper Brian Paddick, may struggle to get his voice heard above that din.

But it will be those local polls in council across the country that will give the clearest indication of how the parties are viewed amongst the people who really matter - the voters.

David Cameron will need to see a good showing for his Tory candidates to boost Tory hopes they really do have more than an outside chance of winning the next general election - still a huge mountain to climb, despite the party's recent revival.

The Liberal Democrat's new man Nick Clegg will also need to see a good performance by his candidates if he is not to suffer the fate of previous leaders, become the victim of the old two party squeeze and even face rumblings over his leadership.

The prime minister also has a lot riding on these polls. Most expect Labour to be the overall losers, and that would be bad enough for Mr Brown who is attempting to suggest his government is a "new" administration with little connection to the negatives of the Blair years.

Significant losses and suggestions he is on the way to general election defeat could spark a spasm within Labour as scores of backbenchers see their futures in parliament slipping away from them.

There has even been talk of a coup if that happens. It may seem unlikely at the moment, but if the prime minister continues his current turn of bad luck it would be foolhardy to rule anything out.

A better-than-expected result for Labour, needless to say, would have exactly the opposite effect and Mr Brown might confidently be able, finally, to claim he really was the change the country had been calling for.

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