The 10 worst predictions of 2009

Even well-informed commentators got it spectacularly wrong over some of the year's happenings, as John Rentoul reports


1. "Woods never does anything that would make himself look ridiculous."
Golf Digest, January 2010 issue

2. "Brown will be tempted to fight on, but if he is well advised and sensible, he will see that this cannot go on. He will concede what Tony Blair also eventually conceded when the pressure grew too great – that he has no wish to be an impediment to Labour's electoral success. He will step down soon, maybe today, certainly this weekend." Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 5 June 2009

3. "If 2008 was the year in which the Anglo-Saxon economic model was tested to destruction, in 2009 it may well be the turn of the European single-currency zone." Anatole Kaletsky, The Times, 12 January 2009

The economics commentator was so badly burned by his predictions for 2008 ("The global credit crisis, far from taking a turn for the worse, is now almost over"; "There will be no US recession"; "Stock markets around the world will rise in 2008") that he was understandably cautious this year. He predicted that there would be a change of president and treasury secretary in the US, and, more daringly, that the dollar would rise (it fell, but not by much). But then he went on to predict that the eurozone would go through the wringer. On the contrary, it led Britain out of recession.

4. "Is Tony Blair about to make the most remarkable political comeback since Winston Churchill?... President Blair could still just happen." Adam Boulton, Sky News political editor, 20 November 2009 (the morning that Herman van Rompuy was chosen as President of the European Council).

5. "A range of between 19,000 and 65,000 deaths from swine flu." Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer, England, 16 July 2009

To be fair, this was a "reasonable worst-case scenario, not a prediction", to enable the NHS to plan. The latest estimate is that 138 have died this year, according to the British Medical Journal. Oxford Economics, a forecasting organisation, warned that the pandemic could knock 5 per cent off the country's gross domestic product (The Guardian, 17 July).

"I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5 ... It really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic." Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation, 29 April 2009

6. "The way people talk about bubbles, it's like we were a bubble-gum factory. Dubai has increased the value of the desert." Adel al-Shirawi, vice chairman of Istithmar World, a government-owned investment company, 16 June 2008

7. "Victoria Beckham will become pregnant with a long-awaited daughter. And Jordan will announce she's pregnant, too." Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker's psychic world predictions as featured in 'Hello!'

8. "Resistance is futile. Cowell will always succeed. John and Edward to win." Katy Guest, Independent on Sunday, 8 November 2009

And Joe McElderry, who won, didn't even make it to Christmas No 1.

9. "Michael Jackson ... would get stronger in the coming year." Peruvian shamans, 28 December, 2008

The shamans had gathered to perform a ceremony at which they made predictions about "world leaders".

10. "Catastrophic outcomes resulting from the Large Hadron Collider could include theoretical miniature black holes, theoretical strangelets and deSitter Space transitions." Walter L Wagner, "nuclear physicist", 1 April 2008

Mr Wagner set up Citizens Against the Large Hadron Collider to use legal action to require that Cern engage in extensive safety testing of the collider before it is allowed to operate. It reported the first proton-proton collision on 23 November. We are still here.

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