Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


The Tories’ current odds-on status in Copeland doesn’t square with the party’s rubbish performances since GE2015

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

How the main two have done in LAB defences since GE2015

The CON performance in seats its defended since BREXIT

And the local by election performance since last May’s elections

Latest Betfair odds

This latest betting move has been sparked off by press reports of LAB party canvas data. That, if true, came presumably from information gleaned before the candidate, was selected. Now that a local doctor and anti-Corbynite has been given the job then things could be different.

    One factor that could impact on Tory organisation in a very remote part of England is that the party will be extremely cautious about sending professional organisers from outside given the continuing investigation into election spending following the Michael Crick investigations.

The Tories could also be hit by the expected high-octane Lib Dem campaign aimed at REMAINERS. This seat is next door to Tim Farron’s and he’s a well known figure in the county and his party are going to fight hard to keep its by-election momentum going.

I am reminded by how the pundits were telling us just over a year ago that LAB was vulnerable to UKIP in Oldham West. Then we had Tooting where pundits were saying that the Tories had a chance in Sadiq Khan’s old seat. What happened – the LAB vote went up in each case.

Many pundits also had Richmond Park totally wrong and the view was that Zac/CON was going to hold on. He lost badly.

Holding a seat for a party of government used to be a real struggle. Taking one from the main opposition party is an even bigger ask. Yes of course the Tories have chance in Copeland but not a 61% one.

Mike Smithson


Timing is everything. A review of Theresa May’s speech

Thursday, January 19th, 2017


There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

Whatever else you think of Brexit, we are being led by powerful currents taking us far from familiar shores. Whether we find safe harbour or end up washed up on the rocks is yet to be seen.

Theresa May has grasped this. After months of silence and having insisted that she would not give a running commentary, she has delivered a speech which offers as much clarity as anyone could have wished for about Britain’s negotiating strategy. Her government is to prioritise controlling immigration and as a result she is not going to attempt to keep Britain in the single market. In her words, the future relationship between Britain and the EU will be “Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.”

Presented as a strategy, this is in reality an admission of defeat. Some Leaver ministers have spent the last six months skipping like Julie Andrews enumerating some of their favourite things about the EU that they intended Britain to continue to benefit from. The Prime Minister is obviously more securely tethered to reality and has recognised that the EU’s many statements that it would not allow Britain to cherry-pick are not bluffs. She has concluded that controlling immigration is a non-negotiable component of Brexit and is proceeding accordingly. Rather than spend months pursuing the impossible, she isn’t going to make the attempt. Instead, she’s going to cut her losses now.

While this is an admission of defeat, it is also politically sensible. The Prime Minister has called this “Clean Brexit” and a more precise turn of phrase would be “Cauterised Brexit”, burning off some tissue in order to seal the wound. This was for centuries standard medical practice after amputation and entirely applicable here.

The domestic reaction came in two stages. That night, the tabloids were ecstatic. And the next day, HSBC and UBS announced their plans to relocate jobs from London – an early illustration of how Cauterised Brexit may have major costs.

For the first time, the Prime Minister also offered some olive twigs to the rest of the EU. She proclaimed her belief that the vote was not a rejection of shared values or to do harm to the EU itself (she would do well to slap down publicly some of her more excitable backbenchers on this last point). She stated that other Europeans would still be welcome in this country.

Despite the clumsy attempts at veiled threats that Theresa May dropped about how Britain could act in a hostile manner if a deal wasn’t reached, the speech received a moderate reception in the chancelleries of Europe (less so in the European press). The sense of realism and the dialling down of the rhetoric has undoubtedly helped. While there is still an enormous amount of work still to be done even to realise the very restricted Brexit that Theresa May is imagining, the risk of a chaotic Brexit has receded quite a way as a result of this speech being delivered.

The whole effort, however, has been undermined by a major flaw that is potentially very damaging indeed. Quite simply, this speech was far too late. The timetable for Brexit is demanding and Theresa May had long ago committed herself to triggering Article 50 in the early part of 2017. There is nothing that she said this week that could not have been said at the Conservative party conference. It would certainly have been a far better conference speech than the one that she actually delivered. Three precious months have been lost.

And it’s not as though those three months have been valuably or even neutrally spent. In the meantime, the British government has been burning its remaining capital with other European nations, insulting them, belittling them and threatening them. The mood is icy.

Brexit was always going to be a brutally difficult course to navigate. But by her delay, Theresa May might well find that the flood tide has been missed. Shallows and miseries might well be impossible to avoid now.

Alastair Meeks


Polling background to the PM’s big BREXIT speech

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017


After an extraordinary and dramatic political year so little has changed in the battle between CON & LAB

Monday, January 16th, 2017

The main moves – UKIP down LD up

After this morning’s YouGov poll came out I was asked on Twitter for the comparative numbers for a year ago and other points during 2016. The data is in the chart above and shows quite extraordinary that Labour and the Conservatives have almost the same numbers this month that they had a year ago.

This is a period which has seen the election of a Muslim mayor in London, Brexit, and, of course, a new UK PM, the victory by Donald Trump in the White House Race.

ILooking at the polling numbers between now and the year ago the only real change has been that the LDs have progressed quite nicely and UKIP has Fallen. At one stage Farage’s party, as it then was, touched 20% but things started to decline after the referendum. It remain to be seen whether under its new leader UKIP will reach the heights again.

The big factor in domestic politics has been the time has marches on. We are now one year closer to the May 2020 General Election date that is laid down in the fixed term Parliament Act. The time margins for a LAB recovery are now much narrower.

In the coming months so much depends on how to Theresa May’s government is seem to have handled the extraction process from the European Union. On that we will get the prime minister’s speech tomorrow. Then hopefully within next week we should see the Supreme Court ruling on Article 50.

Mike Smithson


Now you can bet on how many LAB MPs will quit as during 2017

Saturday, January 14th, 2017


Interesting new betting market up from William Hill on how many LAB MPs will quit the Commons this year. The bar has been set at six which seems reasonable given that we know about Copeland, Tristram Hunt and Andy Burnham’s promise to resign if he’s elected as Mayor of Greater Manchester.

There are lots of rumours circulating about other possibly escapees from the PLP and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw other developments in the next few days.

The Parliamentary Labour Party has not been a happy place since September 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader. Less than seven months ago Labour MPs by 80% to 20% voted against Mr Corbyn in a motion of confidence. Corbyn has hung on since then.

What is causing disquiet for many MPs is the prospect of the boundary review and the impact that is likely to have on their continued presence in the House of Commons after the next election. Both Copeland and Stoke Central were due to be seriously affected by the review and it was no surprise that the sitting MPs feared  for the selection process that was likely to happen if they’d have wanted to stay.

On top of that there must be many MPs whose sole reason for being in politics is that they aspire  to ministerial office and can now see no future for Labour under Mr Corbyn.

There are others who have felt deeply uncomfortable by some of the policy positions espoused by the current leader a particularly on international matters,  defence and BREXIT. Corbyn’s clumsy handling of the anti-Semitism issue hasn’t helped either.

So a further four MPs on top of the three that we already know about seems a reasonable total and the bet looks value.

Mike Smithson


Experto credite, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Graphic credit: Twitter

Economists have had their Michael Fish moment, so said Andy Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England speaking at the Institute of Government last week.  Having predicted a post-Brexit referendum crash that failed to happen, he believes the profession of economics is to some degree in crisis.  But it raises a wider question: what weight should we put in the judgements of experts?  Have we had enough of experts?

This is a question of much recent discussion, thanks to Michael Gove.  But the question is not a new one.  More than 100 years ago, Winston Churchill wrote that “nothing would be more fatal than for the government of states to get in the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge, and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialised character.”

(Sir Winston, not having gone to university, is perhaps entirely typical of modern day expert-sceptics.  The recipient of his letter, HG Wells, was perhaps less typical of modern day expert-philes given that the letter was prompted by Wells’s advocacy of a very aggressive form of eugenics.)

Sir Winston’s later career offers mixed evidence.  As First Lord to the Admiralty he championed the invasion of Gallipoli, only to be let down both by the experts charged with implementing it and his own inability to see in time that an imaginative idea was not in practice going to work.  As Chancellor of the Exchequer, he approved the decision to go back onto the Gold Standard on the basis of the prevailing expert advice and overcoming his own non-expert reservations based on the minority expert opinion of Keynes.  This is generally viewed to have been an awful mistake.  Set against that, D Day was a triumph of expert planning.

Winston Churchill was far more anti-expert in his early views than Michael Gove, who is destined to become one of those politicians associated with something that he didn’t actually say.  Michael Gove’s full sentence was: “The people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms, saying that they know what is best, and getting it consistently wrong.”  This is very different in meaning from the usually-reported truncated version.

Michael Gove, however, has done little to dispel the myth, allowing himself to be associated with the shorter and much more provocative formulation.  Either he is stoical about being traduced or he figures that the anti-expert mood has some way to run.

If the latter, he is almost certainly right.  His subordinate-cum-guru Dominic Cummings in an epic (in every sense of the word) blogpost took a lot of time to deride fake expertise.  His central proposition on the point is as follows:

“Fields dominated by real expertise are distinguished by two features: 1) there is enough informational structure in the environment such that reliable predictions are possible despite complexity and 2) there is effective feedback so learning is possible.”

Politics, he argues, does not lend itself to expertise in this sense because it doesn’t have these features, so newspaper pundits are of very doubtful value.

Economics certainly has the second feature.  That’s why Andy Haldane was so crestfallen.  Whether it has the first feature is more debatable.  Economists, including Andy Haldane, would argue that it has.  Even being charitable, one would have to accept that it is a work in progress.  Yet economists clearly have their merits as the table of predictions from the beginning of 2016 at the top of page, compiled by David Smith, Economics Editor of the Sunday Times, shows.

The newspapers made hay with Andy Haldane’s comments.  Worshippers of the cult of ignorance cavorted with glee (not realising that they will be the human sacrifices if the experts are not completely wrong).  Their suspicions about experts have all been validated and reconfirmed with a vengeance.  Andy Haldane is just the latest public figure to find out that words sometimes really matter.

Yet Andy Haldane had two serious points to make with his comparison with Michael Fish’s missed hurricane.  First, the 1987 storm showed that weather forecasting was working off inadequate models and the solution was not to abandon weather forecasting but to improve the models.  Weather forecasting today is far superior to that offered 30 years ago.  Similarly, a crisis in economic forecasting requires improvements to be made, not the abandonment of the whole idea.

And secondly, Andy Haldane was not backtracking from his general view.  While economic weather forecasting might remain erratic, he remains confident that he understands the economic climate: “This is more a question of timing than of a fundamental reassessment of the fortunes of the economy,” he said.  “There has been more resilience among consumers and in the housing market than we had expected. Has that led us to fundamentally change our view on the fortunes of the economy looking forward over the next several years? Not really”.

If he is right, the storm may well have been only delayed.  But if by that time the insights of experts have been devalued still further in a continuing uprising against expertise we will be still worse placed to weather it.

Alastair Meeks



Farron says Corbyn’s now “cheerleader in chief for the Conservative Brexit government”

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Corbyn’s LAB re-launch day – how its going so far

One of the features of the post-GE215 uprising within Labour that brought Corbyn victory in the leadership elections was the way that anyone who opposed their man was tagged by the Corbynistas as a “Tory”. In Labour circles this is the ultimate insult and it was used effectively to undermine the alternative contenders.

This form of abuse has continued as we see almost hourly on social media. All of this is why Tim Farron’s form attack on the Corbyn BREXIT position will infuriate the leader’s backers. This is an ultra senstitive sensitive point.

The challenge, of course is that the Corbyn’s approach means he can now be portrayed as backing the Tory mainstream on the political issue that will dominate 2017 and beyond – how the UK extracts itself from the EU.

The re-launch which follows less than supportive words for Corbyn from UNITE boss Len McCluskey has the look of a last ditch effort to turn the polling round and find way a way of looking credible. Ladbrokes announced these odds this morning.

Mike Smithson


Team Corbyn makes a generous New Year gift to Tim Farron given that 68% of current LAB voters think it is wrong to leave

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Mike Smithson