After decades we should be getting the Heathrow expansion decision tomorrow

October 24th, 2016


Whatever the political fireworks will begin

It has been an awful long time coming but we are promised that the long awaited decision on the expansion of Heathrow will come tomorrow.

It’s reported that TMay and other ministers on the airport subcommittee will meet before cabinet. It is being speculated that we could get an announcement before the markets open because it is felt that this is so politically sensitive.

Theresa May herself will make a Commons statement at 12.30.

All the signs are that the plan chosen will be one of the Heathrow options.

No doubt one of the first people to respond will the Richmond Park CON MP, Zac Goldsmith, who has threatened to resign his seat and force a by-election if LH3 goes ahead.

Mike Smithson


Why you shouldn’t rely on the BREXIT experience as a pointer to a Trump victory

October 24th, 2016


The elections are not as comparable as they might appear

There’s an ongoing argument that’s being made every day that Donald Trump can take heart from the fact that the BREXIT polling, betting and forecasts were wrong.

Certainly there’s little doubt that in broad terms he appeals to the same demographic groups that backed LEAVE. He’s tapping into much of the anger that we saw in the referendum. In the betting we’ve also got what we experienced ahead of June 23rd – in terms of the amount of money being wagered the balance was to REMAIN while in terms of the overall number of bets the LEAVE side had it.

Most bookies are reporting the same with WH2016. They have had more Trump bets than Clinton ones but overall more money on the latter. That might, of course, be down to the tight odds-on price that the former Secretary of State has moved to. A Clinton bet doesn’t offer much value.

Also unlike the referendum only a very small proportion of bets placed in the UK are from those who’ll be able to vote on November 8th. The online bookmakers go to great lengths to stop bets from the US being placed.

The expectations from leading pundits was that REMAIN would win which is just the same with WH2016 and Hillary Clinton.

Where it falls down is that the polling pattern does not compare.
In the final three weeks leading up to June 23rd there were more polls with LEAVE leads than REMAIN ones. In the US race Trump has had very few leads of late with most national and swing state polls going the Clinton way.

Another factor is early voting. After June 23rd it was said that LEAVE had secured a big lead amongst postal voters which made up about a fifth of the total. In the Trump-Clinton fight what early voting indicators there are point to the Democrats at least equalling or doing better than four years ago.

This doesn’t mean that a Trump victory is out of the question just that the two elections are not as comparable as is being suggested.

Mike Smithson


This analysis might well disprove the theory of Shy Trumpers

October 23rd, 2016

If there are ‘Shy Trumpers’ you’d expect Donald Trump to have outperformed the polls during the primaries and caucuses.

One of the more interesting theories posited during this White House race on why Donald Trump will become President is that the polls are wrong because there are shy Trumpers not being picked up in the polls. With Donald Trump proving to be the most controversial Presidential candidate since George Wallace, you can understand why some of his voters might be shy and embarrassed to tell pollsters about their true intention to vote for Donald Trump.

Harry Enten of fivethirtyeight has analysed Trump’s actual performance in the primaries & caucuses versus his performances in the polls, and we can see there’s no evidence of shy Trumpers, if there were shy Trumpers you’d expect Donald Trump to over perform his polling. I know primary & caucus elections are different to Presidential elections but on current evidence the term ‘Shy Trumpers’ causes real epistemological problems.



The EU moves on

October 23rd, 2016

Anyone who has been dumped will know the problem: what do you do next?  Bridget Jones was faced with exactly this dilemma.  She saw that she had two choices: to give up and accept permanent state of spinsterhood and eventual eating by Alsatians, or not.

The rest of the European Union has just been dumped by Britain.  It faces much the same dilemma as Bridget Jones faced.  And like Bridget Jones, it is choosing not.

Bridget Jones chose vodka and Chaka Khan.  The EU apparatchiki have also chosen the hard stuff (but Jean-Claude Juncker has yet to be seen dad-dancing to “I feel for EU”).

Freed of the brake that Britain put on developments, old integrationist aims have been dusted down.  The core of an EU army has been put forward.  New proposals on Europe-wide insolvency protection measures are being proposed.  The European Commission has sanctioned Apple, and Ireland, for their tax arrangements.  Ten countries are pressing ahead with a financial transaction tax.  Less Europe has so far found no takers.

In Britain the different camps have read into this what they want to see.  Leavers see this as proof that the EU was always going to integrate further and faster and that Remain’s lies to the contrary have been exposed.  Remainers see this as proof that without Britain’s influence the EU will develop in a way that is harmful to Britain (and to the EU’s own interests).  Take your pick.  Both can be true, of course.

Neither camp seems to have thought much about what this means for the impending Article 50 negotiations.  The news there is not good for Britain.  Right now the EU has a point to prove and Britain is the country against whom the point needs to be proven.

So in the short term, the EU will want Britain to suffer – in the words of the Maltese Prime Minister, “Most of my colleagues want a fair deal for both the UK and Europe, but it has to be a deal that is inferior to membership, so you can’t have the cake and eat it.  I don’t see a situation where Britain will be better off at the end of the deal.”  The EU will want others advocating withdrawal to be deprived of ammunition.

As a long term strategy, however, this makes no sense at all.  The EU should want Britain as a reliable neighbour, the more so because in many areas such as security it is a leader in the region.  It will want close cooperation with it on a whole host of subjects.  Alienating Britain is a really dumb plan for the long term.

So will cool reason win out in the Article 50 negotiations?  I very much doubt it.  There are too many different competing interests that have to be brokered and time is tight.  As the recent breakdown of CETA, the agreement between the EU and Canada, shows, problems can emerge for almost whimsical reasons.  Negotiations need to be concluded within two years of Article 50 being triggered – unless all parties unanimously agree to an extension, and even getting unanimous agreement to that might be difficult.  Some nation might always fancy their chances of extracting a ransom for their agreement.  Right now the EU favours tough exit terms and time is short to turn that round.

Theresa May is caught between on the hand for domestic reasons wanting to trigger Article 50 as soon as possible to get the ball rolling and calm Leaver nerves in Britain and on the other hand wanting as long as possible to allow cooler heads in Brussels and around Europe to appreciate the advantages of reaching a friendly agreement with Britain (and then persuading others).  It is a formidable challenge.

Theresa May is left in large part dependent on events.  The EU would only quickly change its default setting in a panic, and then anything is possible, as Turkey has adroitly shown in its handling of the refugee crisis.  Will an event that would change EU minds take place in the next two years?  That is unknowable but seems unlikely.  It may very well be that the single market remains irrational for longer than Britain remains solvent.  Stand by for a very messy break-up.

Alastair Meeks


Betting on will Donald Trump accept the election result

October 23rd, 2016


Paddy Power have a market up on will Donald Trump accept the result of Presidential election, the exact wording of the bet is ‘Donald Trump to publicly confirm he accepts the result of the poll at the post election rally.’

Given his comments from earlier on this week, the only way I can see Trump accepting the result of the election is if he wins it, so you’d be better off betting on him winning the White House Race where you can get odds of around 5/1. But I’m going for the 11/4 on him not accepting it, it feels like a ‘nailed on’ bet* for me, as it would require him to appear magnanimous, a quality he has hitherto failed to display during his Presidential election campaign, stretching all the way back to the primaries.

My presupposition is that were Trump to lose, his concession speech will be the ‘highlight’ of election night as I expect in defeat Trump will have a meltdown that will be like the Three Mile Island accident meets Richard Nixon’s concession speech of 1962.


*Other bets I have considered to be ‘nailed on’ in recent times include a hung Parliament in 2015 and Donald Trump not to be the Republican Party’s Presidential nominee in 2016.


New YouGov England & Wales polling has LAB down at 18.7% if there was a STOP BREXIT candidate on the ballot

October 22nd, 2016

50% of June 23rd REMAIN voters say they’d back such a new party

Between Tuesday 11th and Friday 14th October 2016, YouGov surveyed 4,507 adults in England and Wales. Respondents were asked two questions. First, they were asked how they would vote in a general election, and were given as possible response options the standard list of parties YouGov uses for such questions. A second question was then asked including a STOP BREXIT party in the list.

The actual wording for England is in the chart above. Welsh respondees were offered an additional choice of PC.

It will be recalled that just after the Witney by-election was called the ex-LD leader, Paddy Ashdown, floated such a candidate in Cameron’s old seat with Labour and the Lib Dems standing aside. That didn’t happen.

The data shows that 50% of REMAIN voters on June 23rd would opt for the new party.

A STOP BREXIT party could become a temporary home for many within Labour who have been alienated by Corbyn/McDonnell/Milne

It was Corbyn’s lack of commitment for REMAIN in the referendum campaign that helped trigger of the attack on his leadership.

I’ve no idea whether such a new party would ever happen or how one could be created. Clearly there are issues with this sort of polling but it does further the concept that was first raised by Ashdown ahead of Witney.

Mike Smithson


Why are the Lib Dems partying like it’s 1993?

October 22nd, 2016

They’re another party that has returned to comfort-zone politics

They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. So Talleyrand said of the Bourbons and so much the same might be said of the Lib Dems today. If there’s one thing that we should take from the Witney by-election campaigns, it was the extent to which 2010-15 are now for the Lib Dems non-years.

With the disagreeable business of actually holding power and being able to do something with it now behind them, the Lib Dems are now clearly back to what they enjoy most: fighting by-elections. It’s something they believe they’re good at and going by local results this year, they have a point, with far more gains than anyone else and with Con and Lab both in reverse – though it should be noted that their results at the May elections were a good deal worse, recouping fewer than one in seven of the seats they lost in the same election round in 2012.

On the other hand, it’s now more than a decade since the Lib Dems last gained a seat at a Westminster by-election, and more than 16 years since they gained one from the Conservatives. Despite some overly optimistic assertions before the event, they never came close in Witney.

Nor was it ever likely they would. They’d have needed one of the biggest swings in history and to have come from fourth which would have been an almost unprecedented achievement. Perhaps, were the Conservatives unpopular, it might just have been on. Against a party polling in the mid-40s nationally, and with the Lib Dems starting fourth locally – more than 55% behind the Tories – it never was, no matter how intensively Farron’s followers campaigned and the apparently large number of bets staked to that end.

That shouldn’t diminish what was in many ways a good result. To climb back to second and to gain a near-20% swing were undoubtedly impressive achievements, if well short of those needed to win. Indeed, Labour ought to be asking themselves questions about how they let their challenger position slip, having finished second in Witney not only last time but in four of the last six general elections.

But in remembering all the techniques from the glory days of the 1980s and 1990s – the bar-charts, the two-horse races, the tactical ‘lent’ votes, and so on – they have failed to learn anything from their time in power about a wider truth: that elections are means to an end; to the exercise of power, not an end in themselves.

Perhaps this is one reason why the larger parties struggle to be as motivated as the Lib Dems for by-elections: by-elections simply provide neither the consequence nor the sport for them that they do for the Yellow Team.

Because while the tactical game is all very well in one-off elections, it’s only possible to maintain at general elections while two conditions are met: firstly, fights need to be kept local as much as possible, so that they can appeal to Tories in one place to keep Labour out, to Labour supporters elsewhere to keep the Tories out, and to both in others to keep the SNP out. And secondly, the party needs to be transfer-friendly at a national level. As soon as a party whose election machine is built on tactical voting comes into contact with the responsibility and accountability of power, both conditions break down and you end up going from holding fifty-odd seats to eight. So much there for tactical votes, personal votes or a superior ground game. And eventually, a centrist party with a reasonable number of seats will be faced with a situation where they cannot avoid choosing which of two larger parties will form a government (or whether to force fresh elections).

Yet Farron seems to have learned nothing from that devastating lesson. Perhaps the experience is still too raw or perhaps Farron, who never went near power himself during the Coalition, understands it only in the negative and isn’t yet willing to act on its implications. Once again, the short-term highs of by-election success (or, as in Witney, commendable advance), is allowed to trump longer-term positioning or the Lib Dems’ ability to influence policy.

Those who fail to learn from history will be condemned to repeat it. Talleyrand was on hand to see the natural consequences of his observation for the House of Bourbon as they were ejected from power a second time in 1830. Unless Farron can move his party on from trying to endlessly relive Newbury and Christchurch and instead build up a support base formed on positive support for the Lib Dems’ policies and values, they too will set themselves on the road of an inevitable future downfall.

David Herdson


Yes Witney saw a sharp decline in turnout compared with GE2015 but it impacted on the parties differently

October 21st, 2016