Archive for September, 2015


Antifrank on the choices of Jeremy Corbyn

Monday, September 28th, 2015


A tale of top buttons and constitutional principle

Since being elected Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn has wandered into controversy after controversy.  Some of a these have been narrowly political but many have not. There was surprise when he ducked out of an interview with Andrew Marr the day after being elected Labour leader.  There was consternation when he attended a Battle of Britain memorial with his top button undone and stood in “respectful silence” rather than sing the national anthem.  More than one Conservative MP criticised him for not attending an international rugby match to which he had been invited.  And he is still agonising about whether to bend his knee to the Queen when he is inducted into the Privy Council.

These may look disparate (and they are varying importance and substance), but a common thread runs through all of them because they illuminate Jeremy Corbyn’s conception of his new role.  It appears that he has an unusually narrow view of what is required of the Leader of the Opposition.

Walter Bagehot, an early editor of the Economist, wrote The English Constitution.  Among his many theories of the constitution, he drew attention to the different aspects of government which he characterised as “dignified” and “efficient”, thus:

“No one can approach to an understanding of the English institutions, or of others which, being the growth of many centuries, exercise a wide sway over mixed populations, unless he divide them into two classes. In such constitutions there are two parts (not indeed separable with microscopic accuracy, for the genius of great affairs abhors nicety of division) first, those which excite and preserve the reverence of the population — the dignified parts, if I may so call them; and next, the efficient parts — those by which it, in fact, works and rules. There are two great objects which every constitution must attain to be successful, which every old and celebrated one must have wonderfully achieved every constitution must first gain authority, and then use authority, it must first win the loyalty and confidence of mankind, and there employ that homage in the work of government.

There are indeed practical men who reject the dignified parts of government. They say, we want only to attain results, to do business: a constitution is a collection of political means for political ends, and if you admit that any part of a constitution does no business, or that a simpler machine would do equally well what it does, you admit that this part of the constitution, however dignified or awful it may be, is nevertheless in truth useless. And other reasoners, who distrust this bare philosophy, have propounded subtle arguments to prove that these dignified parts of old governments are cardinal components of the essential apparatus, great pivots of substantial utility; and so they manufactured fallacies which the plainer school have well exposed.

But both schools are in error. The dignified parts of government are those which bring it force which attract its motive power. The efficient parts only employ that power. The comely parts of a government have need, for they are those upon which its vital strength depends. They may not do any thing definite that a simpler polity would not do better; but they are the preliminaries, the needful prerequisites of all work. They raise the army, though they do not win the battle.

Doubtless, if all subjects of the same government only thought of what was useful to them, and if they all thought the same thing useful, and all thought that same thing could be attained in the same way, the efficient members of a constitution would suffice, and no impressive adjuncts would be needed. But the world in which we live is organized far otherwise.”

Now the Leader of the Opposition plays no part in government, but much the same principles apply.  There are aspects of what to date has been understood to be the role that are “dignified”: the attending of public events and the carrying out of public functions in the capacity of one of the two major political parties of the nation.  Much of the public see Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of the Opposition as having greater responsibilities than Jeremy Corbyn the backbencher.

Scruffiness at a memorial service reflects on Labour as well as on himself.  It is laudable for a backbencher to conduct a constituency surgery in preference to attending a rugby international but the Leader of the Opposition is normally expected to delegate constituency work to others where other commitments arise appropriate to a leader (a rugby international is marginal, of course).

Jeremy Corbyn appears to disagree with Walter Bagehot and seems intent on paying little regard to the dignified aspects of his role.  He would be wise to rethink: his views are already well outside the political mainstream as it currently stands and if he is to get a fair hearing from the public he has to meet them on familiar territory.  He needs all the help that he can get.  To draw on the authority of Leader of the Opposition, he needs to look like a Leader of the Opposition.  By paying more attention to the formal parts of the role, he may gain himself more of a hearing.



Don’t read too much into primary polls at this point in the electoral cycle

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Out of the fifteen polls completed in September 2007, John McCain the eventual nominee didn’t lead in any of them polling as low as 10% and generally being in a distant third/fourth place behind the frontrunners Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson who were polling in the 30s. In October 2007 McCain polled as low as 8%.

In early September 2011 the polling had eventual nominee Mitt Romney trailing Rick Perry consistently and even occasionally Herman Cain leading. While later on that year Romney started trailing Newt Gingrich and in early 2012 was trailing Rick Santorum.

The American Presidential race is going to be the major betting event on PB for the next year so when looking at any poll on who the nominees will be, the past performance of these polls needs to be remembered. We shouldn’t read too much into the current polls as the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and Herman Cain will attest. Just because Trump is leading now it isn’t guaranteed that he will be the nominee.



UKIP are doing a passable impression of ferrets in a sack again

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

For a party with only one MP such regular ructions is a real achievement

The above is a tweet from Douglas Carswell quoting an article about the UKIP donor Arron Banks, the rest of Douglas Carswell’s twitter feed over the past few days has been similarly entertaining about his disagreements and issues with Banks and his staff.

Whilst all of this amusing to non UKIPers it might have wider ramifications for UK politics, especially with Arron Banks telling campaigners ‘I have Nigel by the short and curlies financially.’

It makes defections to UKIP less likely given the opprobrium heaped upon Douglas Carswell by some in UKIP since the election and Mark Reckless losing his seat in May and is now attempting to revive his career by standing in next year’s Welsh assembly elections, defecting to UKIP is the equivalent of the Kiss of Death for one’s career. As is opposing/criticising  Nigel Farage as Suzanne Evans has found out to her cost again this weekend. 

With Labour appearing to place ideological purity ahead of electability, the migrant crisis and with the forthcoming EU referendum, UKIP have a historic opportunity to reshape the fabric of this country but right now they appear to be declining that opportunity whilst opponents of UKIP are struggling to contain their glee.

Forget all the post election council by elections showing UKIP generally doing badly, forget the opinion polls, the key stat for UKIP is the following one, ten per cent of UKIP members have left the party since the election. The People’s Army is demobilising before their most important battle, that does not bode well for UKIP and could damage the wider Leave movement if not handled well.


PS – It is exactly one year ago today that Mark Reckless defected to UKIP, if a week is a long time in politics, a year must feel like an aeon for Mark Reckless


The buzzword bingo on Mr Corbyn’s conference speech

Sunday, September 27th, 2015

Will Mr Corbyn be a ‘swine’ and mention Dave’s porcine issue?

Ladbrokes have a market up on what exact words or phrases Mr Corbyn will say during his speech at the Labour party conference. I’ve said before these betting markets often appear to exist purely to fund the bookies’ bonus fund and this one appears not to break that pattern.

But I am tempted by the 3/1 on pig. Mr Corbyn faces a difficult conference with splits on several policy areas expected, so he needs something to get the party to unite behind him. Conferences also exist in part to cheer up your own supporters (who need cheering up after the traumatic events of May), so what better way for Mr Corbyn to get the whole party united and cheered up than to openly ridicule David Cameron by referencing that pig allegation.

You can access the Ladbrokes market by clicking here.



REVEALED: The T-shirt and slogan for the UKIP leave EU campaign

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

I think that this is just too personal and appears egotistical. A mistake from the purples.

Mike Smithson


Hillary looks set to struggle in New Hampshire but Sanders unlikely to be much of a threat elsewhere

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Where does the Democratic race stand now?

Hillary Clinton continues to dominate the betting for the Democratic nomination for next year’s White House Race. She has slipped a bit but she is still a very tight odds on favourite.

Her main opponent who has declared himself is the 74 year old Bernie Sanders an independent senator from the neighbouring state of Vermont.

Apart from the fact that he would be nearly 80 at the end of his term if he competed for the presidency and won historical experience suggests that politicians from neighbouring states to New Hampshire tend to do very well in primaries there. Their performances elsewhere has been mixed.

Hillary appears to have a strong position so far in the polls in Iowa, which with its caucuses is the first State to make a decision. Iowa is not a full primary where elections are held under the supervision of the state. In caucus states interested party supporters attend meetings on the designated day where they vote. These are all overseen and administered by the state party organisation.

    The big question with the Democratic nomination remains: will vice president Joe Biden throw his hat into the ring? The speculation over his intentions have gone on for a very long time and the longer he waits the harder it will be for him to mount a successful primary campaign nationally.

It will also be very costly and most of the major donors to the Democratic party have already been signed up by the Clinton Clan.

All this doesn’t mean that Hillary is home and dry. The fact that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are polling so well in some States suggests that there is a fair degree of unease about her candidacy.

Mike Smithson


Local By-Election Results : September 24th 2015

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Loddon on Norfolk (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 40, United Kingdom Independence Party 15, Labour 14, Liberal Democrats 10, Green 4, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservatives 2,001 (64%), UKIP 594 (19%), Labour 383 (12%), Liberal Democrats 163 (5%)

Result: Conserrvatives 1,094 (57% -7%), Labour 357 (19% +7%), Liberal Democrats 235 (12% +7%), UKIP 233 (12% -7%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 737 (38%) on a swing of 7% from Conservative to Labour

Chedgrave and Thurton on South Norfolk (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 40, Liberal Democrats 6 (Conservative majority of 34)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Conservatives 688 (46%), Labour 299 (20%), UKIP 243 (16%), Liberal Democrats 129 (9%)

Result: Conservatives 260 (53% +7%), Labour 93 (19% -1%), Liberal Democrats 69 (14% +5%), UKIP 64 (13% -3%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 167 (34%) on a swing of 4% from Labour to Conservative

Derwent Valley on Derbyshire (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 43, Conservatives 18, Liberal Democrats 3 (Labour majority of 22)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservatives 1,674 (43%), UKIP 944 (24%), Labour 904 (23%), Liberal Democrats 387 (10%)

Result: Conservatives 1,107 (51% +8%), Labour 466 (21% -2%), Liberal Democrats 314 (14% +4%), UKIP 285 (13% -11%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 641 (30%) on a swing of 5% from Labour to Conservative

Pontefract North on Wakefield (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 54, Conservatives 6, United Kingdom Independence Party 2, Independent 1 (Labour majority of 45)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,649 (48%), Independent 769 (22%), Conservative 481 (14%), UKIP 368 (11%), Trade Unionist and Socialist 76 (2%)

Result: Labour 909 (48% unchanged), UKIP 453 (24% +13%), Conservatives 299 (16% +2%), Liberal Democrats 86 (5%, no candidate in 2014), Other Parties 148 (8%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 456 (24%) on a swing of 6.5% from Labour to UKIP

Blakebrook and South Habberley on Wyre Forest (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 21, Independents 3, Labour 2, United Kingdom Independence Party 2, National Health Action 2, Liberal 1 (Conservative majority of 10)
Result of ward at last election : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,194 E, 1,232 E, 1,070 (28%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 833, 871, 699 (20%)
Labour 792, 790, 612 (18%)
National Health Action 669 (16%)
Green Party 206, 289, 481 (11%)
Liberal Democrats 211 (5%)
Trade Unionist and Socialists 68 (1%)

Result: Conservatives 595 (40% +12%), UKIP 252 (17% -3%), Labour 247 (17% -1%), Green 173 (12% +1%), National Health Action 167 (11% -5%), Liberal Democrats 54 (4% -1%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 343 (23%) on a swing of 7.5% from UKIP to Conservative

I apologise to people expecting a preview of these by-elections on Thursday, but as I explained to Mike, I was on holiday last week and the only internet connection I had was on my mobile phone (and even then the connection was not reliable) and therefore it was simply impossible to do a preview, so therefore now I have returned home normal service will be resumed on Thursday


David Herdson says the Migrant crisis has laid bare the EU’s big delusion

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Ultimately, the Union must unite or perish

Ever closer union: three words that have caused interminable difficulty for those who wanted – those who want – a European Common Market. Three words that are now superfluous, though not for the reasons that the Marketeers would like.

The reason they’re superfluous is that the other initiatives the EU has undertaken contain an internal dynamic that supersedes any treaty rhetoric. Nowhere has that been more clearly demonstrated that with the migrant crisis afflicting southern and central Europe. A Common Market needs free movement of people, goods, services and money, and it has them. It does not need to do without internal borders altogether yet 22 of the 28 member states have done just that. All others but Ireland and the UK are obliged to do likewise.

This is gesture politics of a delusory nature; all very well in normal times but utterly inadequate in times of real need, and dangerous for that very fact. What it means in reality is that Germany’s borders are patrolled by Greece, France’s by Hungary, or Austria’s by Estonia. And under the current scale of illegal immigration, Greece is incapable of securing its borders – which is why other countries down the line have scrambled to control theirs (to be fair to Hungary, none of Serbia, Croatia or Romania are yet in Schengen – Serbia isn’t even in the EU).

Europe has wanted it both ways: to play at Union by giving up what are essential national powers without handing that power up to anyone. It has simply been lost. If a single country had a particular crisis at one border post or port or coastline, the government would deploy additional resource there in an attempt to sort it out. The EU, by contrast, cannot: there is no Union border force, no government to direct it and no money set aside to fund it. Nor, at present, is there the will to create them.

And Schengen is a microcosm of the EU’s topsy-turvy nature. Many of the powers it does hold are trivial and could easily be retained by the members; they have been handed over precisely because they are trivial. By contrast, many of the powers it needs to be able to fulfil and manage grand projects like Schengen and the Euro have been retained because to do otherwise would be to create in the EU the functions of a state despite the fact that a single currency and a borderless region are themselves features of a state.

How has it managed even so far? In the absence of a meaningful central executive, it’s the European Council – the heads of government and state – who have assumed the role. But 28 people acting collectively cannot provide leadership. In reality, it is, as it has to be, to the heads of the biggest that the rest look. Whether or not Germany and France wanted that leadership (and they do), it would be thrust on them all the same.

Which is why Merkel has come in for so much criticism over the migrant crisis and why the delusion at the heart of the EU has been exposed: her impulsive action acted not only against her own country’s interest but committed so many other member states to act against theirs too, without the opportunity to prevent it. In essence, she committed the cardinal European sin of exposing a breach of consensus; a consensus without which the EU doesn’t work.

Is there an alternative? Only if those powers-by-default are centralised at a European level. But to do so means recognising a further transfer of power to the EU. Further, a meaningful power to determine and enforce policy cannot come without the power to direct manpower and hence without a border force constituted at a European level – and that would increase the demand for the political accountability of whoever is leading that role.

To Americans, all of this might sound familiar, if ancient history. And so it is. Europe has created its own version of the Continental Convention, a body whose divisions and lack of direct powers led it to failure within a few short years of practical independence. The EU has built a more complex structure but that same power-hole lies at the centre: a lack of means to carry out the ends it is expected to achieve.

Yet if twenty-first century Europe has the advantage over eighteenth century America in institutions, in lags far behind in another way. Federalists have been on the back foot for a decade, since the rejection of the European Constitution. Some advances might be made by stealth or necessity but the fire has gone out of the belief: the public have been left behind. Not only is there no-one of the brilliance of Alexander Hamilton or James Madison to make the case, there is no-one at all to make the case.

To some extent that is entirely understandable. As well as being emotionally wedded to nation states old, new or yet to be (re-)born, citizens are cynical that the answer to every problem seems to be more power to a centre when that centre’s past demands for more have been met with today’s failures. That cynicism is to an extent misguided: the failures stem from taking on unnecessary projects without the tools for the jobs, though the stealth in the design of such projects can’t be ignored. Even so, the failure must be dealt with all the same. Some 8000 migrants are still arriving in Europe per day from Africa or Turkey: a quarter of a million per month.

But what is to be done? No doubt the leaders hope that they can muddle on through as before and perhaps for now they’re right. But the spanner that David Cameron has thrown in the EU works in the form of his hoped-for renegotiation has the potential to give the lie to ever closer union not only in theory but in brutal fact should Britain choose to leave, as is entirely possible both if the EU cannot get its act together and if it can only do so through still further unification. In fact, that treaty change he seeks ought to be an opportunity for all sides to push for necessary changes, not only for countries sceptical about union but also those needing to fill the power vacuum that the migrant crisis is exposing. On whether someone – Cameron, Merkel, Tusk, Juncker or whoever – is ready to come forward with a comprehensive and workable arrangement may well hang the future of Britain’s membership. Indeed, on that may well hang the future of the whole project.

David Herdson