Archive for November, 2016


If the betting markets have this right today’s Republican primary winner will be the next President of France

Sunday, November 27th, 2016


Francois Fillon is a 69% chance


Why Populism Trumps the Status Quo

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

A bird’s-eye view, from over the pond by Julian Glassford

The political earthquake that the Republican Party’s president-elect has sparked is bigger than the United States of America, and bigger, even, than the ego of “braggadocios” Donald Trump. With tremors still being felt right around the globe, the shock outcome has taken virtually everyone by surprise and left not just the Democratic Party but also donkeys in the media looking rather jolted, dazed, and confused. Meanwhile, the call goes out for relevant conjecture on the part of those of us with experience of life both inside and outside the all important ‘enlightened’ metropolitan bubble at the centre of this, the mother of all plot twists.

Mr. Trump’s victory had a lot to do with the (impossible) promise of economic revitalisation, shared prosperity, and renewed national pride: The American Dream meets Back to the Future Mercantilism, on Viagra. It also amounts to a rejection of the ignominious corrupt, fraudulent, and bloody interventionist machinations of the British/American establishment and associated special interests, plus neoliberal globalism more generally. Presented with a choice between negative, state-sponsored propaganda that directly demeaned and ostensibly threatened anyone who dared think outside the box (‘Project Fear’) and faintly nostalgic utopian visions of a simpler, more united land of opportunity, hope, and glory, voters in their tens of millions chose the later, on both sides of the Atlantic. For better or worse, the UK got its #Brexit and, true to the ‘special relationship’, paved the way for our cousins over the water to get their #BrexitPlusPlusPlus.

However, what most commentators fail to appreciate, or perhaps daren’t say, is that the protest vote goes deeper than the much parroted axioms that people are uninspired by the same old insipid political ‘suits’, fed up with the malfeasance of the elite, have been economically ‘left behind’, or are simply “deplorable” ‘angry white men’. From the rednecks of the Rust Belt to the Sioux of Standing Rock, folks feel that they themselves, their kith and kin, or their kind, have lost or risk losing their place, and way, in life. They have had their sense of communitarian belonging, conviviality, and constancy – the very stock of neighbourhoods and, not to mention, natural environments – decimated by the steady march of the faceless foot soldiers of capitalistic ‘human progress’. What we are seeing, in the rise of populism, is an appeal to a population who are not simply divided along socioeconomic lines, or even in terms of the left-right political spectrum, but as a reflection of differential psycho-philosophical responses to largely unmandated societal transformation.

Households have been destabilised, yes, by structural economic issues like inequality, job insecurity, and financial volatility vs. the rising cost of living and credit constraints, but also by a host of sociological factors in this, The Age of Anxious Individualism. Numbered among these are: the post-Christian ethical, communal, and life-structuring institutional void (with little besides insidious hyperconsumerism to fill it), increasingly transient/volatile romantic and parental relationships, work/life imbalance, and #DigitalDisconnect. In other words, moral, vocational, aspirational, technological, and interpersonal abstraction, uncertainty, and insecurity weigh heavily – albeit often chiefly at the subconscious level.

In view of the above, it doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to fathom why, then, the counter-culture anarchy of occupy ‘hacktivism’ and flip-side demagoguery of the ‘Dark Enlightenment’ are on the rise, from Main Street to Moscow. As The Spectator succinctly put it: “the success of a candidate as grotesque as Donald Trump speaks to the depth of the despair felt in the country”. Ultimately, it’s about trust, which is fast disappearing at every level of society, and with the perception that the system is rotten from the top down and those behind the wheel determined to drive us off a cliff, our bought-off bureaucracy’s vehicles of progress, and even our direction of travel, are now in question. Received wisdom and authority appear evermore dubious, progressive norms are under threat, and social contract itself is potentially at stake.

The Republicans won not because of, but in spite of, the mainstream media, who, it’s fair to say, put their money where their mouth is i.e. manifestly skewed both their political donations and election coverage in favour of Clinton. Truly, it was a triumph of grass roots politics and the Digital Age political weapons of mass destruction: social and alternative media. In this new media environment, when compared with the unfiltered authenticity of ‘The Donald’ and Grand Master: Nigel Farage, the politics of spin and ‘perception management’ are looking increasingly like a busted flush. What the established order must quickly comprehend, therefore, is that it would be wise to get to grips with the inconvenient truth outlined above – as opposed to directing surreptitious and punitive measures against critical outfits like WikiLeaks and RT, in increasingly vain and hypocritical attempts to maintain the status quo.

Focussing on promoting the hypernomalisation of suboptimal social conditions and of cultural norms and practices not conductive to the public good, along with smearing, sanctioning, and silencing eccentric critics, like Farage and Trump, demonstrably only appears to cement suspicions, fuel resentment, and make up the minds of the undecided. Instead, now is the time to pursue more pluralistic, open, and transparent modes of public discourse and politics, across all institutions. The democratic deficit must be meaningfully addressed and, more fundamentally, we need to continue the conversation – sparked by the likes of Professor Richard Wilkinson – about how best to ensure that human endeavour produces equitable outcomes that truly enhance the human condition. ‘Trickle-down’ is in dire need of a reboot.

Such an imperative necessitates structural change, including the root and branch removal of money from politics and, relatedly, space for serious electoral/media/financial sector/regulatory reform and disentanglement – as indicated by a string of recent public enquiries. What the disaffected masses of the West hunger for is the restoration of, and respect for, their heritage, values, and identity, combined with recourse to renewed social conscientiousness, moral courage, and gritty pragmatism, engendered and imbued by our leaders – the Lincolns and Churchills of tomorrow. They long for the politics not of deceit or calculating compromise, but of genuine representation, consensus building, and common consent; “of the people, by the people, for the people”. Anything short of this Cultural Revolution will likely result in Geert Wilders’ “Patriotic Spring”, and we all know what that is a euphemism for, and where it leads.

Along with a number of other European political leaders, Theresa May has rushed to reposition the Conservative Party in recent months. Such moves represent a conspicuous attempt to steal a march on the likes of the UK Independence Party and France’s Front National, sensing the nascent populist paradigm shift that Brexit indicated and the US presidential election has confirmed. Interestingly, here in the UK the Labour Party arguably has the most to lose or gain by ignoring or observing the take home message from recent developments, as it sets out its vision of ‘21st Century Socialism’. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the bubbling heat of discontent – that rallying cries like #MAGA and #TakeControl tapped into – will continue to cause political climate change, in strange and mysterious new ways, going forward. What does seem certain is that the USA needs now to come together, buckle up, knuckle down, and focus on turning adversity into opportunity, as is the American way.

Bio: Julian Glassford is a UK-based social, political, and economic commentator.



Party by-election vote projections should be treated with a massive pinch of salt

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Final weekend LD leaflet seeking to make the by-election about BREXIT

We are being given numbers for a reason not as a poll alternative

With just four days left to the Richmond Park by-election it looks as though there won’t be a final published poll and to fill this void the Green Party backed Lib Dem campaign has made some numbers available to the Observer. These are:

Zac 46.7%
LDs 43.3%
LAB 9.5%

This is not a poll but what was made available to the paper. It is very hard to comment on its accuracy but clearly the Lib Dems want to do everything in their power to squeeze the Labour vote and this information appears designed to do that.

The report is also a clarion call to activists and voters to maximise turnout on Thursday. The Yellows have been throwing everything into the seat which the billionaire’s son held with a 23k majority in May 2015.

It should be noted that similar figures were made available to me a couple of days ago and I didn’t publish them because PB has a policy on private polling and similar data where verification is not possible. I am only doing this post because of the Observer article.

Now I have no doubt that the LDs have a massive amount of data based on current and previous election canvassing as well as records going back decades on which electors in the constituency actually do vote. The latter comes from the publicly available marked register after each election.

In previous elections the party campaigns often have had a good idea at this stage how the postal vote campaigns were going.

So overall party campaign chiefs will have a reasonably good idea where they stand at the moment. But overall I don’t attach much importance to this data release. It could be part of a big expectation management effort.

Mike Smithson



Latest political betting round-up: the main markets

Saturday, November 26th, 2016





With the French Republican primary run-off tomorrow David Herdson wonders why doesn’t France use AV

Saturday, November 26th, 2016


Their stupid voting system could let in an unpopular extremist

Just as one never-ending presidential election ends, another begins. France goes to the polls again tomorrow to pick the centre-right candidate of Les Républicains; their choice being between former prime minister Alain Juppé and former prime minister François Fillon.

Fillon is the extremely strong favourite (1/16 with Ladbrokes, to Juppé’s 8/1); a remarkable turnaround given that the polls in the week of the first round of the primary indicated a close three-way fight with former president Nicholas Sarkozy. In fact, the polling failure there was even worse than the recent high-profile ones in Britain and the US: Fillon won by some 15.5%.

As things stand then, next year’s general election will come down to a fight between Fillon and the Front National leader, Marine Le Pen. However, so much has changed within the last week that it would be foolish in the extreme to simply assume that today’s standings will be reproduced five months hence.

One factor which may come into play is the particularly stupid voting system used, which manages to import the worst features of FPTP into a majoritarian system. With only the top two candidates going into the run-off (assuming that no-one receives more than 50%, which they won’t), voters are obliged to think tactically as well as in terms of positive support. Can their candidate reach the last two? If not, do they still support them or do they switch to a more popular alternative to ensure that they do make it through?

Similarly, parties are obliged to think about playing a similar game. A field too crowded will ensure that none of those there are successful – but the game of who should stand and who should stand down is one of bluff and bravado as much as logical and mutual interest.

The best example of how it can all go wrong remains that of Lionel Jospin in 2002. The election should really have been there for the taking for the Socialist. The incumbent president, Jacques Chirac, was unpopular and Jospin was his only serious mainstream rival. However, the field was extremely fractured and while only three candidates polled more than 7%, the total share for those minor candidates came in at some 47%; enough to enable Jean-Marie Le Pen to scrape into the run-off with just 16.9%, to Jospin’s 16.2%.

As Le Pen proved in the second round, the FN was incredibly transfer-unfriendly (he gained less than 1% in the second round; Chirac gained more than 60%) and had France used full preference transfers as under AV, we can be virtually certain that he’d have been knocked out before the final round, which would likely have been the expected Chirac-Jospin battle.

But it wasn’t then and nor is it now. Could something similar happen? The risk is that it could be even worse. We’ve not had any general election polling since Fillon’s surprise breakthrough and to date, nearly all the polls named Juppé or Sarkozy as LR’s candidate (though given the polls’ performance last weekend, we have to be dubious about their utility anyway). What does seem extremely likely is that Marine Le Pen will finish in the top two: it’s over three years since any poll placed her outside and the FN seems to have enough solid support to keep it above 25%, which would be more than enough to qualify for the run-off and could be enough to lead the field.

Unlike 2002, short of some scandal, there probably isn’t anything that could prevent the FN reaching the second round; they simply have too much support. The question is who will face her.

It ought to be Fillon given his result last week. Will it though? He should certainly win the primary. His 44% from the first round is an extremely strong starting point and Sarkozy’s endorsement will help too. After that, it’s a more open question. His time as prime minister marked him as a reformist much keener on the market and ‘Anglo-Saxon ideas’ than is traditional in France (not the least of which is that his wife is Welsh).

If Fillon does win the primary, that’s likely to be enough to prompt François Bayrou of MoDem into the race (Bayrou had said he would support Juppé were he the nominee). When Sarkozy was named in the polls, Bayrou was usually quoted for the same reason, with the former president taking only around 20%.

Three other candidates need mentioning at this point: Emmanuel Macron, running as an independent but formerly a member of Hollande’s government; Hollande himself; and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the left-wing Parti de Gauche. Of these, Hollande can be most readily dismissed. Polling dismally, he may not even win his primary and it’s not impossible that he won’t even stand, though the alternatives for the Socialists barely do any better. The other two candidates however poll in the mid-teens.

The risk for France is that as in 2002, a crowded field lets someone into the run-off with a score in only the upper teens which a large majority of the population actively would not want. In this case, that’d be Mélenchon. However, unlike in 2002, there wouldn’t even be a flawed mainstream candidate in the final round; the line-up instead being far left vs far right. It wouldn’t happen with AV.

David Herdson


With five days to go a Corbyn boost for the Lib Dems in Richmond Park – he’s to visit the constituency on Sunday

Friday, November 25th, 2016



The Blair Impede Brexit Project: Ladbrokes makes it odds-on that UK will still be “fully paid-up” member of the EU on Jan 1 2020

Friday, November 25th, 2016

THE UK is now odds-on to still be a full member of the EU on the 1st of January 2020, according to Ladbrokes.

Tony Blair’s claim that Brexit can be stopped has moved the market, making it now just 10/11 Britain remain as full members, with 3/1 offered on another vote taking place before the same date.

As a result Blair is also now at the centre of a long-odds gamble to return to Number 10, as his price of becoming the next PM tumbles to 50/1 from 200/1.

In a New Statesman interview published yesterday Labour’s most successful leader  spoke of the possibility that voters would decide to reverse their decision to leave the EU, but be observed that suggesting led to being condemned “condemned as treason”.

Blair said: “It can be stopped, if the British people decide that having seen what it means, the pain-gain analysis doesn’t stack up…When I say, ‘Well, let’s just keep our options open’, it’s condemned as treason. Why wouldn’t you keep your options open?”

Mike Smithson


EX-CON PM John Major jumps into the BREXIT debate saying there’s a credible case for a second referendum

Friday, November 25th, 2016

And he warns against the “tyranny of the majority”

The big BREXIT development overnight has been a speech by the former Tory leader and PM, Sir John Major, which seems to run directly against that which Theresa May is seeking to achieve.

According to a Press Association report he told a private dinner “that the 48% of people who voted to stay in the European Union should have their say on the terms of the deal for breaking away from Brussels.” The report goes on:-

“Major said he accepted the UK would not remain a full member of the EU but hoped the Brexit deal would enable the country to stay as close as possible to the other 27 members and the single market, the Times reported.

Parliament, not the government, should make the final decision on any new deal with the remaining members of the EU and there was a “perfectly credible case” for a second referendum…

“I hear the argument that the 48% of people who voted to stay should have no say in what happens,” he said.

“I find that very difficult to accept. The tyranny of the majority has never applied in a democracy and it should not apply in this particular democracy.”

There’s no doubt that this will enrage the hard BREXIT backers within his own party as well as infuriating Number 10.

His comments came only hours after the man who beat him at GE1997, Tony Blair, declared that the June 23rd outcome could be overturned if voters become convinced leaving the EU will damage the economy.

There’s no doubt that those opposed to a hard BREXIT are becoming more vocal and I think we could see more in the weeks ahead during which we have the Richmond Park by-election and the Supreme Court hearing on whether the PM can start the extraction process by simply using the Royal Prerogative.

Mike Smithson