Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Corbyn’

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This blog has a long and honourable history of predicting election outcomes, and usually getting them right.

We have, however, recently made a right pig’s arse of the process.

We got the Australian election almost spot on, in predicting a narrow Conservative majority. We got the shellacking handed out to the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 election spot on – we may have been the only predictor expecting them to hold under 10 of their seats. But in both those cases it might be argued that it was our personal closeness to the outcomes that led to their accuracy.

In other instances recently – David Cameron winning an unexpected majority in 2015, the Brexit vote narrowly backing Leave, and most infamously Donald Trump winning the electoral college (not, note, the popular vote) we were plain wrong, much to the inordinate glee of some of our correspondents who accused us of everything from not understanding opinion polling (unlikely considering our profession), to not seeing a fundamental shift to the populist nationalist right worldwide (which was always a nonsense), or of under-estimating electorate’s sense of angst and desire to give anyone – everyone – a kicking, (which was perfectly correct, and we did indeed under-estimate it).

Bang on time for this week’s UK election, this super article by Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com explains in great detail and copious references just why it has become so difficult to predict elections today, and the efforts gone to by polling organisations to correct any likely mistakes – which may even cause further mistakes.

If you have any interest in politics or political forecasting at all, we cannot recommend highly enough that you click the link and read it.

Anyhow, the old line out forth by politicians anytime a poll is unfavourable to them – “There’s only one poll that counts. The one on election day.” – is proving to be more and more true.

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So will we make a prediction, or is our headline just a pathetic attempt at click bait?

Nope. We’ll give it a go, but with the loudly proclaimed proviso that we could be wrong by more than the apparent margin of error either way, as Silver so kindly points out.

The average poll lead for the Tories over the Labour Party currently sits at around 7%. In our view, this is likely to be a winning margin for the following reasons:

Labour haven’t fixed their Scottish problem. Although they will do better than their wipeout north of the border last time, we need to remember that Scotland used to be rock-solid Labour territory. They could count on hatfuls of seats from the big industrial conurbations. They are doing slightly better now, so they will win some seats back, but in our view, not enough. And essentially, with a thoroughly “SNP-ised” Scotland, Labour need to do historically better in England and Wales than at any time in their history in order to overhaul the Conservatives. And that’s not going to happen.

The Liberal Democrats have stayed stubbornly limited to around 8% in the polls, sometimes up to 10-11%, sometimes down to 6%. Essentially, they are not seen as serious contenders in this election, and there is a still a strong “on the nose” element hanging over from their disastrous conduct of the Coalition agreement. The Lib Dem result is notoriously hard to predict because what they do bring to the table, undoubtedly, is superb on the ground campaigning – the so-called “street game”. Which is why we think they will pick up some seats, but they are also in danger of losing a couple of obvious wins where boundary changes or demographic changes are running against them, so their net effect via-a-vis the Tories (their main target) is likely to be negligible. Certainly not dramatic enough to rob May of her majority.

The Corbyn factor is especially interesting. Rarely has a leader of a major political party been more demonised by the media and commentators. But along with this demonisation has come a stubborn determination by some Britons – especially the young and first time voters, who have registered in historically large numbers – to back him, to give the establishment a kicking if nothing else. He has also appeared more impressive while the campaign has worn on, in stark contrast to Theresa May, who has frequently looked like a rabbit caught in headlights.

So we see the growth in the polls for Labour as real, but we simply can’t bring ourselves to believe that a character as polarising as Corbyn can beat an incumbent government. It’s just too counter-cultural – the continuing drumbeat about his past views on the IRA, his beard – how successful many bearded politicians do you know? There’s a reason for that. – the fact he looks uncomfortable in a suit, the way he is repeatedly castigated as returning Labour to the bad old days of the seventies, let alone his recent wholesale rejection by his own MPs, etc. etc.  It’s just too much of a tsunami of criticism to push back against.

Our last reason for plumping for the Tories is the three recent terror attacks, and especially the last two, in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert, and over the weekend on London Bridge. In times of deep anxiety, people tend to plump for “the devil they know”, and in this case that is definitely the incumbent government. It shouldn’t be so: in a perfect world, people should make a careful and cautious examination of all the reasons for voting for one or other of the options on offer, and not be swayed by the actions of a few vicious lunatics, but the fact is people simply don’t behave like that. Enough people will say, we believe, that this is no time remove backing from the Government, and that factor alone will be enough to see them over the line. Also, the Prime Minister and Government of the day receive a great deal of “free” – and mostly positive – airtime, simply by saying the sort of thing that is expected of political leaders at such times.

As became clear after Manchester, however, the advantage does not necessarily flow all one way. A spate of attacks, so close to an election, cannot but challenge the Government’s line in some people’s minds that it has successfully defended the country against terrorism. After Manchester, too, the Labour leader offered a rather different view of root causes. While Corbyn denied blaming the Government for the Manchester attack in any way – and indeed did not do so – he did ask about the possible impact on domestic security of the UK’s involvement in foreign wars. Nor – surprisingly perhaps, given the context – did he attract much public opprobrium for doing so.

So the advantage to the Conservatives of a national security election – as opposed to a Brexit or migration or austerity election – may not be as decisive as initially thought. But it will not be the same election as it would have been, even if going ahead with the vote as normal shows the necessary determination not to be cowed.

So in the final wash up, our guess is a Tory majority of 30-40 seats. Way down on initial suggestions that May might win a majority of 100 or even 150 seats, and one unintended consequence of such a result would be that May’s own leadership credentials would be severely wounded. How seriously, only time would tell. But there are certainly those around her cabinet table with a lean and hungry look, even if that soubriquet could never reasonably be applied to Boris Johnson.

But our certainty, also, is that we could be completely – even wildly – wrong. Things used to be quite easy in the world of psephology. Not so much nowadays.

For once, we will not be making a substantial bet on the outcome. That should tell you something, Dear Reader.

Overshadowed to some extent by the recent furore over Brexit, this Wednesday the long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war will finally be released to public gaze.

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Social media comment on Blair has been savage.

Predictions of its contents have varied from assumptions that it will prevent any serious re-examination of the decision by obfuscating on the key facts, to speculation that it’s criticism of British Government behaviours will make very painful reading indeed, both for MPs, MPs advisors, and civil servants.

As the Guardian reports, there is a very strong likelihood that a number of MPs will use the report to conduct a very rare parliamentary process to impeach Tony Blair for his role in launching the war, which would see the former Prime Minister theoretically jailed, but would more likely be an inglorious and embarrassing end to Blair’s public career, and a permanent blight on his legacy. There might well be cross-bench support for such an action, given that Blair is viscerally detested by the left-wing of the Labour Party (and has been criticised by its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for his role in the invasion), the Lib Dems were the only major party (at that time) to oppose the Iraq invasion, and the SNP will take any opportunity to embarrass Labour. A Tory or two might join in just to enhance the embarrassment factor.

What will not be happening, despite being thoroughly warranted in our view, is any appearance by Tony Blair (and George Bush, and John Howard) at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, as the court has ruled that it can only try cases based on the conduct of a conflict, not the decision to go to war itself.

This bizarre circumlocution will see the very real prospect of individual British soldiers and commanders being dragged before the court, but not the men who sent them to Iraq. Perhaps one smart move arising out of all this mess would be to reconsider the role of the court.

The ICC  has begun a preliminary examination of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.

In the statement, the office of the prosecutor at the ICC said: “We will take note of the Chilcot report when released in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination work concerning Iraq/UK. A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process aimed at determining whether reasonable basis exist to open an investigation. As already indicated by the office in 2006, the ‘decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the court’s jurisdiction’.”

The prosecutor’s office said the ICC was looking at introducing a “crime of aggression” which would cover illegal invasions but that “has not yet crystallised and in any event, will not apply retroactively”.

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Meanwhile the slaughter generated by the insane decision to invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein with no clear idea of how to replace him or what “success” might look like continues to wreak its toll, as the power vacuum left behind continues to stoke the fires  of internecine hatred in what was always an artificially-constructed country which should have unquestionably been divided into a Kurdish, Sunni and Shia state, with Baghdad as an international city housing a confederated EU-style parliament of sorts.

To add to the approximately 500,000 Iraqis who have died violently since the invasion, a further 125 innocents (including 25 children) were blown to pieces overnight in an IS attack on a Shia community in the Karrada neighbourhood, likely to be in retaliation for the loss of Fallujah to government forces, less than an hour down the road from the capital. At least 147 people were wounded.

As people congregated, shopped and watched soccer matches, the bomb-laden truck plowed into a building housing a coffee shop, stores and a gym. Firefighters rescued wounded and trapped people in adjacent buildings.

ISIS promised an uptick in terror attacks during Ramadan. The Baghdad assault came just days after massacres at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and security targets in Yemen. There have also been recent suicide attacks in Jordan at a border crossing near Syria, and suicide attacks in aChristian area of northern Lebanon.

Last month, a gunman shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people before he was killed, and an attacker killed a police commander and his partner in France.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Bangladesh and Yemen and there are news reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for the Jordanian attack. Experts believe the group might have conducted the attacks in Turkey and Lebanon.

Omar Mateen, the killer in Orlando, and the attacker in France both pledged allegiance to ISIS.

A second bomb exploded Sunday at an outdoor market in the Shaab neighbourhood of southeastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five others, police said.

Both Baghdad strikes are a sign of the Sunni-Shiite tension in the Muslim world. Sunni-dominated ISIS claimed it was targeting Shiite neighbourhoods. Karrada and Shaab are predominately Shiite.

Cedric Leighton, a CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, thinks the attacks will worsen and said that is ISIS’ game plan, essentially, to generate instability.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 11.06.21 am“They are trying to create enough chaos in Iraq itself so that the Iraqi forces will find it very difficult to actually take advantage of the forward momentum they have achieved because of their victory in Fallujah and that is a very serious issue that the al-Abadi administration is going to have to address.”

It’s hard to say “when and where they are going to strike,” he said of ISIS.

“This is a very, very difficult time. It is a very risky time, just because the political fissures are so great within Iraq that they are so easily exploitable by ISIS and its fellow travelers.”

Such attacks, like the one in Baghdad will serve to drive a wedge between the government and the people, in particular the Shiites.

“The wedge was already there and its fairly easy for them to exploit this,” he said.

There is no question, of course, that the divide between Shia and Sunni has been going on for centuries, but what is rarely said is that on occasions in the past both of the major Islamic factions have lived together peaceably for long periods as well. The invasion of Iraq set off a chain reaction of events that has now embroiled almost the entire Middle East in sectarian conflict, as well as seeing major attacks on the West.

One satisfactory response to Chilcott would be a commitment from all political leaders in the West to abjure from military interventionism and adventurism in the future, and for them to concentrate, instead, on the growth of inter-cultural confidence building and civic structures in countries that a struggling with massive problems and the difficulties of transitioning to a post-colonial environment.

Don’t hold your breath. It’s so much simpler to just bomb the shit out of somewhere. And the pretty fireworks look so impressive on TV.