Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


PB Video Analysis: Demographics Two. The Big Drag

Friday, September 28th, 2018

In my last demographics piece, I looked at the boost developed countries got from falling fertility freeing up females from childcare duties. (I adore alliteration.) This piece looks to the recent past, to the experience of Japan, and asks what next?

And the picture isn’t, if we’re going to be honest, a pretty one. Rising life expectancy, and birth rates below replacement almost everywhere mean that population pyramids will continue to invert. Old people produce less economic output than young ones. And they require more healthcare and expensive pensions.

This is not good for economic growth. And intergenerational squabbles will increasingly become a feature of our politics. It’s always harder to distribute losses than to share gains.

But, hey, at least it probably means lower house prices.

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’


The Senate Kavanaugh hearing begins taking evidence from the woman who says she was sexually attacked by Trump’s nominee

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

BBC News

Its odds-on that he’ll be confirmed

All eyes in the US are on the Senate Justice committee which is taking evidence from a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, Brett Kavanaugh.

Christine Blasey Ford told the committee that Kavanaugh’s attack on her 38 years ago had left her “afraid and ashamed”.

Because of the power of the Supreme Court and that its members serve for life the stakes couldn’t be higher. There are 100 Senators of which 51 are currently Republicans. If the vote is tied then the decision would be down Vice-President Pence.

PaddyPower make it 8/11 that Kavanaugh will be confirmed and evens that he won’t.

Mike Smithson


More evidence that Corbyn is not now getting anything like the personal backing from GE2017 LAB voters than he was

Monday, September 24th, 2018

PB regulars will know that I am a great fan of leader ratings and believe that they are a better pointer to electoral outcomes than standard voting intention surveys. That was certainly the case at GE1992, GE2015 and GE2017 – all elections where the standard voting polls didn’t do well.

This morning I posted on Twitter the top tweet showing the just 34% of those who had voted Labour on June 8th last year now believe that the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is doing well. This seems a remarkably low figure and one party should be concerned about. I cannot recall EdM ever slipping to that level.

The second Tweet has an analysis of how CON and LAB voters are responding to “who would make the best PM ?” questions. Normally you would expect party voters to go with their man or woman but the trend recorded here is quite striking.

The good news for the Tories is that almost nobody is questioning Corbyn’s survival chances in the way they are with TMay.

Mike Smithson


Salzburg: Betting across a range of relevant political markets has hardly moved

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Punters are hanging on to their cash

Given the enormity of what’s happened at the EU Salzburg summit I though it useful to look at reaction across a range of market on the Betfair exchange:

Next UK General Election most seats

It was CON 50% chance to LAB 45% on Betfair 24 hours ago and the position hasn’t moved

UK to leave the EU by 29/03/2019

This was a 63.5% chance 24 hours ago and is now a 62.5% one.

Year of next UK General Election

2019 was a 31% chance 24 hours ago and still is. Favourite remains 2022 at 36%

Theresa May Exit Date

2019 still the 52% favourite and hasn’t moved.

Prime Minister after Theresa May

Johnson remains joint 14% favourite with a Mr. Corbyn.

Mike Smithson


Just 19% of LAB voters believe Israel’s more to blame for the lack progress on Middle East peace than the Palestinians

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Sure the Deltapoll for Prospect finds that three times as many LAB voters than CON ones blame Israel but it is the huge “both equally” numbers that are a surprise. Here as the chart shows there’s really not that much difference between supporters of the two main parties and the whole sample.

This does suggest at the very minimum that this is far from the top of most people’s concerns.

Given the polling it is hard to disagree with Martin Boon of Deltapoll who is quoted in the latest edition of Prospect magazine as saying:

“The great irony about Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour Party being consumed by the Jewish question is not only that personal reputations are sinking as a result, but that infinite amounts of emotional and political energy is being drained on a subject that very few Britons know much about, and probably care even less. Exactly what Labour hope to get out constant introspection on Israel and Palestine is an absolute mystery”.

The damage for Labour is that for months the party has appeared to be totally split and we know that voters don’t like parties to be divided.

Of course what has put this on the agenda has been Corbyn’s history- things he said and did before he became leader. This has been driven by what’s available on the record and by the media. The result has been so much energy is being directed at the internal Labour battle and there is also the opportunity cost – the summer could have been better spent by the main opposition fighting the Tories.

The problem, of course, is that the leader himself is so much involved and this is all about him. In those circumstances the party machine has to back the boss. If there is indeed a split within Labour then antisemitism will have made a contribution.

Mike Smithson


Labour Post-Corbyn: Is there hope for Labour’s moderates?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

For all the controversy over anti-Semitism and Jeremy Corbyn’s curious selection of international friends, there seems little doubt that Corbyn’s position as Labour leader is secure. Losing a vote of confidence amongst his own MPs by 172 to 40 didn’t dislodge him, and since then his position has been strengthened by the GE2017 campaign. Accusations of anti-Semitism and terrorist sympathies are water off a duck’s back.

However, it doesn’t follow that he will remain leader for an extended period. If this parliament lasts the full course, the next election will take place just before his 73rd birthday. If he is still leader then, it seems likely that he will want to step down not too long afterwards. Labour’s post-Corbyn era may be no more than four or so years away, perhaps less.

What then? The populist, hard-left Labour Party of today is unrecognisable compared with the centre-left party of Miliband, Brown and Blair, of Mandelson, Cooper and Darling. After Corbyn, will there be a return to that tradition, or is the party changed forever? Should the moderates hold out hope, or sink into despair?

At the moment, the party is being held together by Corbyn’s personal popularity within the membership. Without that binding force, there will inevitably be a struggle for the heart and soul of the party; there is no charismatic leader-in-waiting who will be able to retain Corbyn’s personal aura. Therefore it is the balance of power within the institutions of the party which will determine the post-Corbyn direction. Given the leftwards shift of the membership, the hard-left’s increasing grip on the NEC, and the organisational heft of Momentum, the route to moving the party back towards the centre looks fraught with difficulty.

We can tease this out further by postulating possible scenarios for Corbyn’s departure:

  • Pre-Election: An early departure, before the next election, would mean that the party wouldn’t feel any strong electoral imperative to change course. It would remain a hard-left party, and fight the next election on a Corbyn-style platform.
  • Electoral failure: A clear-cut failure by Corbyn in the next election, with Labour going backwards and the Conservatives gaining a majority, would greatly strengthen the hand of the moderates. If Corbyn departs after a poor result, the current Corbynistas, without his personality to unite and inspire them, could splinter and drift off. Further, the unions might decide that a more centrist positioning was a prerequisite for defeating the Tories. It’s a long shot, but this is a possible route for the moderates to regain control. It would be the mother of all battles, though.
  • Electoral stalemate: A result which leaves the parties in broadly the same position as now would produce stalemate within Labour as well as in parliament. This would simply postpone the reckoning.
  • A minority or majority Labour government: In the short-term, this would be a big boost for the hard-left, who would be able to point to significant electoral success as vindication of their politics. The moderates would be completely sidelined. However, the party would then be faced with actually governing. Expectations from Labour supporters would be sky-high, but with hard-left policies damaging the economy, a front-bench team totally unsuited to government, and probably with the parliamentary chaos of a hung parliament, the most likely outcome would be a very unpopular government which taints the Labour Party for many years. The moderates might eventually get their party back, but only after years in the wilderness.
  • A Labour split: There has been much talk of a new party being formed. If this SDP Tribute Band does ever get off the ground, the short-term effect would be to help the Conservatives. In the longer term, if it can achieve critical mass, such a party could lead a realignment which sidelines the hard-left Labour Party and end up as the natural alternative to the Conservatives, especially if the latter go the full Rees-Mogg. However, under our FPTP electoral system, this realignment would be extremely hard to bring off; most probably it would simply hand power to the Tories for many years.

However you slice it, it doesn’t look likely that Labour after Corbyn will be any happier a place for the centre-left than Labour under Corbyn. Despair seems the most appropriate emotion for Labour moderates. Conservative moderates will be watching in trepidation.

Richard Nabavi

Richard Nabavi is a long-standing PB contributor and a member of the Conservative Party.


PB Video Analysis: Five Things That Will Surprise You

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We’re all routinely wrong. Mostly that’s because we’re simply don’t know any better. But increasingly it’s the result of us reading things on Facebook, Twitter, and the like that push persuasive narratives. The stories make sense, so we believe them.

But all too often, the data and stories don’t match. And when they don’t… well, our first instinct is to discard the data, looking for reasons why it’s not true.

So this video looks at five things where reality and perception are misaligned. I’m talking Chinese trade, Spanish unemployment, British food, Western fertility, and illegal immigrants from Mexico.

And I’m talking really fast…

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’


Topping, who served with the British Army in Northern Ireland during the troubles, on Ulster and Brexit

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Kenneth Allen / Bloody Sunday mural, Bogside

Why the border issue is so important to both sides

Why, when we’re busy trying to Brexit, is everyone hung up on Northern Ireland? Why should we let this small part of the UK, with a population just larger than Newcastle’s, dictate seemingly our entire Brexit settlement? Terrorism, people say. But we don’t give in to terrorists, so why does Northern Ireland and its terrorists get such special treatment?

For most people in the UK, terrorism means the odd bomb scare, suspicious package, or a thankfully rare terrorist incident. Whereas it once defined the island of Ireland.

Let’s imagine the scene: a long walk in the countryside on a beautiful summer’s day. You gaze out over the rolling hills and, amongst the trees swaying gently in the wind and the gambolling lambs, you see an army patrol dressed in camouflage kit, helmets and face paint, carrying machine guns. Is one of them pointing their gun at you? Shortly, a helicopter emerges from the distance, drops like a stone to land, and picks up the soldiers. Then, with its door gunner on alert, it rises steeply backwards, upwards and away. You continue your walk.

Or imagine you’re off to Tesco and pass fully armed soldiers either patrolling on foot, or in armoured vehicles with machine guns sticking out of the top. Perhaps they’ll stop and ask you who you are, where you’re going – questions you’d have to answer. Or they might take an hour to search your car. And all this because you know there is a threat of violence from the local communities.

How could such scenes exist in the United Kingdom? Well they did, in Northern Ireland, and that was the Troubles. Northern Ireland was at war, both with itself, and with the British Forces sent initially to protect the Catholic community in 1969. That military operation lasted 37 years and the internal conflict which brought it into being is what people fear when they talk about a return to the bad old days: complete disruption of the civic society that you and I take for granted.

There has been progress since, of course. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement assured Unionists that until a majority wanted otherwise, NI would remain part of the UK, while the Nationalists for their part saw a raft of cross-border bodies established. And times have changed in other ways also. Gerry Adams is in parliament now and surely no more than a handful of hot-heads want a return to the armed struggle? Isn’t it all – wasn’t it always – gangsters and criminals?

While not as intense (3,500 people died during the Troubles), there has been continuous terrorist-related activity since the GFA was signed, including murders, shootings and weapons finds.

    To think that no dissident Republican groups are or would be willing to fight for a united Ireland today is wishful thinking; to dismiss them as gangsters or criminals is to misunderstand the history of Irish Republicanism.

Army patrols in NI would routinely visit the 208 Border Crossing Points (BCPs, more than the EU has with all points East) of which 20 were official; the remainder, located in streams, fields, forests or woods, were often used to smuggle various substances – diesel, livestock (“dizzy cows” were taken back and forth over the border to collect agricultural subsidies), or, of course, weaponry and terrorists. One of the consequences of the GFA, and the reduction in violence, is that there are no more “official” BCPs; you can cross the border anywhere you want.

And it is this last issue that represents the toughest Brexit nut to crack. All mooted options, whether Chequers, any of the backstop agreements (Joint Report or Withdrawal Agreement), or any other solution, must be seen through the prism of how it affects the border.

Again, why? There are customs posts throughout the world without accompanying violence.

A hard border between the RoI and NI would inflame the Nationalists as it would create a more tangible separation between Eire and the UK, representing a setback in their quest for a united Ireland. It would also violate the spirit of the GFA, and the many pronouncements made by Theresa May. A border in the Irish Sea, meanwhile, would inflame the Unionists as it would create a de facto separate state of the island of Ireland. It has also, of course, been outlawed by the UK Parliament.

And ludicrous as it sounds, the fact that all parties have stated they don’t want one, has not prevented the border being used as a negotiating tool in the Brexit negotiations.

During the Troubles, a hard border provided a call to arms for Republican paramilitary groups. In the absence of some kind of as yet non-existent technological solution, people fear that any kind of border infrastructure created now would have the same effect. Which would in turn bring reprisals from Unionist paramilitary groups. And pretty soon you are back to the Troubles. And that is why it all matters so much.

Topping is a regular poster on PB