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Category: Dave Brockington

Crowdsourcing Geneva

[ 17 ] July 2, 2016 |

CHF

The value of the British pound sterling in Swiss francs over the past 30 days.

Given I’m always looking for new ways to irresponsibly lose a lot of cash, early tomorrow (Sunday) the partner and I will take our hard earned pounds sterling to Geneva for two nights.  I understand the Swiss use a currency that is both convertible and worth stuff.  This is for pleasure, not work, and I’ve never been. While I should be crowdsourcing finance for this trip, given Geneva was already considered a significantly expensive city to visit before sterling decided to look to the German Papiermark for inspiration, instead I’m looking for ideas.

We’ll have help in the tourism thing considering we’re staying with an old friend of mine who has lived there for three to four years, but is there anything for whatever reason that you’d consider a can’t miss restaurant / museum / etc.?

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Brexit: The Continuing Fallout

[ 168 ] July 2, 2016 |

moon

When the NYT runs a series of stories about the cross between East Enders and Game of Thrones that British politics has become, it’s somewhat serious.

As part of the expert-sourced fear mongering in the run in to the referendum vote, one concern was that the financial services industry in London would haemorrhage jobs to some alternative location in the European Union. The response from the Leave Campaign was, of course, all rainbows and unicorns and lovely, sweet magical fairy dust. Well, turns out that a critical component of an already shaky economic foundation in Britain will lose jobs:

I spoke this week to several high-ranking executives at major financial institutions that collectively employ tens of thousands in London. While none of them have any immediate plans to move their European headquarters from Britain’s capital, all agreed they would eventually shift a significant number of highly paid employees to cities that remain in the European Union.

One executive in charge of relocation (who like the others, spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue) said the percentage of employees in his firm who might be required to move ranged from 10 percent to 40 percent. “Multiply that throughout the industry and it’s tens of thousands of people and their families,” he said. “And bear in mind that most of these people are millionaires.”

Helpfully, the NYT has graded the contenders for the next London here. Surprisingly, Amsterdam comes out on top, narrowly edging out Frankfort.

The NYT also has an at-times funny treatment on Boris here.

Labour are still engaged in a potentially fatal game of chicken. Tis is probably not an optimal strategy for establishing your bonafides as a government in waiting. And John McDonnell is making about as much coherent sense as the dreamiest of the Leave campaigners:

Amid the confusion, McDonnell used his speech to try and present a coherent Labour plan for a post-Brexit future, calling for the UK to remain in the EU single market and for the financial services industry to keep its privileged “passported” trading status.

However, the shadow chancellor appeared to dismiss the idea of the party seeking to block departure from the EU, saying: “The people have spoken and their decision must be respected.”

He also predicted that Brexit would end unrestricted travel and employment for EU nationals in the UK. “Let’s be absolutely clear on the immigration issue,” McDonnell said. “If Britain leaves the European Union, the free movement of people, of labour, will then come to an end.”

Sorry, mate, you’re not going to get to cherry-pick the best bits of EU membership without having the bits you don’t like.

Theresa May is going to be Britain’s next PM. She was beating the crap out of Boris a couple days ago, and now is well ahead of Mr. Charisma.  At least until things change.

In the week since the vote, hate crimes have overwhelmingly increased. It’s ugly out there. I’ve heard anecdotal stories from people I know as well that range from low-level abuse and harassment to worse.

But, it’s not all bad news. The march of Wales inexplicably continues, having defeated Belgium 3-1 last night.

 

Random Musings on the Continuing British Fiasco

[ 362 ] June 30, 2016 |

Conservative Party Chief Whip Michael Gove addresses delegates on the final day of the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, central England, on October 1, 2014. Talk of treason cast a shadow over Britain's Conservative party conference this week, where gossip raged over who might be next to defect to the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP). AFP PHOTO / OLI SCARFF (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Gove has joined the cast of thousands vying to be the next Conservative Party leader, hence Prime Minister.  Seriously. Yesterday while enjoying a pint or several with fellow bemused Labourites, we figured Gove was the next Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Boris government. After all, he screwed up education and alienated all the teachers, then messed up the justice system, so why not have a crack at what’s left of the economy?

His personal path of destruction has loftier ambitions.

Corbyn is not going anywhere, and will likely face a challenge from Angela Eagle. She will probably lose. I’ve asked this before, but I’m at a loss to understand how he can run an opposition without the support of enough MPs to fill out a shadow cabinet? A country based on an unwritten constitution runs smoothly on tacit norms. Corbyn is ignoring one of those tacit norms. As was brought up in comments yesterday, according to David Ward, Chief Policy advisor to John Smith, the then-Leader didn’t think there was the need to hard code the requirement to resign into the Labour Party rule book when he was redrafting it in 1993:

If the Parliamentary Labour Party had passed a motion of no confidence in John Smith he would have resigned immediately. How do I know this? Because he told me he would. In 1993 during the Labour Party debates on the creation of an electoral college we discussed the lack of a mechanism to eject an unpopular or ineffective leader. He argued there’s no need for one. Without any hesitation he told me that any leader who lost a motion of no confidence in the PLP would have no alternative but to instantly resign.

John Smith was acutely aware that the PLP is the part of the Labour Movement that directly represents millions of Labour voters. He knew that any leader lacking the support of Labour MPs would not have the slightest chance of persuading voters to elect a Labour Government. That’s why he favoured the adoption of an electoral college made up of the three pillars of the Labour Movement; MPs, ordinary members, and the affiliated unions that created the Party in the first place. This system gave the elected leadership a powerful link with trade unionists, members, MPs and their voters. If that link collapses, as it now clearly has with Jeremy Corbyn, then resignation is the only responsible course of action.

To quote a local Labour Councillor and a friend of mine:

The Labour Party leader effectively is leader of three things: the Party at large, the Parliamentary Party, and the Labour Party staff (although Ian McNicol, General Secretary is de jure in charge there). Just in terms of organisational functionality, if they cannot command substantial support in two of those three areas, then their ability to lead the Party as a whole is nullified.

The Labour Party itself is supposed to be the democratic representative arm of the Labour movement, whose official constituent parts include Trades Unions, various socialist societies, the Co-op Party, and unorganised disparate groups and individuals. Obviously this more disparate movement changes over time. It’s primary purpose is to elect representatives of this movement to positions in Parliament, Councils, and other elected positions. For someone so steeped in the Party, I can only be either astonished that the present leader doesn’t recognise this, or assume he ignores it.

Fortunately for Labour, the chances for a snap election following the naming of the new Conservative leader are receding, with both Johnson and Crabb on record as stating it won’t happen. Apparently the Conservative backbenchers don’t want an election having just had one nearly 14 months ago. The overly optimistic amongst us might read into this that they’re worried. I’m not one of those people. This does, of course, bring to the fore questions regarding democratic legitimacy and quite likely contradicts statements made by several of the contenders back when Gordon Brown supplanted Tony Blair. (Side note: the now notorious “Blairite” Tom Watson orchestrated the coup that deposed Tony Blair in 2007. Such is the loose relationship with reality exhibited by some Corbynistas).

UPDATE: While three days old, Owen Jones on the plight of Labour and the left in Britain. Sobering.

Finally, in skimming the comments from yesterday’s post, I’m delighted that the Daria reference was picked up. I should watch that again.

janelane

 

Post-Brexit Labour: Our Own Omnishambles

[ 481 ] June 29, 2016 |

daria

I was planning on writing about something else this morning, like strategies to avoid Brexit, political and constitutional dilemmas of the same, or the soul-crushing reality of being a life-long Mariners fan (where life-long is measured in the life of the franchise and not me).

Alas.

As expected, the vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by the Parliamentary Labour Party easily passed, 172-40, or 81% of sitting Labour MPs (who voted; there were a handful of abstentions and even several “soiled ballots” — so roughly 75% of Labour MPs are on record as opposing the leader).  This follows the resignations of two-thirds of his shadow cabinet, and all the various positions have yet to be filled (and considering when one adds in parliamentary private secretaries and junior shadow ministers, simply stated, there might not be enough Corbyn supporters remaining in Parliament to fill all the roles). Indeed, this morning the SNP has stated that it will request to be named the official opposition (no link, as this is just breaking):

A bit more on the news we mentioned earlier that the Scottish National Party will today ask to be declared the official Oppositon at Westminster.

They say their leader Angus Robertson enjoys more support than Jeremy Corbyn.

There are 56 SNP MPs – but only 40 Labour MPs have expressed support for Mr Corbyn.

They also say they are able to fill all the relevant shadow posts to the government, unlike Mr Corbyn.

They point to Parliamentary rules which say the official Opposition must be “prepared to assume power.”

A source said: “We have looked at Erskine May (the Parliamentary rule book) and will put it to the Speaker that the Labour Party no longer meet obligations to remain as the official Opposition.”

The expected response from the Corbyn and Momentum corners are that none of these MPs ever supported Jeremy, so this shouldn’t be a surprise and holds no democratic legitimacy. This is partially true.  It’s no secret that a significant share of the PLP were wary of Corbyn’s leadership, and a core of those on the right and center of the party took themselves out of contention for shadow cabinet positions (which troubled me; the shadow cabinet would have been more effective and representative had Liz Kendall and / or Yvette Cooper taken a role for the sake of the party). And yes, a significant group of MPs have been dreaming of a coup against Corbyn from September, so to some degree this was long in the cards.  However, from what I’ve heard, the majority of the PLP were firmly in the center — not knee-jerk hostile to Corbyn, and willing to give him time and a chance. It stands to reason that anybody who agreed to serve in the shadow cabinet was at minimum open minded about Corbyn’s leadership. It’s one thing to accept that a disaffected core existed on the right of the PLP hoping for this moment, but it’s another thing entirely to explicitly and publicly lose the support of 2/3rds of your own shadow cabinet.

As I stated yesterday, it’s close to impossible to lead an effective opposition, government, or even a marginalised political party if an overwhelming majority of your MPs are rebelling against your leadership. The response of Corbyn and his supporters is to hang on and cite the democratic mandate of the 251,417 (59.5%) votes he received in last summer’s leadership election. As I don’t shy away from stating, I was one of those 251,417.

However, there’s an alternative narrative of democratic legitimacy that is not likely to be warmly received by Corbyn’s supporters.  As MilitantlyAardvark said in comments yesterday: “A decent case could be made that MPs are elected by the people of their constituency and therefore represent a broader and more genuinely democratic section of Labour voters than the relatively small number of party members.”  This narrative is also here in The Guardian:

A defiant Mr Corbyn tonight brushed off the thumbs-down that four in five colleagues gave him, by reciting the rulebook which puts the leadership decision in the hands of the members who he believes remain as loyal as ever, although – amid such chaos – can that be assumed? More fundamentally, the rulebook becomes immaterial when there is no ability to do the basic job. The rules of a charity may, for example, put the appointment of a chief executive in the hands of the trustees, but that chief executive will not be able to function if the staff all want him out. And in the Corbyn case, the option of replacing “the staff” does not exist without showing contempt to the electorate, since they are not mere party functionaries, but MPs elected by 9.3 million Labour voters. And if the election comes this year, there would be no time to go for wholesale reselections to pick a new slate of Corbynite candidates, even if Mr Corbyn had not solemnly promised to avoid this unwise course.

That’s right. The PLP were elected by 9.3 million voters in May 2015. These people are (or at least should be) significantly more important to the operation of a major political party with aspirations (however dimming) of one day again returning to government.

That argument has not nor will it make any headway amongst the core Corbyn support.  Reviewing the discussion in the various pro-Corbyn and Momentum groups I belong to in social media, the tenor is that any criticism of Jeremy is apostasy. The PLP is the enemy (aside form the 40 who voted confidence) including those who once served in the shadow cabinet but have since resigned. It’s fascinating to read. And depressing. Politics in a democracy requires the building of coalitions, of compromise, of reaching consensual outcomes. Jeremy’s core support doesn’t appear to reflect this reality or even accept its legitimacy.

Unlike the Leave Campaign, the Corbyn team and supporters have a plan should he be allowed to stand, and win, the forthcoming leadership election:

“We will offer the most radical leadership reform package ever,” said one insider. “Reselection, recall, a lock on leadership elections that only members can remove. We will bring it.”

This is elaborated upon here. It’s difficult to say if this is really the plan, or wishful thinking taking the shape of rumour.  It would help solve the dilemma I wrote about yesterday, that if we’re going to allow the leader to be elected by, and only by, a direct vote of the membership, the elected leader needs the PLP on side. Having Corbynistas take control of a majority of the Constituency Labour Parties, and force re-selection of candidates for Parliament, is a means to this end.  It will result in bad blood, and could possibly result in a fundamental split in the party, where Corbyn and Momentum have control of the name and machinery, while the PLP breaks off to form another SDLP SDP (or even join the Liberal Democrats), presumably dragging a share of their CLP supporters with them.

Regardless of how this ends up, if there’s a snap election between October and December, there’s probably not enough time to seize control of enough CLPs, nor will there really be enough time for a proper leadership election to progress. Last summer’s leadership election took three months from the close of nominations to the declaration of the winner.

Effectively, the Labour Party has defaulted on its job to be an organised opposition to the equally disorganised Conservatives precisely when the country needs precisely that.

Brexit: What Can the Opposition Do?

[ 413 ] June 28, 2016 |

 

 

 

shadowcabinet

Jeremy Corbyn chairs a meeting of the Shadow Cabinet (a meme that did the rounds yesterday)

Seeing as how it’s Labour, the obvious choice is to hit the self-destruct button. A vote of no-confidence in the Corbyn leadership will be held today, with an estimated 150 MPs expected to vote against the leader (out of 229 Labour MPs in the House of Commons). Given Jeremy Corbyn is exhibiting personality traits more familiar with a certain US Senator from Vermont, he’s not expected to resign. This creates a problem (on several levels), not helped in that the Labour Party isn’t even in agreement on its own rules:

And there will also be an attempt to stop Corbyn standing again, with a legal battle pending as two pieces of advice from lawyers have drawn opposite conclusions about whether the standing leader needs to secure MP nominations in the face of a challenge.

Whoever ends up on the leadership ballot, current rules dictate that it goes to a vote of the membership. If Corbyn is on the ballot, he should win. He won 60% of the vote in September, and since assuming the leadership of the party, membership has increased significantly.

The current highly fractious nature of the party (not to be confused with the business-as-usual fractious state of the Labour Party) offers us a delicious dilemma. To be effective, in government or opposition, the leader of the party needs his or her MPs largely on side. When elected leader, most of the high profile MPs of the right and center of the party ruled out participating in his shadow cabinet, and over the past 48 hours he’s lost the majority of what remained. It’s clear that Corbyn does not have the support of Parliamentary Labour Party, and that’s a problem. While the initial group who signalled their lack of support by rejecting the opportunity to serve in the first shadow cabinet did so on ideological grounds, the current tsunami of defections appear to be largely based on the assessment that Corbyn lacks the competence as a leader for what is expected to be a snap general election.

But, the dilemma. How can Labour square the current system for electing the party leader with the very real need to have a strong relationship with the majority of the PLP? If Labour is stuck with Corbyn, there’s really only two options, neither pretty. First, the system can be scrapped (which will not happen so long as Corbyn is leader). While it should not return to the “electoral college” system that elected Ed Miliband, where membership, MPs/MEPs, and trade unions had equal weighting), the PLP should have some sort of input. On the other hand, Momentum (the campaign group set up around Corbyn supporters; they function as a party within a party more or less) could attempt to “de-select” sitting MPs when it comes time for Constituency Labour Parties to select their candidates for the general election. That may or not be effective.

Either choice is sub-optimal, and is guaranteed to piss a lot of people off.

Regardless of what happens, should Corbyn go (either on his own or forced out) the party stands to lose a not-insignificant number of paid up members. Corbyn has a similar hold on his supporters as Bernie Sanders does / did. He is viewed as transcending politics into a near messianic figure. I’ve witnessed this in FTF discussion as well as among the several pro-Corbyn groups I belong to in the social media universe. Ideological purity reigns, and no criticism of the messiah is warranted. Anybody who comes out against Corbyn is either a traitor to the cause, or worse, labelled a Blairite. More energy in these groups is dedicated to criticising the moderate and “Blairite” wing of the party than the real enemy, and Tony Blair (who, recall, did what no other Labour leader had ever done by winning three successive elections, and was one of only four Labour leaders to win an election) receives significantly more attention in these groups than, say, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, or Nigel Farage. What is hilarious to watch is how each resignation from the shadow cabinet is being explained as either Tony Blair’s direct involvement, or all of those who resigned were Blairites at heart. Of course, this is rubbish; any MP with true Blairite tendencies ruled out serving in the shadow cabinet in September, and to cite two examples, it would be difficult to characterise either Hilary Benn or Angela Eagle as Blairites.

I identify as on the left wing of the party, but I guess in the parlance of the Labour Party, it would be among the so-called “soft left”. I voted for Corbyn, and posted about my reasoning here. That said, I do think that actually winning an election is a pretty good thing, and more critical than ideological purity (which premised that post in September). I still hold to my basic analysis in the September post, but following ineffective leadership of the Labour In campaign (which is stating it charitably) combined with his inability to mobilise much support amongst the PLP, I am becoming increasing less convinced that he is the leader to mobilise this hypothesised expanded electorate that I initially believed.

The Failure of the Stronger In Campaign: One Narrative

[ 246 ] June 26, 2016 |

CorbynCameron

Politico has this, which I encountered this morning. It’s the usual behind-the-scenes sort of thing. As a Labour Party member / activist / whatever, the following piques my interest:

Senior staff from the campaign “begged” Corbyn to do a rally with the prime minister, according to a senior source who was close to the Remain campaign. Corbyn wanted nothing to do with the Tory leader, no matter what was at stake. Gordon Brown, the Labour prime minister whom Cameron vanquished in 2010, was sent to plead with Corbyn to change his mind. Corbyn wouldn’t. Senior figures in the Remain camp, who included Cameron’s trusted communications chief Craig Oliver and Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign guru, were furious.

Even at more basic levels of campaigning, Labour were refusing to cooperate. The party would not share its voter registration lists with Stronger In, fearing the Tories would steal the information for the next general election. “Our data is our data,” one senior Labour source said when asked about the allegation.

In desperation, the Remain strategists discussed reaching out to the White House to intervene directly. Obama had met Corbyn during a trip to London in April, when the American president argued forcefully for Remain. They wondered: Maybe Obama could call the Labour leader and convince him to campaign with Cameron?

Don’t bother, Labour aides told them. Nobody was going to coax their boss into sharing a public platform with Cameron. The idea was dropped before it reached the White House.

Some comments. Jeremy Corbyn is being thoroughly criticised within (and without) the party for his lukewarm embrace of remain, and his (putting it charitably) nuanced approach to the campaign. I’m not sure how much of the motivation for the revolt in the Parliamentary Labour Party is a function of sincere misgivings about his mishandling of the campaign, and how much is political opportunism (I’m thinking two thirds the latter), but it’s a safe bet that the sacking of Hilary Benn, shadow foreign secretary, was the opposite of a smart move. Of course, the core Corbynista support will brook no critique of their messiah (full disclosure: I voted for Corbyn, but he’s not a messianic figure. He’s no more than a highly principled, at times bumbling politician). This is shaping up to be a not insignificant problem for the party precisely when we need a strong, focussed opposition.

I see, and am some degree receptive to, the argument that one reason for the failure of Labour in Scotland during the general election was the party’s decision to campaign united with the Tories and Liberal Democrats against independence. The Conservative brand in general and David Cameron in particular were toxic north of the border, and we opted for guilt by association. That said, one or two joint appearances would have not killed Corbyn. Furthermore, Labour In was an anaemic campaign at the national level (at the local level here, it was well organised). I doubt a stronger Labour-specific remain campaign would have on its own turned the tide and clawed back the 550,000 votes we’d have needed to swing this thing, but nationally, we were limited at best.

The data thing is an interesting line. Labour are far more data-driven than any other party on this wee island.   The ‘voter registration’ data, to my knowledge, comes from the electoral register, which is available to any political party. While we’re data-driven, it’s a fairly unsophisticated approach engineered for GOTV. It was state of the art in the mid 1990s, but it’s not a patch on the micro targeting of the current era (however, it’s still vastly superior to what the other parties have, and does give us a marginal edge . . . which we need as we don’t have anywhere near the financial resources of the party opposite). We’re getting better at it, especially at the local level here where we have a few people who understand the utility of 21st Century approaches to data, but it’s still largely an archaic process.

Furthermore, on election day our data are best used to mobilise our voters.  We generally know who they are, where they live, and how they’ve been (self-reported) voting in past elections, and our “boards” and “road groups” are optimised to get our voters to the polls. We don’t bother knocking on the doors of known Conservatives, obviously, as it would be self-defeating to remind them that the local election is happening when they had forgotten about it. On referendum day, however, the data were close to worthless. Given support for remain cut well across party lines, and data hadn’t been sufficiently gathered / entered in the month prior to the referendum, we were flying blind on the day. GOTV data were drawn up using mosaic and socio-demographic characteristics, which is under the circumstances probably the best approach. However, it was frustrating, as many of our ‘targets’ voted leave or had leave posters in their windows, and many remain voters / addresses with remain posters were not on our sheets.

Long story short, I don’t see how sharing Labour’s data with the Stronger In campaign would have made a difference to the result. I will say this, however; Stronger In were flush with cash, something I wasn’t used to experiencing.

Finally, to answer Lemieux’s appeal in his excellent post:

I don’t know how many Brexit voters fall into the remorseful category. But I remember seeing somewhere (HELP ME BROCKINGTON) that a large majority of Brexit voters assumed that Remain would win. For what was surely a decisive number of Brexit voters, the vote was not a considered view that leaving the EU would be better than remaining, but rather was a vehicle for sending a message to British elites.

This is mostly anecdotal, but the Ashcroft poll I discussed yesterday does have this:

Seven voters in ten expected a victory for remain, including a majority (54%) of those who voted to leave. Leave voters who voted UKIP at the 2015 election were the only group who (by just 52% to 48%) expected a leave victory.

Brexit: Who Voted How? Evidence from Ashcroft

[ 139 ] June 25, 2016 |

borisbarney

Good morning, newly sovereign Britain and welcome to your new leadership team! We had Blair-Brown, then Cameron-Osborne, and now we’ll enjoy Prime Minister Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rubble.

Unlike yesterday’s immediate reaction post, this one is written on 24 hours of sleep uh, written 24 hours later on seven hours of sleep.

First, Scott L has it bang-on. While there are distinct similarities in the motivations of the Leavers and Trump supporters (as well as parts of Sanders support), the the contexts of the two votes are different enough such that the lessons that can be drawn are background, and not worthy of basing a forecast upon. Of course, given my very recent track record of superiority in forecasting, this should probably make people worry.  I did get the Cameron resignation right, but then low hanging fruit . . .

We now have some (patchy) data to assess the two variables I said that we should be attentive to in the run in to the referendum.  Turnout we’re not going to be able to assess yet, and in terms of raw turnout, we have nothing to compare it with really so that might never be properly assessed.  However, the received wisdom of political science and psephology, that undecideds significantly break for the status quo the closer we get to polling day (I estimated 3:1), is not receiving support, and this might be one key to understanding how my 52:48 prediction went ass-backwards (as well as why NCP’s forecast of 53:47 was just a bit off).

 

whendecide

Those data are from an Ashcroft poll (details here, a lot of interesting stuff to pore over) conducted immediately after the referendum, with an N of over 12,000.  Those who decided a week out split 7%-6% for remain, a few days out 8%-7%, on the day 10%-9%. While there’s a marginal advantage for remain in the late deciders, these data suggest it’s only 53%.  Not the 2:1 or 3:1 breaks for the status quo we typically expect.

Demographics did work out as expected. The age gap (which we’ve known about for well over a month) is receiving a lot of attention in the media at present, as though everybody is surprised. Social class worked out as well; the higher up the socio-economic ladder one is, the odds of voting remain increase.  However, where pre-referendum models suggested social class C1 (lower middle class) would just support remain, they ultimately just supported leave (and the professional classes, A & B, did not support remain at the rate initially thought). The age gap is striking.

ashcroft12KNa

The next two figures illustrate the support for each side in party political terms, and how the parties own supporters voted. I have two observations here. First, it was Conservative voters who drove Brexit. 40% of leave support was Tory, 25% UKIP, and 21% Labour. Yes, a nice cross-party distribution, but there were over three Tory/UKIP (in the parlance of Plymouth Labour as we’re now enjoying a Con-Kip coalition in this fair city, “Blukip”) supporters for every one Labour supporter voting leave.  Additionally, this also tests my off-the-cuff suggestion yesterday morning that greater than 35% of Labour supporters voted leave. Ashcroft estimates the figure at 37%. While the traditional Labour heartlands of the northwest and northeast went huge for leave, Labour by and large did not. 58% of Conservatives did.

As the Labour Party itself is going through an uncertain period (charitably stated), one thing I’ve been hearing and reading that does need to stop now is that we didn’t “lose” more of our supporters than originally expected. Indeed, the 37% estimate is in line with expectations. Additionally, it doesn’t mean that all of those supporters we “lost” to leave were the traditional working class base. That figure must include a large degree of Lexiters, as evidenced by the 25% of Green Party supporters who inexplicably voted leave.

And just who are those 4% of UKIP supporters who voted remain?  Statistically, there had to be some, of course, but it’s still hilarious fun to point it out.

proportionsofsupportbyparty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, the money shot. Why did the lies of the leave campaign resonate?  Why was Gove sage to suggest that Britain has had enough of experts experting us to death with facts in their expert ways? Self-reported political attentiveness breaks as we would think.

information

It’s not as stark as I’d have thought, but this is self-reported. There’s a lot more there in the link above worth looking at, of course. Later today, but more likely tomorrow, I’ll have some further thoughts on the result of the result, Article 50, and speculate as to just what the hell Boris Johnson is up to.

Brexit: Some Random Thoughts on WTF and Now What?

[ 461 ] June 24, 2016 |

 

RemainGOTV

So, that didn’t work.  On several levels; one of which is illustrated by the photo above. That’s LGM’s Senior Correspondent on British Politics holding the sign. While British politics suddenly became a hell of a lot more interesting, it’s also significantly less important.

After working GOTV all day yesterday, I skipped the count (where I was due to be a verification agent in Plymouth, but I was too spent to stay up until the declaration which happened around 4AM), and fell asleep by 10PM to Radio 4. When I went to sleep, one of the last tweets I read was that it would take a polling failure “worse” than 2015 or 1992 for leave to win (by whom I do not recall, but it was either a pollster or an academic psephologist). Both Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage were reportedly in negative spirits. Farage would later (around 4AM) say on R4 that he didn’t expect to win. I fell asleep easily.

I woke around 2:30AM with R4 still on, to several gloomy, dire texts, and the first authorities had been called.  They were not going as expected for a 50/50 national result as per this guide to expectations as the night progressed. If Sunderland had a leave vote of +6%, we’d be roughly at 50/50 nationally.

Sunderland came in at leave +12%.

I’m somewhat relieved that I didn’t go to the count in Plymouth. While leave was going to win in Plymouth under even the rosiest scenarios, the final result here was Leave 79,997, Remain 53,458 on 71% turnout.  That’s a 59.9% leave vote in Plymouth.

It’s difficult to say what happened. Turnout was a mixed bag; reports from Scotland indicate it was lower than expected, and significantly lower than the independence referendum in 2014. It’s likewise possible that my alternative hypothesis hedge from yesterday morning was more accurate than my working hypothesis: that the increase in registration and the relatively high turnout nationwide (72%, higher than any UK-wide election since 1992) was more due to lower socio-economic classes, relatively electorally inactive, being mobilised by the referendum.

I’m not sure we can call this a polling failure, given the polls were all over the place.  Clearly, however, on-line polls did better than telephone polls, to which I strongly suspect social-desirability was the cause (in Brit-speak, “shy Brexiters”). NCP did not do nearly as well as in the 2015 general election. As for myself, at least I was consistent: shit at the 2015 general and equally shit at the referendum. In my defense, I only missed the final result by 4%. Which is no defense at all.

But then, the bookies got it very wrong, as did the markets.

Some observations:

  • North of the M4, remain under performed. However, in the south, remain over performed.
  • The class dynamic was huge, and bigger than expected.
  • The pound tanked, and is at its lowest level since 1985.  Ronald Reagan was just starting his second term. I was in high school. My trip to New York City in October will be just a bit more expensive.
  • The FTSE futures anticipates a 9% fall in both the FTSE and DAX when the market opens.
  • London retaining its status as a financial capital is in doubt, which is one of the key drivers of the British economy.
  • There was the expected regional divide. While Wales voted leave 53%, Northern Ireland was 56% remain, and Scotland . . . not only was Scotland 63% remain, but remain won every single Scottish local authority.
  • It’s pretty clear that a greater than 35% share of Labour Party membership voted for Brexit.
  • David Cameron gambled in 2013 on a short term electoral tactic. His “luck ran out”.
  • There will be a surge of experts on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

I don’t see how David Cameron can continue as Conservative Party Leader or PM.  Rumors abound right now of course, including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson in a huddle about Cameron’s future. Likewise, there’s now a real possibility of a snap election before Christmas. This would require overturning the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, but that won’t be a problem. That said, the Labour Party are not ready for it.

Martin McGuinness has called for a poll in Northern Ireland to choose between a united Ireland and remaining in the UK.  The SNP see Scotland’s future as “part of the European Union”. It doesn’t take a genius to get the hint. While in 2014 I was solidly opposed to Scottish independence, one of the key arguments for remaining with the United Kingdom was that it presented the easiest and safest route to EU membership. It can be argued that England and Wales did not hold up their end of the bargain.

In terms of why 52% of the population voted to leave the European Union, this dovetails neatly with a class that I teach here on the effects of globalization on domestic politics. Yes, part of it was racism, xenophobia, and nationalism. But I don’t believe that 52% of the British (and Irish) population are those things (however, they are those who speak the loudest).  To quote my friend, Cllr. Bill Stevens (Labour), “It means England (especially the poorer areas) have felt ignored and saying the only reason they voted that way was due to hate, nationalism, racism etc. will make it worse.”

I don’t have the link, but a couple days prior to the referendum, Michael Gove was confronted with the question of market reaction, and he promised (in the glib manner that the Leave campaign responded to any critique or bothersome fact) that we would wake up on Friday morning, and there would be no crash.

Alas, here’s the reaction of the markets:

OHHOLYFUCK

 

52-48 for Remain

[ 99 ] June 23, 2016 |

 

brexit-polls-20160622b

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s a significant improvement from my freaking out a week ago today, and I’ve further downgraded the threat level from cautiously pessimistic to cautiously optimistic. It’s also going well out on a limb with a chainsaw considering the volatility in polling estimates and the lack of a consensus across the various polling houses.

Four new polls were released overnight, and the spread is to be expected of this entire frustrating campaign. The distribution in support for Remain is +8%, +2%, -1% and -2%.  (I’m ignoring the two updated polls by the houses not affiliated with the British Polling Council, SurveyMonkey and Qriously, which likewise vary).  NCP is currently forecasting 53-47 for remain with a 75% probability of a remain result.

The source of my unexpected cautious optimism is twofold, based on both variables I discussed a week ago. First, the share that are undecided is still stubbornly impressive. While two of the new polls do not top line undecideds, the two suggesting a narrow leave win both do: 9% and 16%. NCP estimates an undecided rate at 10%. Some will, of course, not vote. Those who are still undecided this late in the game that do vote will skew significantly for remain.  The final poll tracker on the Scottish referendum in 2014 from the BBC estimated 50% no, 45% yes, 6% undecided, the day before polling. The result was 55.3% no, 44.7% yes.

Incidentally, the NCP poll tracker at the top of this page appears similar in pattern to my recollections of the Scottish referendum, although only two polls suggested independence, whereas numerous polls have recently predicted a Brexit victory.

The second source of this (very) cautious optimism is the turnout. Voter registration hit a new record high for the referendum. Ordinarily this is to be expected with each passing year; however as I’ve written elsewhere, roughly 18 months ago the system of voter registration changed in a manner that would inordinately hit the younger cohorts.  Indeed, I saw evidence a couple days ago that suggests a significant increase in self-reported probability of voting amongst the 18-29 year old cohort in the past two to four weeks (this is from memory). Writing this just after 0900 BST, anecdotal evidence, both locally and nationally, is already reporting queues at polling stations.  Recall, the strongest systematic relationship in estimated support for remain is age: the younger are significantly more likely to support remain, the over 55s leave.

One hypothesis, indeed my hypothesis, combines the undecideds with (what might be) higher than expected turnout, the probability for a remain result increases.

For balance, however, while my take on the record registration implies higher than expected levels of the young turning out to vote, I can readily imagine an alternative explanation. A strong runner-up in the various estimated systematic relationships in support for one side or the other in this referendum is social class. The British have a measure for this: A, B, C1, C2, D, E.  C1 and above are significantly for remain, C2 and below for leave. Of course, a turnout relationship also exists here: higher socio-economic groups are significantly more likely to vote. Thus, the increased registration could be a function of new registrants from the lower echelons of this scale mobilised to vote in order to finally “take back control”.

So there’s the hedge. That said, I’m sticking to my prediction above, and warily eyeing this chainsaw I’ve taken with me out on this uncomfortable limb . . .

EDIT: How could I forget the bookies?  Here’s one, 76% for remain, and a tracker.

Brexit: A Disorganised Parting Shot for Remain

[ 112 ] June 23, 2016 |

 

rival-farage

I’ve been sitting on this article in Foreign Policy for a few days. It is one of the better articulations in defense of continued UK membership of the European Union that I’ve seen. It makes a lot of the points I want to make, and it makes them better.  Better written, at any rate, but I imagine that’s what comes with the luxury of time. It does hit on one of the truly fantastic aspects of the campaign just concluded:

Just as they reject historical context, lest it disturb the fantasy of their project, Brexiteers reject and ignore the problem of context in the policy debate. No complexity from the real world is allowed to compromise their unsullied imagined future.

Brexit has always been a fantasy, forwarding a purely emotional argument reliant on dodgy figures (at best; outright lies are not unknown). For every objection, they had an answer, regardless of how fanciful.  That £350 million per week we ship to Brussels?  It will go to the NHS instead.  Of course, the £350M figure was significantly exaggerated, and the leading lights of the Leave campaign have a long, proud history of wanting to degrade the Health Service or privatise it entirely. Cornwall receives a massive pile of EU cash (so too does Devon; less so than Cornwall, but one of the newer buildings on my campus was funded in part with a generous dollop of EU money) as its one of the poorer regions of the UK. Under the old EU rules, any region at less than 75% of the median income (EU-wide) was eligible for structural investment funding. Considering some of the competitors in the EU, it’s not a great sign to end up on this list. Cornwall, and parts of western Wales, did. Yet, all this cash has not prevented Cornwall from likely voting exit today. When Leave was campaigning down in Cornwall a week or so ago, they committed to maintaining this funding. Indeed, they’ve made this promise formally to all interest groups receiving EU cash.

But seriously, can we really believe that a post-Brexit Conservative government, one significantly to the right of the current well right-of-center lot, will do all these things? They’ve never been interested in ensuring adequate NHS finding before, let alone investing in the Southwest of England (but then, nobody really seems to do that bit much).

Regarding all these pesky EU immigrants . . . damn near every single economic analysis has demonstrated their positive effect on the British economy (the link is representative). Post-Brexit, while the future of these EU citizens is uncertain, equally uncertain are all the British citizens living elsewhere in the EU. While the estimates are all over the place, up to 750,000 Brits live in Spain according to the BBC. They tend to be older, retired, on pensions (in Spain) which makes sense. You’ve retired, and you’re done with the grey drizzle that typifies the British summer, so you retire to Spain, where they have this thing called the sun. EU citizens living and working in the UK tend to skew significantly younger and healthier. Go ahead, fire up your econometric models, and swap one group for the other, and grimly observe the projections.

The crushing reality of the situation is this dilemma that Brexiters face:

Having been trounced on questions of economics, the Leave campaign has, unsurprisingly, stopped talking about the economy, and instead has relentlessly pushed the immigration argument, and pushed it well beyond the truth (the Leave campaign’s website tells us, for instance, that Turkey will join the EU, which is highly unlikely). But even this supposed trump card is flawed. First, there is the problem already discussed: Being in the single market means accepting high levels of free movement, just as Norway and Switzerland have. End of argument — at least in the real world.

Of course, if the UK remains in the single market, the UK must accept most if not all of the associated rules and pay for the privilege, without membership of the Council of Ministers or of the European Parliament. Ironically, leaving the EU yet remaining in the market is pretty much the opposite of “taking back control” over anything. Yet leave the single market, you invite economic chaos and uncertainty.

I need to wrap this up and go help out with GOTV for Remain as the polls are already open.  Prior to leaving the house for the day, I will post on current polling numbers.

That said, the following is a counter-point to the Foreign Policy article linked at the top, originally a response on my fb page when I posted the article. It’s typical of the genre, and is quoted with the public permission of the author.

haha, Foreign Policy always knows what’s best(not). For instance their position on Syria is out of touch with reality and this Kafkaesque notion that some how a UK that is fully sovereign is some how ‘little’ typifies their ‘journalistic’ style. I know, maybe if the ‘leave’ campaign is ‘little England’ then maybe the ‘remain’ crowd should be categorized as the ‘no England’ group. I fail to see how English culture will endure in the long run in the face a watered down national image and unlimited immigration from the third world….huh, maybe that’s why there is a referendum in the first place. People across the Soviet Union knew there would be and economic price to pay with the dissolution of the USSR, but they did it anyway. Perhaps sovereignty and self determination are worth more than what ever threats the ‘no Englanders’ put forwards. It’s amazing to watch the elite circle the wagons…

It’s Awesome Being an Immigrant in the UK Right Now

[ 72 ] June 22, 2016 |

ImmigrantJobs

An academic who has lived and worked in the UK for the past 18 years, originally from an EU country (possibly Germany) published this in the Guardian yesterday. It deserves to be read.

But the signs are ominous. The referendum campaign has created an atmosphere of hostility towards immigrants, in ways I have never experienced in my 18 years in this country. We are being blamed for the state of public services such as health, housing and education, and for undercutting wages, even though the real culprits – chronic underinvestment, poor planning, ineffective governance and watered-down labour laws – are entirely homemade.

The tales of intimidation and threats against pro-Remain campaigners, immigrants and their supporters are a cause for serious concern. There is no doubt that many Leave proponents are decent, thoughtful people, but there is also no doubt that parts of the campaign have played on xenophobia and emboldened nasty, violent racists.

In large part, I agree with the author’s assessment. In living here over 12 years, I’ve never seen anything quite like this, the unreserved rhetoric, the unabashed racism, the pride in ignorance. Michael Gove has a lot to be infamous for to future generations, but if he’s remembered at all, it will be this quote: “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.”  (This piece that ran in the Telegraph in the wake of that quote a couple weeks ago, “Michael Gove’s guide to Britain’s greatest enemy . . . the experts” has flashes of hilarity.)

The author faces an uncertain future should the UK vote to leave the EU tomorrow. Ironically, it does not directly affect my status as an American. I didn’t have a right to be here, the author does. Of course, I also didn’t necessarily seek out living in Britain; I’m an academic, and we go where the job is. The university had to sponsor my visa and work permit, and when my FLR expired after five years, I had to apply for my Indefinite Leave to Remain, which if I recall cost somewhere around £850. I had to take that hilarious test, Life in the UK, which most Brits couldn’t pass (a real question I had on mine: how many members are there in the Welsh Assembly?). However, with the ILR, EU or no EU, I’m not going anywhere.  If Brexit were to win, the same can no longer be certain for citizens of EU countries.  What makes this doubly ironic is that a greater proportion of immigration to the UK is from outside the EU, which can be directly controlled (i.e. made more difficult) by the government of the day.

I have been told: “It’s not about people like you, it’s the others.” I am, apparently, a “useful” foreigner. So who are the others they are talking about? The Polish plumbers? The Lithuanian fruit pickers? The Spanish nurses? The Greek doctors? Or is it the benefit tourists, those mythical creatures that, like the Loch Ness monster, have never actually been spotted, but that surely must exist, given the amount of conversation about them?

This resonates. I have lost count of the number of conversations ‘on the doorstep’ while campaigning for the Labour Party in the past three elections where I’ve had discussions with UKIP supporters, and it’s usually straight from that script. Romanians this, Bulgarians that, and the Poles are everywhere . . . (and it gets worse, of course). When I’d point out my obvious immigrant status (my accent has barely changed from the west coast US I grew up with), it was always “oh, not you.”

It obviously helps that I’m white.

Even in the event of a vote to Remain, it will be difficult to control the forces that have been unleashed in this campaign. And it is difficult to imagine what the UK would turn into after a Brexit, possibly under the leadership of Messrs Johnson, Gove and Farage. What is certain, however, is that it will no longer be the country that embraced me – and that I fell in love with – all those years ago.

I don’t know whether I would be allowed to stay, but, like many others, I am beginning to wonder why I would want to. I would hate to leave the country that has been my home for almost 20 years and that has been so good to me – but if it comes to that, the real loser will be Britain.

I admitted this morning, if this campaign was my introduction to English (not British per se, but explicitly English) culture, I would not have come here. As it is, I’m not going anywhere (unless they decide to further clamp down on immigration by changing the rights associated with the ILR).  Which makes me wonder, of course, how much damage this poisonous rhetoric has caused, even in the event of a remain victory?

UPDATE: This, by German-born historian Tanja Bueltmann, published in the Times Higher on 16 June:

Such behaviour is not characteristic of the UK I love. But the UK I love, an open and tolerant country, seems to be vanishing. I see a “Trumpification”, and look in horror at clear parallels in early 20th-century German history.

I have absolutely no idea what is happening here in the UK right now. But what I do know is that it keeps me up at night.

FREE THE HAGGIS!

[ 163 ] June 22, 2016 |

haggis

The misinformation distributed by the Leave campaign has reached a new level of surreal.  During a debate last night on the BBC which featured six speakers (three for remain, three for leave, obviously) former London Mayor Boris Johnson (and heir apparent to David Cameron should leave win tomorrow) stated, to the leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson (on the remain side), that the EU prevents Britain from exporting haggis to the United States. (The tweets reproduced in the HuffPoUK story are worth clicking on the link alone).

Just imagine how prosperous the UK would be, how creative and enterprising the British people would become, if Britain were only allowed to export haggis to the US. Clearly, this is what is holding the country back.  Damn Brussels and their oppressive, anti-democratic ways.

The image above is from a 2014 BBC story with the head “UK government bids to overturn US haggis ban”.

Hang on?

Yes, the US banned the importation of sheep lungs (apparently part of this delicacy) in 1971. The same 1971 that preceded the UK’s accession to the then EEC by two years. The story does mention the European Union, however, by pointing out that “The UK government said it hoped the ban could be lifted as part of an EU-US trade deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is currently being negotiated.”

Ah, so instead of banning the export of Haggis to the US, the EU could be the vehicle to allow its importation into the US?

Two related observations:

  • It would appear that the Leave campaign has been allowed to deal in misinformation to the degree where they’re happy to make shit up on the fly, knowing that it will not be scrutinised.
  • Is there any example of the European Union not allowing the export of something that is legal within the European Union? It doesn’t make any logical sense to me.

Incidentally, I only first had haggis on Burns night this past year, in part because my partner / girlfriend / whatever is Scottish. I didn’t find it entirely dissatisfying, but I’m not sure that it holds the key to either the Leave campaign or the economic vitality of the United Kingdom.

h/t friend of the blog Matthew Remnant

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