Posts Tagged ‘Nigel Farage’

eu puzzle

We have a habit, Dear Reader, of predicting elections (and referendums are a bit like elections, aren’t they?) BEFORE the result is known. We do this for a number of reasons. When we get it right (which is almost always – although some would argue we didn’t pick a majority for the Tories at the last British General Election, whereas we would argue we did flag it as at least a possibility) we like to stick it up those less perceptive types who think we know nothing – childish, we agree, but very satisfying – and also it’s just plain fun to try and get it right. Everyone’s gotta have a hobby, right?

We have said, all along, ever since the referendum was announced, that Leave will not win. Our reasoning was and is very simple, and quite different to all the other reasons advanced by pundits.

It is simply this.

The “Steady As You Go” argument


Electorates are inherently conservative. They tend to vote for the status quo, and especially when they are uncertain of the advantage of changing things. That is why, for example, that the received (and correct) wisdom is that Governments lose elections, Oppositions don’t win them. (And that’s why the Coalition will be returned to power in Australia, incidentally, as they have not done enough cocking up, in enough people’s opinion, to actually lose the whole game.)

In the EU referendum, in our view, the Leave campaign have done an excellent job of ramping up xenophobia and leveraging generalised disgruntlement in the electorate. They have worked on crystallising the anti-politics fever that seems to be gripping most Western democracies, as people rail against the admitted inadequacies of representative democracy. We see it everywhere – the visceral hatred from some for President Obama, the embrace by Trunp by those in America who feel themselves disenfranchised by “Washington”, the rise of the far right in Denmark, Austria, France and Russia, the apparently unresolvable divide in Thailand, the growth of micro parties and third parties in Australia, (reportedly about to push towards nearly 30% of the vote at the July 2nd poll), and so it goes on.

Brexit has leveraged this angst effectively through a ruthless application of rabble-rousing.

In our view the support for Brexit – which has risen by between 5-10% over the last 12 months – is at least as representative of a general mistrust of the establishment as it is a reflection of genuine anti-EU sentiment. In this context, the EU is just the establishment writ large, and the Leave campaign knows this, and has presented it as such with commendable, if amoral, consistency.

By choosing the wayward buffoon Boris Johnson, the plainly odd Michael Gove, and the determinedly esoteric and individualistic Nigel Farage as their lead acts, Leave have presented themselves as the natural anti-establishment choice.

But despite Leave’s efforts, at least 14% of the British electorate still report themselves to the pollsters as “Don’t knows”. Abut 5 million people entitled to vote in the referendum apparently haven’t got a clue what they think, despite literally years of coverage of the matter.

One has to have sympathy with them. Both sides in the debate have fudged statistics and relied on barbed soundbites rather than any serious appeal to the intellect to sway the electorate. There has been a deal of outright lying going on.

In fact, this referendum has been an appalling example of the comprehensive trivialisation and failure of British political leadership, and almost no major player comes out of it with any kudos.

But assuming these 14% are not simply too embarrassed to embrace either of the sides, it is highly likely that the majority of them, if they vote at all, will lump (without any great enthusiasm) for Remain. “Don’t knows” nearly always overwhelmingly back the status quo. (For the same reason, the bulk of Independents in the USA will break for Clinton, not Trump. “The devil you know” is a powerful motivation.)

Yes, there is a chance they are enthusiastically pro-Remain but don’t wish it to be known because they are frankly confronted by the aggression of the Brexit camp and yes there is a chance that they are enthusiastically pro-Leave but don’t want it known as they fear being painted as irresponsible. If either of those things turn out to be true then the winning margin will be much higher for one side or the other than is currently predicted.

The current Daily Telegraph poll of polls has Remain leading Brexit by 51-49, having had Brexit ahead for at least some of last week. If those “undecideds” break very strongly one way or the other that calculation could be way wrong.

When the dishes are all washed at the end of the night, we think they will break disproportionately in favour of the status quo, and also that a good proportion of them won’t vote at all.

For that reason, we feel more comfortable with a prediction of about 55%-45% in favour of Remain, and if that turns out to be the result then everyone in the Chardonnay-sipping commentariat will throw their hands in the air and say “Well, what was all that fuss about? It was never really close, no one got that right!” Except we did. Today.

The ‘Polling Discrepancy’ argument

Our second reason for making our prediction is that telephone polls overwhelmingly favour Remain by a bigger margin than the overall polling is showing, because online polling has the two sides much closer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.24.00 pm

As the chart above highlights, polls where people answer questions on the phone suggest higher EU support than polls conducted on the internet. Since the start of September last year, phone polls suggest a nine per cent lead for Remain, while online polls have it at just one per cent. Why would this be? Well, that depends really on whether one is a conductor of phone polls versus online polls. A lively debate has been going on between the polling organisations.

In our view, it is because people respond differently in different social situations.

They may feel more encouraged to speak their mind to a real person, for example, or exactly the opposite, they may feel less free to state their views.

They may be more inclined to tell the truth when clicking on a survey question on a screen, or they may be more prepared to give a tick to something they actually don’t intend doing when they get into the polling booth proper. There will be a difference between phone polls where you actually speak to someone and where you use your keypad to respond to recorded questions.

Bluntly: polling is an inexact science.

What polling does do very well is track trends accurately. On that basis, there has undoubtedly been a move towards Leave in the last two-to-three weeks, but it may well be that Leave support peaked a week early, as it now seems to be weakening again. It is as if voters walked to the brink of the abyss, had a look, and stepped back. If this turns out to be the case it will be promoted as a triumph of campaigning by the Remain camp, but that would be a mistake. It’s simply the innate fear of change kicking in again. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you are voting Leave when it doesn’t matter because Leave has no hope of winning. Quite another to tell them that when it appears you may carry the day.

Two other factors, we believe, has bolstered the Remain cause.

The ‘Nigel Farage Gaffe’ argument

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.35.23 pm

The first was the badly judged UKIP poster promoted by Nigel Farage that showed a huge queue of universally black and brown immigrants waiting to enter the UK. (They were actually photographed trying to enter Slovenia, but that’s splitting hairs.)

Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationals and Green MPs immediately united to condemn the poster, accusing Mr Farage of ‘exploiting the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the most dishonest and immoral way’. Popular Scots Nats leader Nicola Sturgeon called it “disgusting”. Others lined up to condemn it as “reprehensible”, “vile”, and “quite revolting”. Even Farage ally Michael Gove said the poster made him “shudder” and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne also aid the poster was “disgusting” and compared it to Nazi propaganda. Social media lit up with actual examples of the poster set against eerily similar Nazi propaganda from the 1930s to make the point.

The poster will play well with the neo-racists, anti-immigrationists, Little Englanders and out and out racists that make up the majority of UKIP’s dwindling band of supporters. But that’s simply Farage shoring up support for his views amongst people who were never going to vote for Remain anyway. We strongly suspect that the majority of Brits, who are, at their core, a fair minded people, will recognise the poster for what it is – an intimation of what Britain would be like under a hard-right Government that could well follow a successful Brexit vote. We think a small but significant number of people will have moved back from Leave to Remain as a result.

The ‘This Has Got Out Of Hand’ argument

Our last reason for suspecting Remain will win with relative comfort is the near-universal shock we have observed over the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was callously shot down while going about her daily business, allegedly simply because she held pro-refugee and pro-EU views. This awful event has shaken the British people rigid. Attempts to wave off any connection between the shooter and far-right groups, let alone the Brexit camp, and to characterise him as merely “mentally disturbed”, have, it seems to us at least, failed. Just as the Farage poster offended the British sense of fair play, at least for some people, so the assassination of Jo Cox has driven home to many how divisive and ugly the whole EU debate has become. Families have descended into recriminations, lifetime friends have fallen out with each other, and there have been multiple examples of violent fractiousness from all over the country.

The British people have now had more than enough of this unpleasant debate, which was foisted on them by a bitterly divided Conservative Party and a weak and vacillating Prime minister, and they heartily wish to be rid of it.

Staring down the barrel at what could be years of a messy dis-integration from Europe starts to look like a very poor option to a majority.

In 24 hours, Europe will be calmer again. With Britain inside it, and by then, presumably, permanently.

You heard it here first.


farageOuch. There will be a few of these, no doubt, as the UK election progresses to its climax next month.

One has to feel a little for politicians and their minders, sometimes. Even when they are about as far across the political divide from ourselves as it is possible to be.

Not only do they have to watch what they say, but as Nigel “UKIP” Farage discovers here, they even have to watch the signs they are walking next to as well.

Cue some poor media adviser flack being sacked for not predicting the photo, one suspects, and a bonus from the media proprietor to the photo-journalist who we bet stood there for a while to get the shot.

OK, yes, it’s utterly trivial, but it’s fun. And it’s Friday.

slipperyPerhaps more worryingly for Farage and his party, and the Tories, both of which constantly rail about the cost to the National Health Service of “health tourists” chewing up NHS resources in Britain, stats have just been released showing that holidaying Brits cost five times as much to Spain, Italy, France etc etc as incoming tourists cost the Brits.

The gap is largest in the cases of Austria and Germany. Austria’s health service spent 43 times more – £5.6m – on treating British travellers than the NHS did on those from Austria – £130,000. Germany, which is visited by 2 million Britons every year, had to pay 34 times more than the NHS – £22m compared to £643,000. Still, they’ve both got pots of money, so who cares, eh?

One of the joys of following an election is when a few facts interpolate themselves into the bullshit.

Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, center, arrives in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday, April 7, 2015 for a state visit to the country.. Mugabe will be in the country until Thursday and will meet with South African president Jacob Zuma - photo AP.

Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe arrives in Pretoria, South Africa Tuesday, April 7, 2015 for a state visit to the country. Mugabe will meet with South African president Jacob Zuma – photo AP.

We will bring more to you as we go along.

Meanwhile, on the same theme, we sincerely hope the photographer who snapped this shot of Zimbabwean tyrant Robert Mugabe in South Africa has already fled to somewhere safe, as this photo has gone viral worldwide, and the afro-fascist doesn’t have a reputation for a very vibrant sense of humour.

Decision Day for Europe

Marine le Pen of the National Front in France: "The sovereign people have spoken loudly to say they want to be master of their own destiny".

Marine le Pen of the National Front in France: “The sovereign people have spoken loudly to say they want to be master of their own destiny”.

Chain-smoking, pint-drinking Nigel Farage has proved widely popular, despite admitting some of his own party's ideas are half-baked. His populist plain speaking has amused and encouraged some as it has appalled and worried others.

Chain-smoking, pint-drinking Nigel Farage has proved widely popular, despite admitting some of his own party’s ideas are half-baked. His populist plain speaking has amused and encouraged some as it has appalled and worried others.

UKIP is course for an emphatic victory in the European elections in the UK – with leader Nigel Farage promising to use it as a springboard for next year’s general election. It is a trend repeated throughout Europe.

(Based on exit polls/provisional results)

France National Front storm to victory – 25%, 25 seats; Centre-right UMP 21%; President Hollande’s Socialists a poor third with 14% – lowest ever EP score

Britain Eurosceptic UKIP in first place, with 27%, Conservatives on 24% and Labour about 25%, Greens beating Lib Dems.

Italy Centre-left PM Matteo Renzi scores strong 40%, fending off ex-comic Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star with 22%, and ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with 16%

Germany Angela Merkel wins another election – 35% for her Christian Union, 27% for the centre-left SPD. Eurosceptic AfD score strong 7%

Greece Partial results show far-left Syriza on 26%, PM Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy on 23%. Far-right Golden Dawn set to get three MEPs, with 9%

In the UK, Labour’s vote is up significantly on 2009 but it is currently neck and neck vying with the Tories for second place. The Lib Dems have come fifth behind the Green Party in most areas and have lost all but one of their seats.

An early breakdown of the major parties in the UK looked like this:

UKIP 28.73% +11.67% 22 seats won Up 10
Conservative 24.19 -3.68% 16 seats won Minus 5
Labour 23.98% +8.84% 14 seats won Up 5
Greens 7.78% -0.66 2 seats won Up 1
Liberal Dems 6.91% -6.82% 1 seat won Minus 8

Only Scotland, London and Northern Ireland have yet to declare. As we report these results, it looks as if UKIP may have taken at least one seat in Scotland as well, which will bolster their argument for being a truly “national” party. (Note: Labour have gained slightly on the Conservatives since this table was prepared.)

UKIP has topped the poll in six of the nine regions to have declared so far, with their strongest performance coming in the East Midlands, where their vote was up 16.5%. Nigel Farage’s far-right anti-immigration anti-EC party has made 10 gains so far and has 22 MEPs

Labour topped the poll in Wales, and the North-West of England, its strongest showing so far with an increase of 13.5%, and the North-East of England and has made five gains so far. The party has returned 14 MEPs.

The Conservatives have lost five seats so far and have returned 16 MEPs.

The Lib Dems have lost eight seats so far but avoided an especially humiliating wipe-out by winning a single seat in the South-East of England. Internal manoeuvring to replace Leader Nick Clegg has been gathering pace since the party’s disastrous local election results last Thursday. The party’s losses in local elections since the formation of the Coalition with the conservatives now number over 1,300 Councillors.

Despite a small reduction in their overall vote the growing Green Party have got two MEPs so far, gaining one seat in the South West at the expense of the Lib Dems, who lost one of their longest serving MEPs and previous group leader in the process.

In his victory speech at the South East of England count, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “The people’s army of UKIP have spoken tonight and have delivered just about the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 years.”

He said the three main parties in Britain had led the country into the Common Market but had “twisted and turned” over an in/out referendum on EU membership.

“The penny’s really dropped that as members of this union we cannot run our own country and crucially, we cannot control our own borders.”

Far from being confined to the centre right of British politics, UKIP had also bitten into old Labour heartlands, he said.

“We’re genuinely a United Kingdom Independence Party. Our people’s army will go from here to Newark and move on to the general election. You haven’t heard the last of us.”

Roger Helmer, UKIP’s candidate in the forthcoming Newark by-election, was elected an MEP as the party’s lead candidate in the East Midlands.


Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps said the results were acting as “a command for Britain to get a better deal” in Europe – but he rejected calls by Tory grandee David Davis to bring forward the in/out EU referendum to 2016, saying negotiations on this could not be rushed.

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said UKIP had tapped into people’s disaffection with politics, adding that it was important to her party that Labour beat the Tories into second place.

Lib Dem President Tim Farron said the results “looked as bad as I feared”.

He claimed the Lib Dems had been the only party to stand up to UKIP and anti-Europeanism, but said that policy “may have cost us votes”. He told BBC News: “Nick Clegg has fought and led our campaign bravely … we took the unpopular side of the argument, and we have been punished. But I tell you what, I would do it all over again.”

British National Party leader Nick Griffin lost his seat in the North-West of England, after his party lost 6% of its vote.

Anti-EU parties from the left and right are expected to gain significant numbers of MEPs across all 28 member states in the wake of the eurozone crisis and severe financial squeeze. In particular, the far right anti-EU National Front was forecast to win in France, according to exit polls. In Denmark, the anti-immigration Popular Party is also reported to be ahead in exit polls.

Pro-EU parties are still expected to hold the majority in parliament. Turnout across the EU is up slightly at 43.1%, according to estimates.

In the European elections five years ago, The Conservatives got 27.7% of the total vote, ahead of UKIP on 16.5%, Labour on 15.7%, the Lib Dems were on 13.7%, the Green Party on 8.6% and the BNP on 6.2%.

UKIP has been celebrating gains in Thursday’s council elections in England, which saw it add 161 councillors and led Mr Farage to predict it could get its first MPs elected next year.

The Green Party of England and Wales has set itself a target of tripling its representation from two to six MEPs and of finishing ahead of the Lib Dems in fourth place.

The BNP won two seats in 2009 after getting 6.2% share of the vote but opinion polls have suggested their nationwide support has fallen sharply since then and they could struggle to retain these seats.

‘Closed list’

In total, 30 parties contested the European elections in the UK, including the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, the Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party, which all won seats in 2009.

Britain is one of eight countries to use a “closed list” system where people vote for a party, rather than an individual.

The parties – here is the BBC guide to each of them – decide who goes on the candidate list for each of the electoral regions, with the ones at the top standing the best chance of being elected.

The way seats are allocated within each European constituency uses the D’hondt system, which is a form of proportional representation.

Across Europe as a whole, 751 MEPs will be elected to the European Parliament, in proportion to countries’ population size.

The powers of the parliament, which sits in both Brussels and Strasbourg, have expanded since the last election in 2009.

MEPs now negotiate legislation with national government ministers in what is called “co-decision”, before parliament votes on the laws.

They have a say on budget areas including agriculture and regional aid.

(The BBC and others)


It’s an important day today (well, tomorrow, over there, as we post this from Melbourne), for UK voters.

The furore over the rise and rise of the extraordinarily right wing and virulently anti-EU UK Independence Party – and its charismatic but somewhat questionable leader Nigel Farage – has kept us both mildly horrified, fascinated and occasionally amused.

As you know, Dear Reader, we like to be helpful, so we supply this very helpful chart from Huffpost UK to all those uncertain whether they should place their “X” against UKIP in the Euro and Local elections. Very funny, and thank you to them.




At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk, we are the “pick and stick” types. We are on record (for nearly forty years now) as supporting the most pro-European party, the Liberal Democrats, and we have often written pro-EU columns (and then ducked and run for cover as the brickbats inevitably come flying from an electorate thoroughly sick of some of the nonsense that admittedly goes on in Brussels). We are, frankly, old enough to remember – if not the war itself – then the ripple effects of the war, and we profoundly believe in the “European project” as a matter of principle.

UK voting

Nick Clegg, this is going to be ugly.

But we are also on record as being of the opinion that the Lib Dems are heading for an absolute shellacking under the woeful current party leadership and especially that of Nick Clegg, the Leader himself.

We strongly suspect the party we love and believe in (still) will go close to being wiped out in some areas, perhaps many areas – and we bitterly regret what will be the unwarranted loss of many hard-working Lib Dem Councillors who have done nothing wrong and much right in faithfully representing their local wards – and that they will also endure a thoroughly humiliating performance in the EU elections.

So although results will be patchy, and the leadership will talk up all Lib Dem successes for all they are worth – and although we are fervently not hoping for a bad result for the LDs, just expecting it – we are sure we will be proven right.

And we expect a leadership spill with Nick Clegg “tapped on the shoulder” soon after, too. You heard it here first.

Incidentally, one serious word of advice to all intending UKIP voters.

Remember, any decision to leave the EU cannot be taken in Brussels, it must be taken in Westminster. So voting UKIP in the EU elections will achieve, er, precisely nothing, if you are in the “get out at all costs” brigade.

Except, of course, to give a bloody nose to the major parties. Which, as many have pointed out, is probably precisely what you are intending to do. And probably why, precisely, you will return to voting Labour and Conservative at the next General Election, and to a lesser extent Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru and Scots Nats, despite all the “gosh wow look what happens if we extrapolate that vote to a Westminster election” coverage that UKIPs successes will lead to tomorrow.

And you heard that here first, too.