The Times – What’s coming the world’s way in 2009<br/> Recession or recovery, general election or not? More intolerance, fewer workaholics? We predict the year ahead

Libby Purves

A cultural prediction: recession will bring revulsion at the sour aggressive tone of the affluent years, as audiences demand gentleness and warmth. Affable comedy will outsell sneers; style shows yield to countryside and tradition. Cool, cursing chefs will be replaced by cuddles and dumplings. Musicals with hearts of gold will thrive and Alan Titchmarsh stalk the land, smiling. Feelgood will be box-office; misery memoirs remaindered.

Oh hurrah!

Matthew Parris

There will be a general election that the Tories will win with an overall majority of 2x+7 where x = the month (expressed numerically) in which it is held: thus in May the Tory majority is 17, in October, 27.


Richard Morrison

You don’t have to be Mystic Meg to guess that the arts will be in big trouble in 2009. As audiences count the cost of going out, the Government slashes subsidy and big-name sponsors go bust, there will be a severe curtailing of cultural life. But that needn’t be all bad news: high subsidy has produced a lot of inconsequential, faddish, politically correct twaddle. But will the right things be cut?

That could turn out similar to Libby’s.

Giles Coren

Starburst will turn back into Opal Fruits. Snickers will turn back into Marathon bars. Non-homogenised milk will once again be sold in nice glass bottles with different coloured lids to tell you how creamy the contents are. Fizzy drinks can ring-pulls will revert to the detachable type so you can ping them across the classroom. Spud-U-Like outlets will take over the high streets. All the TV channels apart from BBC One and BBC Two will be cancelled. The internet will close. Teenagers will stop carrying knives. O-level Latin will be made compulsory for entry into any university. There will be three domestic postal deliveries a day. Britain will start manufacturing cars again. Nobody will ever swear. I will get married.

Again like Libby’s. Sort of.

Magnus Linklater

This is the year when the lights begin to flicker, and, just possibly, go out. With no real plans for the next generation of nuclear power stations, wind farms stalled and inadequate, and other alternative energy sources a distant dream, oil and gas are running short and there is nowhere else to go. A big year for candles.

Candles! Also like Libby’s!

Camilla Cavendish

Boris Johnson will cancel the 2012 Olympics, taking a leaf out of Denver’s book. Denver was to host the Winter Olympics in 1970 but voters refused to let their taxes be spent and the Games went to Innsbruck. Put it to the vote, Boris!

I’m gonna say that one’s like Libby’s too mostly cuz I like it.

Right so, consolidating the above and sprinkling on my own magic wishing powder:

All British television except for BBC 1 and 2 will stop broadcasting. BBC 1 and 2 will start on a Renaissance of Jane Austen, low-budget hilarious and worthy comedies like Waiting For God and As Time Goes By were, and Alan Titchmarsh anything. US television will cock up its toes and rather than do what it did 8 years ago by filling its hours with cheap reality shows, it will save money by simply importing those BBC 1 and 2 shows. Alan Titchmarsh will become a phenomenon. But he won’t come here, not for a single book signing, because he knows where that will lead. The power will go out, candles will come out, and people will start getting an average of 10 hours of sleep a night, something that hasn’t happened since Edison cursed us with electric light. Gordon Brown will call an election late in the year and lose badly. Peter Costello will somehow rise to power in Australia. And at all international summits, the leaders of the world will all stare at Obama with a collective gimlet eye until he sees the light and does everything right. Bush will move to Texas. He won’t write a book. He’ll be very happy. Laura will read. Protesters will go home and tend to their arthritis. The economy will tank. Housing will grind to a halt. As an economic stimulus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Jesus Christ themselves will rise from the dead (or come down from heaven in the latter case) and start a building project of simple but aesthetically correct and lovely stone tenement buildings with high ceilings and gracefully proportioned roomed, situated around elegant central squares with chic cafes and bakeries, which will last for centuries and finally we, like the rest of the world, will be able to put plaques on houses that say “so-and-so was born here hundreds of years ago” because so-and-so won’t have been born in a plywood box with a little fake bricking up the front of it that’s designed to be flipped at 20% increases every two years with no improvements but “slab granite countertops!” and then torn down and built again every 15 years with the latest technological advancements in plywood. Meanwhile, children will learn latin, classical music theory, and ballet. There parents will learn to cook brussel sprouts properly and everyone will lose weight, gain wisdom, and I won’t have to machete my way through 10-ton sale racks of hideous size 18s to get to where the only full-priced article of clothing in the store which might fit me is. And Alan Titchmarsh and I will become pen pals and he’ll invite me over for tea and fresh organic strawberries every July.