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Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Saturday, 3 January 2009
How will politicians help shape 2009?

By Dave Howard
Newsbeat politics reporter

2008 was a year of great change in UK and global politics. America elected its first black president and at home Gordon Brown has had to deal with the effects of the global economic crisis. So what will be the big issues in 2009? Our politics reporter Dave Howard answers that question.

What will 2009 hold in store?

WILL THE TROOPS COME HOME?

find out what it's like to live with losing colleagues in war

Almost all British troops are likely to be out of Iraq by the middle of 2009.

The final decision to remove them will depend partly on whether Iraqi elections, scheduled for January, go smoothly.

But if things are getting easier in Iraq, it's a different story in Afghanistan, where British forces continue to face exhausting pitched battles with the Taliban. The good news is - America's planning to send thousands of troops to the Helmand bad-lands to help Britain out.

That'll ease the very great pressure on British forces - and it may mean more of them can get a decent rest between deployments.

WILL THESE MONEY PROBLEMS GO AWAY?

The only thing most people agree on when it comes to the economy is that things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Credit crunch sale
Among the biggest victims of the credit crunch was Woolworths
The government predicts a short, sharp recession, with things improving in the middle of next year. But one respected international body (the OECD) says things will be worse for Britain than for any of the world's other richest countries.

Unemployment is expected to top 3 million. Things could stay bad until the middle of 2010.

Even then, we'll still be paying off billions of pounds in debt, after a recently announced boost in public spending. The government's committed itself to borrowing big money to keep people in jobs - and worry about the consequences later.

2009 may not see the dramatic headlines on the economy that we've had over the last 18 months. Banks (probably) aren't going to crash - like Northern Rock or Lehman Brothers did. The rollercoaster ride has (probably) ended.

But it'll still be grim. There'll be many more job losses, and house prices will continue to fall.

WILL THERE BE AN EARLY ELECTION?

Gordon Brown and David Cameron
Gordon Brown doesn't have to hold an election until May 2010
All bets are off on whether the PM will call a vote in the spring or early summer of 2009. Even the top politics experts can't decide. Here are some of the reasons why it's hard to call:

In favour of an early election:

1) Gordon Brown is more popular at the moment than he has been for months. A while ago, he looked almost certain to lose an election, but now he's back in the running. A lot of people say they trust him to lead the country through tough times.

2) The economy is expected to get worse through 2009, and hit rock-bottom by the early part of 2010. By calling a vote early, the PM could avoid fighting a campaign while the country feels the full force of recession.

Against an early election:

1) Gordon Brown has shown himself to be a cautious man. He nearly called an election once before, and seems to have changed his mind at the last minute. He waited over a decade to become Prime Minister, and he may want to hold onto the position as long as possible before putting it at risk.

2) It could look cynical to call a spring election - especially after the PM repeatedly said he's completely focused on the economy.

SEE ALSO
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Wednesday, 30 July 2008, 06:21 GMT |  The P Word

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