Posts Tagged ‘psephology’

pinProvided even a reasonable percentage of her supporters turn out, as opposed to spending the day in a bar drowning their sorrows at what has become of America, then Hillary Clinton has already won the Presidential election.

Barring an opinion earthquake, of course. Of which, yes, there is always a tiny possibility – especially in this most unusual year – but we surely now know everything there is to know about Mrs Clinton after her much-touted thirty years in public life. The chances of anything truly dramatic coming out now is vanishingly low, especially after the Wikileaks big expose, which kept some right-wing Americans up all night with excitement waiting for the goss, turned out to be a complete fizzer.

How can we be so sure? Simple. The size of the mountain Trump has to climb.

This is famed statistician Nate Silver’s latest forecast of the likely result.

Likely election result

This takes into account a wide range of opinion polls, some traditionally favouring one side, some the other, but only some of which factor in opinions SINCE the Trump “groping” scandal broke. The CNN poll on “who won the debate” isn’t factored in, but that strongly favoured Clinton too, even though it generally overstates Clinton support slightly, a factor that CNN acknowledge.

In other words, if Trump’s scandalous remarks are not fully factored in yet, and the debate isn’t either, then this is a dire result for Trump. His position, already looking rocky, has declined further. And still has some downside to go.

This is how Trump has been faring recently:

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

Clinton creeps towards 50% in the popular vote.

 

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

The College starts to favour Clinton markedly.

 

Chance of winning

The “chance of winning” calculation looks insurmountable for Trump.

 

The “path to a win” problem

Most pointedly, when we look at the Electoral College likely result, Trump’s path to the White House now looks impossible, because the polls are predicting critical wins for the Democrats in Florida (up by more than three points) and Pennsylvania (up by nearly seven points), in North Carolina and Virginia by comfortable margins, and, indeed, in every other battleground state except Nevada and Arizona, and in Nevada Trump’s lead is just 4%, and in Arizona it’s “even stevens”, but then again we also know that the main newspaper in that state is now campaigning for Clinton.

Trump simply doesn’t have a route to win, on these figures. As things stand, Clinton will win 310-340 electoral college votes: more than enough for a very comfortable victory. Trump may well pile up votes in very conservative locations, but that doesn’t help him, no matter how much “singing to the choir” he does.

But the real killer for Trump is that things are going to get worse from here, not better. Blind Freddie can see that there will be some fallout from the recent furore that will be reflected in polls that will get reported by about Wednesday or Thursday, American time. How big a hit Trump will take is as yet unknown, but a hit there will be.

And as Silver argues:

Trump couldn’t really afford any negative shock to his numbers, given that he entered Friday in a bad position to begin with. Let’s say that the tape only hurts him by one percentage point, for instance, bringing him to a 6-point deficit from a 5-point deficit a week ago. Even that would be a pretty big deal. Before, Trump had to make up five points in five weeks — or one point per week. Now, he has to make up six points in four weeks instead (1.5 points per week).

In other words, Trump’s mountain is growing, not getting smaller. A gain of 1.5 points a week will require a massive sea change in opinion and there is no evidence whatsoever that is happening.

In addition, we see three more anti-Trump factors that will be starting to bite against him, given that is always a delay between things coming up and them affecting the opinion polls.

Trump’s “non payment of Federal tax for 20 years”

The expose over Trump’s tax situation is, we believe, much more telling than some people have realised. It’s simply too smug for Trump to dismiss it as “smart business” to use write offs to reduce tax seemingly forever. The idea that a billionaire doesn’t need to pay ANY tax, year after year, is a lousy atmospheric for the Republicans, especially for a party often condemned as being only interested in the big end of town. Trump’s natural support base is angry. Angry in an inchoate, unspecific way.

And they all pay their taxes, on much lower incomes. Sure, a few will say “good on him”, and a few will argue “he did nothing illegal”, but that is emphatically not the point. Most will say, “Well, f***.”

Trump’s stunt on Sunday with “the Bill Clinton women”.

No one would argue that Bill Clinton is anything other than a womaniser: it’s a near-fatal character flaw when his record is judged. But there’s a reason that Republican strategists have historically NOT gone after him as a means to get at Hillary. It’s because every time it’s brought up, it produces more sympathy for Hillary than everything else, especially amongst women voters. In desperation, Trump broke that rule. It won’t help him, and could hurt him.

Also, every time Trump brings up Clinton it reminds people of his own transgressions. His first wife accused him of rape – an allegation withdrawn after a confidential settlement. A “live” rape case with a thirteen year old plaintiff is in the courts now. Trump denies both, but, you know, so did Clinton …

The Republican backlash.

Sure, the Republican Party is split right down the middle. Sure, Tea Party types will accuse all those Republicans now abandoning Trump as being the best possible reason to back him and his intra-party revolution. But not all Republican voters are Teapublicans, and they and “independent” voters leaning towards Trump will be dismayed at his own colleagues’ thumping rejection of him. Some of those voters will plump instead for the Libertarian, Johnson, some will simply stay home rather than vote for the hated Clinton. Neither of those possibilities help Trump. By contrast, the centre and left have coalesced effectively around Clinton, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein is fading.

Now opinion polls have been wrong in the past. (Most notably with “Brexit”, which we and everyone else called wrong.) But not this wrong.

Which is why we say, as we have all along, it’s all over. Somewhere, a fat lady is singing her lungs out.

Probably one that Trump insulted.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-4-50-39-pm

This is one very possible outcome for the USA presidential election.

It shows Clinton winning by 308 electoral college votes to Trump’s 191, crucially giving Florida to Clinton, plus North Carolina and Pennsylvania. A couple of states are left as toss ups.

The rationale for the above map is quite simple. We do not believe Trump can win a Latino heavy state in Florida (29 precious votes), and Clinton is ahead in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina (which in the two last elections were toss ups, won once each by each side, but where court actions to disallow Republican voter restrictions may tip the state to Clinton, and where she also holds a 2% opinion poll lead currently). Trump cannot really find a path to the 270 electoral college votes he needs without Pennsylvania, and whilst his raw appeal may swing some disgruntled blue-collar votes to him, it will be destructive of the Republican vote in the more liberal city suburban areas.

You can have your own fun speculating on various scenarios here.

 

trump__clinton

 

So far so good, but it’s all pure speculation at this stage, of course. There are plenty of days to go, all of them with potential trip ups for both candidates, and both candidates are hugely unpopular anyway. We happen to think the televised debates will see a very startling poll bump for Clinton, the first of which is next Monday night in America, at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. We think Clinton – who is fearsomely bright – may wipe the floor with Trump, who isn’t. But we may be way wrong. Clinton has a habit of appearing stiff and starchy, and that won’t play well against Trump’s famously informal style.

Still, we think she will effectively expose what a nonsense the man is intellectually, and that, as they say, will be that. If there’s a “gotcha” moment, it will be very clear.

But that isn’t really what this article is about.

This article is really to discuss the nightmare scenario that America is actually splitting – psychologically and emotionally, if not literally – into two states with strongly opposed views. One made up of the industrial north, the east and west coasts, and one made up of the centre of the country. It’s very clear to see in the map above, which with a few wrinkles will almost certainly be roughly what the country’s electoral map will look like after the election.

Is the Union actually under threat once again?

We must remember that the United States descended into a civil war that was essentially a conflict over slavery, but more essentially a conflict over the economic influence and wealth that slavery allowed its practitioners. (Concepts of “states rights”, incidentally, have comprehensively been shown to be an intellectual red-herring as regards the cause of the war.)

America is today divided into two states economically again. Much of the (much more populous) north and the coasts are leaving the centre behind as regards economic recovery, and where that is not the case, lugubrious amounts of Federal monies are pouring in to take up the slack. The centre, and much of the south, mostly much more agriculturally-based, feels neglected. And angry.

Where the centre is doing well economically – Texas, for example – there is little latent enthusiasm for the Union, and even a spasmodic resurgence of arguments that the State would do better on its own. Much of the centre and South is still virulently “anti Washington” and “anti Establishment” – opinions that have largely remained unchanged since the conflict of the 1860s.

So what does this mean for America’s future?

One obvious outcome is that it becomes increasingly difficult to see how the necessary reforms can be enacted to allow America as a whole to take advantage of its recent economic growth can be made – certainly not with the general cross-aisle agreement that would be necessary. The atmospherics and mutual dislike will simply be too fierce.

Yet whichever party wins in November there simply has to be a concerted attempt to reverse the massive Federal Government debt – and the debt held by States – but a country riven by division is very unlikely to agree a program to do much more than slow the growth in debt, which is all the Obama administration and the Republican Congress have managed to achieve in the last eight years. That achievement is to Obama’s credit, but it isn’t enough.

A country cannot live “on tic” forever. A fact realised in Australia, where the conservative Government and socialist Opposition just agreed a package of spending reforms.

In foreign policy, America still faces very serious challenges in the Middle East, and especially with a newly assertive Russia and China. The country needs to be essentially “speaking with one voice” to effectively address a whole morass of scenarios that threaten world peace.

Then there are the core social attitudinal differences. The centre is overwhelmingly Christian (and fundamentally so, to a large extent), the north and the coasts are much more socially liberal and culturally diverse. As both parties seem to lose any sense in which they are competent economic managers, so people increasingly eschew making a judgement about that, and vote on the basis of other matters, despairing of anyone’s ability to “make America great again”. So matters such as abortion, and LBGTI+ rights, assume a higher significance. In 2016, opinions on those and other matters could hardly be more divided.

Whatever the result in November – and we still believe it will be a strong win for the Democrats – the incoming party will have a massive job putting America back together again. And we are not at all sure that they can. Exactly how that would play out is yet to be seen.

TurnbullOne feature of the Liberal National Coalition’s nail-bitingly close win in the Australian election that deserves comment – especially as the knives are at the very least being sharpened for Mr Turnbull’s back by the right wing in his party, even if they are currently going back in the sheaths for a while – is that the Coalition didn’t just get a bare majority of seats, (or at least that’s how it looks currently, and Labor have now officially conceded defeat) but it also looks increasingly likely that they also won the popular vote.

That fact gives their election (and mandate) added credibility, unlike when then ALP leader Kim Beazley famously won the popular vote (in October 1988) but still lost.

With about 80 per cent of lower house ballots counted the Coalition has received 50.13 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis to Labor’s 49.87 per cent.

What that obscures, of course, is two very important issues: firstly, that the ALP’s primary vote remains rooted in the mid-thirty percents (currently about 35%) putting them a long way behind the popularity of the Coalition, and far from being able to claim to be a natural party of government in any meaningful sense. And secondly that although the Coalition vote fell by about 3.4% (about .4% more than we thought it would) a substantial percentage of that fall went to third parties, and not the ALP.

Apart from a slight uptick for the Liberal’s National Party partners, we also saw increases for the Nick Xenophon Team, various “Christian” parties, and a rat-bag collection of right wing independents, notably the One Nation “party” of Pauline Hanson and the likes of “The Human Headline”, Derryn Hinch, in Victoria, and Jackie Lambie in the Tasmanian Senate, not to mention the libertarian Liberal Democrats in NSW.

Far from being a ringing endorsement of Labor’s strategies and policies, not to mention leadership, the election result actually suggests that the ALP has a great deal of work still to do. For one thing, the Greens will continue snapping away at their heels in inner urban areas (and less obviously in so-called “doctor’s wives” seats) and there are rumours they may yet take the eternally Labor seat of Melbourne Ports from its long-standing ALP member, Michael Danby, although we doubt it. This stubborn Green campaign success may well continue to cost Labor key seats at both Federal and State levels, blunting their appearance of recovery at the very least. And despite their best efforts, Labor seem so far pretty much unable to inspire enthusiasm either for Shorten personally, or for their brand of conservative social democracy.

After all, a swing to the major Opposition party – in a period of worldwide electoral upheaval – of less than two people in a hundred is hardly earth shattering. And at least some of that tiny swing can undoubtedly be accounted for by the factually and morally highly dubious “Mediscare” campaign, which might have produced a tiny increase in Labor votes, but the longer term impact may be that it also painted the party as relentlessly negative and dodgy.

Attempting to sell a “positive programme” at the same time as the most relentlessly pursued negative campaign in recent memory just rang untrue in voters’ ears.

And the Coalition’s subsequent fury over what they perceived as dirty pool will have struck some sort of chord with the wider electorate, if not with ironed-on Labor supporters, especially if the Coalition avoids anything that looks remotely like privatisation of Medicare in the next three years, just as “Kids Overboard” haunted the Coalition ever after, even after it had delivered them victory in 2001. It hung like a dead albatross around the neck of John Howard until he was swept aside by the fresh face of Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The result also reveals how vulnerable Federal parties are to wayward behaviour by their State counterparts, and especially for the Labor Party. There is little doubt that the furore over the State Labor Government’s handling of the Country Fire Authority matter cost Labor seats in Victoria, normally their strongest state. And probably cost them Government.

shortenSo whilst we admire Shorten’s hutzpah in visiting winning Labor seats in the election aftermath, we wouldn’t be entirely certain he is long for this world.

There will be no immediate move to replace him, to be sure, but the hard heads in the ALP – and there are plenty – will be looking at this result very carefully, including both the campaigning role of the Leader, as well as policy development. Anthony Albanese is one of the most loyal lieutenants any party leader could want, and Tanya Plibersek won’t toss her hat into the ring unless she’s sure of victory, but the greasy pole will be beckoning them both. And that’s before we factor in the ambition of a Chris Bowen, and others.

Any stumble by Shorten, any sign that he isn’t continuing to make ground on Turnbull, and pretty damn fast, too, and he’ll be gone. But if he doggedly pursues his agenda, and manages to ease up a little in front of the cameras instead of always seeming so earnest, he may yet get the top job one day.

 

 

 

 

Anthony Green, looking a lot tidier than he did on breakfast TV this morning, when he was looking distinctly 'over-trained'.

Anthony Green, looking a lot tidier than he did on breakfast TV this morning, when he was looking distinctly ‘over-trained’.

In yet another example of the rise and rise of “anti-politics politics”, if further evidence were needed, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s election guru Antony Green is predicting that hard-right racially-biased Pauline Hanson’s One Nation will finish up with at least three Senate seats – one each from Queensland, NSW and Western Australia.

It’s early days in the Senate count, with a final result weeks away.

Either way, the expanded crossbench – now even more expanded thanks to the Turnbull Government’s decision to hold a Double Dissolution with lower voting thresholds – is set to pose a big headache for the Prime Minister, whomever that turns out to be.

Gathering together a working majority in a Senate with this many disparate groupings looks like a political manager’s nightmare.

Essentially, though, the likely winners break down like this, as far as we can surmise:

PROBABLY OR DEFINITELY CONSERVATIVE/RIGHT WING

Libera/National Coalition
One Nation
Liberal Democrats (except on Social Issues)
Christian Democrats (especially on Social Issues)
Family First
Derryn Hinch*
Jackie Lambie*

*But capable of springing surprises

PROBABLY OR DEFINITELY CENTRIST/EVEN HANDED

Nick Xenophon Team

PROBABLY OR DEFINITELY LEFT OR LEFT OF CENTRE

Labor
The Greens
Animal Justice
The Sex Party (especially on Social Issues)

This is how Anthony Green suggests it could all break down, courtesy of The Age’s chief political reporter James Massola:

New South Wales: 5 Coalition, 4 Labor, 1 Greens, 1 Hanson/One Nation senator, 1 don’t know

Victoria: 4 Coalition, 4 Labor, 2 Greens, 1 Derryn Hinch Justice Party, 1 don’t know (“It’s anyone’s guess”, said Green.)

Queensland: 4 Coalition, 4 Labor, 1 Greens, 1 Hanson/One Nation, 2 don’t know (“It could be the Coalition, Labor, or the Liberal Democrats.”)

South Australia: 4 Coalition, 4 Labor, 1 Greens, 3 Xenophon Team

Western Australia: 5 Coalition, 4 Labor, 1 Greens, 1 Hanson/One Nation, 1 don’t know (“Probably a second Green”)

Tasmania: 4 Coalition, 5 Labor, 2 Greens, 1 Jackie Lambie (Independent)

Meanwhile Glenn Druery, the Senate “preference whisperer” who advises minor parties on how to engineer complicated preferences sways, predicted that, at this early stage of counting:

In New South Wales, the 12th and final seat would be won by Nella Hall for Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats or the Liberal Democrats incumbent David Leyonhjelm;

In Victoria, One Nation were presently in the box seat for the 12th spot but “I expect that to change and for that seat to be won by the Animal Justice or The Sex Party”;

In Queensland, the last seat would be won by a Liberal Democrat (Gabe Buckley, a campaigner against the Labor Government’s now rescinded anti-bike VLAD legislation);

In South Australia, the 12th seat could end up as a battle between Family First senator Bob Day and Labor, (although Bob Day thinks he will end up re-elected on One Nation preferences);

In Western Australia, the 12th spot could be a fight between One Nation and the National Party.

A right royal mess, we hear you say, Dear Reader? Well, you wouldn’t get much argument from anyone on that. How any Government will deal with such a fractured Senate is hard to fathom.

 

She's back. Please explain?

She’s back. Please explain?

 

The clear winners from this Senate election are One Nation, The Xenophon Team, and The Greens.

Libertarian David Leyonhjelm getting himself re-elected in NSW, when he was undoubtedly only elected the first time because he headed up the Senate voting sheet and people got him confused with the Liberals, would be quite some achievement.

And a special hat tip to Jackie Lambie in Tasmania, who was originally elected as a Palmer United Party Senator but rapidly split from the mining magnate, and has since carved out a clear role for herself in the Island State’s political pantheon, despite apparently having none of the silky smooth political skills you need to be a winner in the Great Game.

We have to say we rather like Lambie – our fellows in the chardonnay-sipping political elite will be horrified, but it’s true – without agreeing with hardly a single word she says. She is the archetypal “battler” Aussie who calls it as she sees it. She appears afraid of no-one, and determined to speak her mind as she sees fit. We need more such “politicians”.

Meanwhile the other very influential Senator re-elected will be the perfectly loathsome arch-conservative Liberal Corey Bernardi. He will be heavily involved in any move to unseat Malcom Turnbull and reinstall the utterly horrid Tony Abbott, if he isn’t already. Pass the popcorn.

Last-Days

 

Well, Dear Reader, we made such a total, unqualified balls up of predicting the result in the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum, (plus a minorly wrong call in the previous UK election), that we are loathe to write this post, and frankly we wouldn’t be if we hadn’t actually been ASKED to by a bunch of folks. (Oh, you gluttons for punishment, you.)

But as regular readers will know, we have long been a fan of Malcolm Turnbull, (if not of the more wild and swivel-eyed lunatics he enjoys as colleagues) and we are convinced that come mid-evening on Saturday he will already have been comfortably re-installed back in the Lodge. Indeed, despite the breathless reporting of Fairfax/Ipsos opinion polls showing the race to be neck and neck, we actually think the Coalition will win moderately easily.

In reality, the majority of seats in the Australian House of Representatives are locked into one party or another barring an absolute political earthquake, and there are no signs that the electorate are about to deliver an earthquake. (Mind you, we said that about IN/OUT/shakeitallabout and we were dead wrong. Caveat. Get out clause. Right there.)

A glance at the betting is a good indication of the mountain Labor have to climb to even be competitive. The Coalition are 1.16 to the dollar – virtually un-backable – that’s about 6-1 ON – and Labor are 5-1 against. Only in WA are Labor expected to do noticeably better, and there just aren’t enough seats there to make a difference to the overall result. The odds are even less encouraging for the ALP in key target seats for Labor, like Deakin in Victoria, for example.

There are 150 seats in the House of Representatives. If either side of politics can win 76 seats, or gain the support of cross bench members to reach 76, then they can form government. On the new electoral boundaries, and assuming a perfectly uniform pro-ALP swing, that means Labor needs 50.4% after preferences to win 76 seats. But we don’t think Labor will achieve an overall swing of that extent, although we expect them to pick up a few seats here and there. WA looks very good for Labor, but that’s about it.

What we will see is a lot of Liberal/National seats become much more marginal than they were last time – as many as 20 may be won on 2% or less. Which puts the next election into play, but not this one. This will mean, of course, that the TV studio pundits will be frothing at the mouth for a few hours, but not really to any good purpose.

TurnbullWe predict The Coalition will lose between 5 and 9 seats. The swing to Labor will be about 2.5%-3%. And Malcom Turnbull will duly have his own mandate to govern.

One of the great political slogans of all time. As well as the other Democrats ' slogan, "Give A Damn". Which we wrote, by the way. <Historical factoid.

One of the great political slogans of all time. As well as the other Democrats ‘ slogan, “Give A Damn”. Which we wrote, by the way. Interesting factoid there.

Yes, a hung Parliament is a remote possibility under some scenarios – Labor would have to do much better than we think they will – but we can really only see four lower house minority seats again this time, maximum five (if Barnaby Joyce gets rolled), which won’t bring them into play – and anyway one of those, Bob Katter, is an ironed on conservative.

There is just a remote chance that Nick Xenophon’s candidate will upset the Libs in Mayo in SA, but again, it wouldn’t actually make a difference based on the two-party split we predict.

In the Senate, Lord knows what will happen. Even under the new voting system, it remains impossibly hard to call. The Liberal-led Coalition won’t get a majority, we can say that. We think the Greens will do well, and so will Xenophon.

And huzzah, we say. We have always liked it when the Government of the day has to patiently negotiate their legislative programme with the Senate. It keeps them honest. And humble.

We’ll know soon enough. And then we can all get back to worrying about Donald Drumpf. He isn’t going to win, by the way. That we can guarantee right now.

boris rope

 

Early results in the UK “Brexit” vote are showing unquestionably that the referendum is much, much closer than we thought yesterday.

At this point in time, it is looking increasingly possible that the UK has, in fact, voted to Leave.

Whatever has happened in reality, we can now clearly state that this will NOT be a big or biggish win for Remain as we predicted, with what definitely appears was foolish over-confidence. It might well become a win for Leave as the night goes on, or if Remain do stumble over the line it will be only just, and probably with the help of a large Remain vote in Scotland, London, and parts of the South East.

Some early assumptions can be made with confidence:

The “working class” in England and South Wales has voted significantly more heavily for Leave than was expected.

The BBC’s chief political correspondent Christopher Hope has put the referendum result into a historical context. His opinion is its set to the biggest uprising against the people who run the UK since the Peasants Revolt in 1381.

This may be for two reasons.

Firstly, the working class may well be (indeed, almost certainly are) using the referendum to express generalised dis-satisfaction with the sitting Conservative government, and David Cameron and George Osborne in particular, and even with the general conduct of democracy in the modern era, full stop.

In particular, working class resentment over population movement and immigration has been ignored for too long. We do not believe that the bulk of Britain’s working class are racists, although there are some, without question. But they are increasingly anxious about the pace of change, and concerned about their terms and conditions of employment. Immigration is an easy target on which to blame the effect of austerity measures.

Secondly, the Labour Party in the UK, which delivered very mealy-mouthed leadership on the issue, has seen its call to Remain steadfastly ignored by its own supporters, delineating again, if further evidence was needed, that the working class is much less “ironed on” to Labour than it used to be.

The Scottish turnout seems to be lower than might have been expected, and that is probably a result of what people will call “referendum fatigue”. Nevertheless, the Scottish National Party’s strong “Remain” position seems to have substantially carried the day north of the border.

Wales – the area of the UK that probably benefits most from EU largesse – has nevertheless voted in large numbers for Leave. This again looks like a failure of the Labour Party to turn out its vote or a result of strong dis-satisfaction in industrial areas like the South Wellian valleys, Swansea and elsewhere, although the capital Cardiff seems to have voted for Remain.

Even in areas like Southampton and Portsmouth in the South, Leave votes are piling up in working class areas in those major urbanised areas. And as this is about the total votes cast one way or the other, that is bad news for Remain.

Even areas of the South that cannot possibly be considered “urban”, such as West Dorset and the Isle of Wight, have voted for Leave.

Big Remain votes in inner London could just turn it round for the IN campaign, but that may be the wishful thinking on behalf of the Remain camp. Interestingly there is a marked difference between the inner core of London and the East End and Essex. The more culturally polyglot centre of London might back Remain, but the old-style working class areas on the fringes are voting to back Leave.

Turnout in London is high (as it is in the rest of the country) and that has to be good for democracy – at least whoever wins will legitimately be able to claim a mandate.

The natural reversion to the status quo which we predicted appears – very rarely – to have been largely ignored. This may be one of those very, very unusual occasions when the people overturn the tables in the Temple and send the moneylenders packing.

What this is, unquestionably, is a victory for those who ran a highly effective scare campaign about the EU. Likely results of a Leave win will be very significant economic disruption, including a run on Sterling, and depression of stock markets worldwide. Indeed, Sterling and the Market futures are currently down about 5%, to levels not seen since 2009. The Bank of England may well have to intervene in the morning to create stability. Whether losses will be fixed up as the dust settles it is too early to say. There is little doubt that part of the story in the next 24-48 hours will be huge market volatility.

Whatever the result as the night in the UK wears on, one thing becomes very clear. Britain is split right down the middle, and the disputation of the last few weeks (in particular) needs to be addressed.

Likely winners out of this situation? Definitely Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, one of whom will very likely replace David Cameron sooner rather than later if Leave prevail, or even do very well. In either case, their stock will be boosted. For Prime Minister Cameron, calling this referendum may well come to be be seen as “the longest suicide in history”, to steal a term from earlier days.

A renewed call for the Labour Party to replace its current leadership team is very possible. Corbyn has completely failed to enunciate a Labour argument for “In”, and it could see the beginning of the end for his improbable tilt at history.

If Leave succeeds, Nigel Farage, even more improbably, will go down as one of the most historically significant British politicians of the post World War 2 period.

And the European Union will never be the same whatever happens.

What is not generally understood by many people is that if Leave HAS won, this would just be the beginning of a long, tortuous process to untangle a fiscal, trade and regulatory mess. It will be years before a “Brexit” can actually be achieved, (at least two years), and what that would look like has not be explained in any detail by its proponents. Sadly, this is one that will run and run.

We’ll be back if we have anything else intelligent to say, beyond “We read that utterly wrong in predicting a big Remain win”.

Which is the wonder of democracy. No one can ever take the electorate for granted.

And that’s a really good thing, whatever side you’re on.

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.

cruz2We have an enduring fascination with trying to pick election results before they happen.

And we are nearly always spot on, or at the very least, very close.

So here we go.

Turnout will be very high, and will be the first news story of the night.

A high turnout might suggest a sudden last minute surge for Sanders in the Democrat primary, but we believe the Democrat primary will be won by Hillary Clinton, shading the insurgent Sanders. Thetrump hands more overblown predictions of a Sanders victory will, we think, be shown to be wishful thinking by his supporters and progressives generally, as enough Iowans consider who can actually defeat the Republicans in a general election.

In this, Donald “Bogeyman” Trump and the perennially unpleasant Ted Cruz are actually helping the Democrat establishment to encourage people to coalesce around Clinton.

Hillary-AngryBut Sanders will do well amongst students and young people particularly, and cannot be counted out entirely yet.

Of course last time round she got a nasty shock when she surprisingly got beaten by Barrack Obama.

With Iowans, anything’s possible, but the talk afterwards will be, we think, of how the Democrats folded in behind Hillary when push came to shove. Sanders will, however, fight on, so that the Democratic nomination isn’t just a coronation.

On the Republican side we expect Trump to beat Cruz. That said, Cruz will poll more strongly in the evangelical and country areas where a lot of Iowans live, and where caucusing is a particular social and well-regarded event. So don’t discount a win by Cruz, even though we think Trump will do better. You might see a city/country split between these two, which would be interesting in its implications for the whole Republican race and the ultimate general election.

We expect the big story of the night on the right, though, will be a better than expected showing by Marco Rubio, who we think (have thought for some time) has an excellent chance of being the party’s eventual pick. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him poll 15-20%, or even, at a pinch, higher. And interestingly Cruz has turned to criticising Rubio in recent days, perhaps a reflection of a calculation that he is leaking votes to him while Trump’s supporters are staying mainly true to him. But this will be the day that Rubio really “arrives”.

And Trump and Cruz? What would they take out of the night when one of them wins?

Well, just ask Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee how much significancesanders2 winning the Iowa caucuses really has.

Anyhow, that’s our best guess.

We’ll see if we were right soon enough.

Pay close attention to Bremer County. This particular collection of 24,000 Iowans have chosen the right President in the last 9 Presidential elections.

There are any number of good ways to follow the results as they come in, if you are a fellow election tragic. This is one of the better ones, and not being American it will hopefully be a bit less biased and a bit more informative.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/feb/01/iowa-caucus-results-live-county-by-county-interactive-map

“This just in”, as they say. Just an update for fellow election tragics.

jim-mcmahon-oldham_3508904bWe were right to predict that Labour would hold the seat, but they actually did substantially better than predicted, achieving a very creditable result based, for certain, on good postal vote collection.

UKIP did moderately well overall but by no means well enough, and never mounted the challenge that was expected, the Tories did poorly, and the Lib Dems, Greens and Monster Raving Loony Party did abysmally badly, losing their deposits.

This will be seen as a very good result for Jeremy Corbyn and will presumably quieten, temporarily at least, calls for his head.

Jim McMahon, the 35-year-old leader of Oldham council, will swap the town hall for Westminster after persuading 17,322 people to vote for him. Turnout was 40.26% – not an embarrassment on a very rainy Thursday in December but still depressingly low. McMahon increased Labour’s share of the vote to 62.27%, up 7.49% from the general election in May. UKIP’s John Bickley, a Cheshire-based businessman, was runner-up, on 6,487. It was his fourth second place in Greater Manchester in less than two years, having lost out to Labour in by elections in Wythenshawe and Sale East in February 2014 and Heywood and Middleton in October 2015, failing again there in May’s general election.

Dark mutterings from UKIP – who are being portrayed as having suffered a bloody nose – on the conduct of the postal vote will probably be investigated. Nigel Farage blustered on Twitter: Evidence from an impeccable source that today’s postal voting was bent.

The needle on the dial for the Lib Dems didn’t shift upwards even a millimetre, as we suggested would be the case, which again shows what a difficult situation they are now in. A lively debate is already underway as to future Lib Dem tactics.

Here are the full election results, with all the percentages, from the Press Association.

Jim McMahon (LABOUR) 17,322 (62.27%, +7.49%)

John Bickley (UKIP) 6,487 (23.32%, +2.71%)

James Daly (CONSERVATIVE) 2,596 (9.33%, -9.65%)

Jane Brophy (LIBDEM) 1,024 (3.68%, -0.00%)

Simeon Hart (GREENn) 249 (0.90%, -1.05%)

Sir Oink-A-Lot (LOONY) 141 (0.51%)

Labour Majority 10,835 (38.95%) – 2.39% swing UKIP to Lab

Electorate 69,009; Turnout 27,819 (40.31%, -19.32%)

Result in 2015: Lab maj 14,738 (34.17%) – Turnout 43,137 (59.63%) Meacher (Lab) 23,630 (54.78%); Arbour (UKIP) 8,892 (20.61%); Ghafoor (C) 8,187 (18.98%); Harkness (LD) 1,589 (3.68%); Hart (Green) 839 (1.94%)

… boldly and fearlessly predicted, as we always do, well in advance.

This was the election result last time in Oldham West and Royton, a seat in England’s north which has a crucial by-election today.

General Election 2015 results

Electorate: 72,341
Turnout: 59.63%
Result: Lab hold
Swing: 4.03% swing Lab to UKIP
Party 2010 2015 Change
Lab 45.45% 54.78% 9.33%
UK Independence Party (Ukip) 20.61%
Cons 23.66% 18.98% -4.68%
Lib Dem 19.09% 3.68% -15.41%
Green 1.94%

 

This is absolutely rock solid Labour Party territory. Oldham West has voted Labour at every general election since 1950 (though the Tories did win a 1968 by-election).

The MP for much of that time was the veteran (and well-respected) left winger Michael Meacher, who with 45 years of interrupted service would have been in line to become Father of the House, had not Gerald Kaufman been sworn in first in 1970 because he was late for a party.

For the Labour Party to lose Meacher’s seat, or even to nearly lose it, would be an almost unparalleled political earthquake, regardless of the efforts of the Party’s leadership and local activists to “talk down” their likely result in advance, as they have been doing with ever-more-frantic determination as the by-election has gone on.

Whatever the precise nature of the result, we predict the following outcomes:

The result will be bad enough that the Parliamentary Labour Party will turn on their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, thus putting themselves further at odds with their own membership. Despite his recent elevation to the top job Corbyn is probably already fatally wounded by his obvious inability to translate his popularity with the party’s members (and key unions) into any rise in his personal popularity in the country as a whole. Indeed, it’s worse than that. His approval levels have gone backwards. He already looks like a dead man walking.

Hilary Benn

Hilary Benn

But the Labour Party has used up most of its eligible more centrist leadership contenders who all got thoroughly thrashed by Corbyn. So if anyone is to replace him, we are guessing they will need to come from the left of the party, or at least from an impeccable left heritage. That might be, for example, Hilary Benn, son of the redoubtable now-deceased Labour legend Tony Benn, although Benn the Younger now finds himself in an interesting position. His speech in favour of British military action in Syria has been widely praised, and it brands him “a realist” as well as a left winger, thus making him more acceptable to the Parliamentary party as a whole. However his support for bombing will also make him instantly toxic with many of the party’s rank and file. How he squares that circle will determine his future success.

Whoever steps up to the plate, Labour are undoubtedly in an unholy mess.

UKIP are going to do very, very well. Anti-immigration, anti-EU sentiment still runs very high – including with white, working class voters that could normally be relied upon to back Labour, all things being equal – and recent events in Paris have done nothing to reassure people. UKIP may well win the seat or come within a few hundred votes of doing so.

Everything will depend on turnout. If the Labour vote turns out – and especially if its immigrant (mainly Bangladeshi) supporters turn out – then UKIP will not win. But they will do very well nevertheless. If the turnout falls into the low 40%s or even lower then look out.

What’s more, the momentum is with UKIP. A recent online poll on a story on the by election had two-thirds of people thinking they would win the seat. Now such polls are not scientific in any sense, of course, but they are nevertheless often indicative. And the indication is that Labour are on the nose.

The position of the Lib Dems is interesting, too, for those who hold an affection for the minority party that took such a shallacking at the last election after their Coalition with the Conservatives saw their support tumble.

They have thrown a lot of effort into the campaign, and need to see an up-tick in their fortunes to indicate that they are not a completely busted flush as far as British parliamentary politics is concerned. In the relatively recent past this would have been a seat that the Lib Dems would have eyed with some relish – indeed, they viewed any by-election opportunity with relish – but their recent by-election performances have been largely forgettable, and their vote collapse at the last general election in this seat was near-terminal.

In the new, cold, harsh world that faces them, Lib Dem activists would be mildly comforted by a result that saw them hold their deposit (anything above 5%) and have been bullishly talking about maybe hitting a 10% mark. That 10% would cause near rejoicing to break out amongst the Lib Dem members, with their bright new leader and plenty of new members, is a perfect weathervane as to how truly disastrous their plight has actually become.

Natural supporters of the Liberal Democrats – and especially their activists – are deeply divided over their party’s general support for the action in Syria. The dispute between their remaining parliamentary rump and their core supporters could hardly have come at a worse moment for both party worker morale or the morale of those left-wing, tertiary-educated voters who have clung to their unique strand of liberalism in the United Kingdom.

The Conservatives are also running a candidate, and are doing well in national polls. They fell behind UKIP last time, and right wing voters may well defect to UKIP this time perceiving them having a better chance of unseating Labour. But our guess is actually that something more subtle will happen.

The parliament’s debate on bombing Syria has polarised opinion in the country in a variety of ways. The Conservatives have largely looked strong on foreign affairs, and that never hurts a sitting right wing government. Their polling actually has them up a couple of percentage points in recent weeks. Ironically, this may persuade some of their natural supporters to stay true to them, which will, in turn, hurt UKIP’s chances.

Public opinion has been moving against intervention in Syria, for sure, but there’s not a sign of it helping Jeremy Corbyn with the wider public, or of it hurting Conservative support. As we have said, while Cameron’s Tories see their support steady or rising, Corbyn’s own ratings are down – 24% of people now think he is doing well as leader, down from 30% last week; 65% think he is doing badly.

In general terms, YouGov suggests that current voting intention figures are CON 41%, LAB 30%, LIB DEM 6%, and UKIP 16%.

It will escape no psephologists attention that the broadacre Lib Dem vote at the last General Election was 7.9% so they have actually gone backwards since May, but then again their Oldham vote was even lower. Nor will it escape anyone’s attention that UKIP on 16% are higher than they were at the last GE on 12.7%.

What does it all mean? Well, our predictions for the election are as follows:

Labour will do badly, but largely through abstentions from a disinterested electorate who are unimpressed with Corbyn. They will hold the seat – just. It also won’t help – yes, we’re serious – that it’s going to rain. Look for a Labour winning margin of 2-3%.

UKIP will take votes from the Lib Dems and the Greens, and from some disaffected Labour voters, and from some canny tactical-voting Tories, but will fall short. We might be wrong – they might do even better than we predict, but we genuinely doubt it. For one thing, very little smart money is flowing onto them at the various bookmakers, and betting is a hugely accurate view of likely electoral outcomes.

The Lib Dems may gain a point or two over their abysmal May result but will lose their deposit, again, which will be hard on a hard-working and attractive candidate, and harder still on the new party leadership, and their party will be cast into gloom. And with good reason.

This is why we opined, publicly, that they should have kept their powder dry – pick and choose their fights, in other words – and to focus on building up activists and resources in seats they absolutely need to re-take in 2020.

Many of their membership will be in denial after this by-election turns into a fiasco, but the simple fact is that even if they might not have expected to win a by-election here in the past they would have expected to see their renowned by-election fighting machine deliver them a substantial uplift. That simply will not happen.

They will beat the Greens though, and probably the Monster Raving Loony Party. But not definitely.

The Conservatives will do creditably well.

We’ll know soon enough if our crystal ball was right.

crystal ballHere at the Wellthisiswhatithink crystal ball gazers society, we have something of a reputation for calling elections correctly. In fact, we have got every Parliamentary election (UK Westminster, Australia Victoria and Federal), and Presidential election (USA), correct since 1979, including the “hung Parliament” in the UK last time. And sometimes we’ve been spot on: we made quite a bit of dosh on the electoral college figures for Obama not once but twice.

It’s not really rocket science. It’s just about knowing what one is about. Check the polls, assiduously, all of them – not for the hard figures, but rather how they fluctuate over time. Or don’t.

Vitually all elections follow a trendline. The “Big Mo”, or momentum, the Americans call it. Viewed externally, that is to say not working for one of the major campaigns, it’s usually surprisingly simple to discern the mo. Just listen to people in the street, in your office, in cafes, watch the news, scan social media, sit in the pub with your ears open. Watch people’s faces. It’s normally unmistakeable who they intend voting for when push comes to shove.

Which is why we are absolutely certain that the Labor Party will win tomorrow’s election in Victoria.

Since the disastrous Federal Budget in April, the Liberal National Coalition have not headed the ALP. The poll then was 52-48. It has never been better for the Lib-Nats than that, although it has been worse.

And right up until today it was still 52-48, although the very latest poll for the Age (taken over the last three days) now has it as 50-50 on a “two party preferred basis” after a notional redistribution of preferences.

And 50-50, ladies and gentlemen, is mo. But it’s a switch: at the very last minute, it is momentum for the Liberals and Nationals, not the ALP. So whilst we are absolutely certain that the ALP will win, we actually aren’t, anymore. Certain,that is. Because if that momentum continues over into tomorrow, it could really be a real squeaky bum hole night for both major parties.

So after months of the contest being a “no contest”, what is happening?

The race is closing. It’s been obvious for a week or so. Whether it closes enough will decide the result.

Partly this is because people – ordinary folk, not political junkies – only really focus on who to vote for right at the last minute, and sometimes when they actually get into the polling booth. That effect is lessened when the election is interesting, or about great matters of moment. Neither applies here.

The other factor is there is a world of difference between answering an opinion poll question and actually voting for who you want to be your government.

Right up to the declaration of results for the last state election, for example, the incumbents – Labor – were considered a shoe in – steady, unspectacular Labor that was, with a respected if not loved leader in John Brumby, and no obvious slip ups in living memory.

Except there was a strong undercurrent running that the opinion polls failed to pick up because they couldn’t frame a question that could capture it: that the reason Labor never made a mistake was because they never actually did anything. And that was enough to deliver the narrowest of wins to the Coalition. We picked it – we hated Brumby’s smarmy, self-satisfied performance which was obviously mostly fluff, and we reckoned lots of other people did too – no media pundits did.

It was even acknowledged by the current leader of the Labor Party immediately after the election that this lack of achievement – talking a good story but doing little – was the single biggest reason for their defeat.

Is there such an undercurrent running now? Well, once again, we believe there is. And the undercurrent is made up of a number of factors.

The first is that the Australian electorate is incredibly and consistently “small c” conservative: it dislikes change. Less so nowadays, but still very discernibly.

There hasn’t been a one term Government in Victoria since 1955 – nearly 60 years ago. We have a visceral dislike for changing Governments at all levels, and only do so when we are convinced that the one in power currently is exceptionally incompetent or venal. Those criticisms cannot be levelled at Napthine’s government.

They have delivered a strong budget surplus, kept taxes down, are offering to spend a billion more on pork barrelling than Labor as a result – yes, the Libs are the big spenders in this election – and they have been effectively clear of sleaze or corruption with the exception of the hideous Geoff Shaw debacle in Frankston, which in our view the electorate has now pretty much forgotten.

It’s one thing to tell a pollster that you’re thinking of giving the Libs a kick in the tush because, well, just because it seems the appropriately iconoclastic thing to do – it’s quite another thing to consciously put geeky, gawky “Dan” Andrews into the big job when likeable old Napthine hasn’t really done anything wrong. We think that will give people pause for thought that hasn’t been picked up in the polls.

The second is that the Liberals and Nationals are infinitely more effective at encouraging and organising people to vote early by post or pre-poll, and there have already been 1 million such votes cast …

Earlier today we heard a radio commentator opine that the more that the gross number of pre/postal votes climbed, the more accurately they will mirror the overal vote pattern. That is to say, as they have been collected over the last three weeks in large numbers, they should be expected to break, say, 52-48 in favour of Labour.

But in our personal experience the effectiveness of the Liberal “ground game” significantly outweighs Labor’s, (the opposite is true in the USA), and therefore we suspect these already-cast ballots could break much closer to 51-49 to the Coalition. If that’s the case, and the vote in the booths tomorrow is roughly 50-50, then this could still be a very, very close election indeed.

Against that, and as a whole, Victoria tends to lean to the ALP at all elections.

It was the best state for Labor at the last Federal election, even with the relentless train wreck that was the Rudd-Gillard fiasco. And the feeling that the Federal budget was tailor-made to be nasty to the little people has been exacerbated by the very well understood piece of political calculation that Messrs Abbott and Hockey are both rich, both Sydneysiders, and both seem uncomfortable and sometimes contemptuous when speaking about the rest of Australia past the Blue Mountains.

Picking up on that angst, the TV know-it-alls reckon the seats down the Frankston line will be the deciders in the contest, chock full of annoyed battlers and retirees, and they might be right, at that – Frankston and Carrum look very wobbly at least – but we suspect that is so much received wisdom, especially as it ignores the contests in marginals in the countryside such as the regional cities of Ballaraat and Bendigo which might well be closer than predicted. There has been an assumption made that Labor will snap up some of the country marginals, too, but the very Melbourne-centric Labor Party doesn’t play well in regional Vic, whereas bumbly, horse-owning country vet Dennis Napthine plays unusually well.

In the country, Napthine is often touted as “one of us”, which could not with the best will in the world be said of long-term party apparatchick Daniel Andrews, despite him being brought up in Wangarratta in the State’s north. Not for nothing has he been spruiking that fact again and again in recent weeks: nevertheless, his urban veneer is perfectly obvious.

The last factor that is being largely ignored by the chattering chardonnay drinking classes in the inner city is that, far from being a vote loser, the very controversial East-West Link (road tunnel) which has led almost every news bulletin in what seems like a year has actually been becoming more and more popular with the voters as the Government has patiently explained its rationale, and voters in a string of semi-marginal Eastern and outer-Eastern seats have sweltered in traffic jams at the Hoddle St exits.

Certainly the project has been controversial, and one could argue the Government’s obdurate secrecy on much of the detail has been annoying for many. But ultimately, the question is, “Would I like to get to the Tullamarine Freeway from the end of the Eastern Freeway 20 minutes faster than I can now?”

There are tends of thousands of frustrated commuting motorists – not to mention commercial truck drivers – who will say “Yes”. Sure, they’re not the types that protest on street corners, but they do vote.

And the latest opinion poll on the topic, almost ignored by most of the media because it doesn’t suit the anti-tunnel hysteria they themselves have whipped up, has approval for the East-West Link sitting at a pretty emphatic 63%. That’s a big enough gap in favour to be significant. Not for nothing have the Liberals been bleating that only they will build the East-West Link. If they can get 50.5% of that 63% to vote for them, they’ve held onto power.

So there we have it. The Liberals and Nationals will retain power and Napthine will continue as Premier, at least for now. We know this to be true.

Except, we don’t. Our gut instinct still tells us that a small Labor win – perhaps a majority of as little as two or three seats – is the most likely result. A very good Labor win would look like a majority of maybe 8: anything above that would be a landslide and that is very unlikely. So if we had to part with our wrinkled ten shilling note at the bookies, we’d stick with Labor to win – just – if for no other reason than enough people might want to send a nasty message to the detested Tony Abbott and will sweep poor old well-meaning Napthine aside in the process.

And we’ve been confidently predicting Labor to win for a year. So: Labor to win. Just.

Unless, of course, they don’t. In which case, you – er – heard it here first.

PS Real political junkie stuff. Will the Greens win any lower house seats? We’re guessing no. Who would replace Napthine as party leader if he loses? Matthew Guy. Who incidentally, would have won this election hands down, if the Baillieu camp had not headed him off at the pass by handing the leadership to Napthine in the first place. Or to put it another way, be careful what you wish for.

"Who's the guy over your left shoulder?" "Can't remember, keep smiling ..."

“Who’s the guy over your left shoulder?” “Can’t remember, keep smiling …”

Good news for everyone who has missed Julia Gillard in public life – and there are some – she’s back.

The former Prime Minister has lain low since the 2013 leadership spill — but she appeared in public today to launch a former colleague’s book. Looking healthy and cheerful, (and on her pension, frankly, why the hell not?) Gillard launched former climate change and industry minister Greg Combet’s memoir, The Fights of My Life, at the NSW Trades Hall this morning.

In her address, Gillard issued a language warning to readers — joking that anyone who blushed from bad language needed to have a cold compress on hand.

Interestingly for us, Gillard also confirmed she urged Combet to run as leader when it became clear it was her time to go, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. She said: “I wanted to see the next part of his life being for the support of his colleagues to lead the Labor government into the 2013 election but it was not to be”.

Former Labor minister Combet recently told the ABC’s 7.30 that Ms Gillard had offered to stand aside for him if he wished to do battle with Mr Rudd. Instead he retired from politics at the 2013 election.

In our opinion, history will judge that this was a crucial loss of nerve. Combet is tough as nails, as seen by his principled and courageous leadership of the dockworkers in their battle with Patricks and the Howard Government, especially when battling the intransigence and bullying of Peter Reith. As the veteran of dozens of industrial negotiations, he had the sort of “real world” experience that a political junkie like Tony Abbott lacks, and although he would probably still have lost to Abbott on the principle of Buggin’s Turn (Labor was surely un-re-electable, wasn’t it?) he would have made a thoughtful, serious, incisive leader of the Opposition and #onetermtony would have very predictably been up for taking in two and a half years.

As it stands, we suspect our next Prime Minister will be Combet’s mate Bill Shorten, (although he did back Albanese in the leadership contest), so no harm done, from their perspective. But with his gnarly, bespectacled intensity and sheer intellectual clout we think Greg Combet might just have been the Prime Minister Australia never suspected he could be. We said so at the time. No-one agreed – in fact, we were were laughed out of court by everyone we advanced the theory to. Which is why we now find Ms Gillard’s and Mr Combet’s revelations interesting. Or to put it another way, nar nar nar, we told you so.

If this isn't the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime ...

If this isn’t the next Prime Minister of Australia, then God didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …

We’re historically pretty good at picking winners.

Despite a recent (but very temporary) bump in the poll standings for Tony Abbott over his brawny Putin-tweaking response to the downing of MH17, put your money (if you can find someone to take it) on Malcom Turnbull to replace him in a coup before Christmas, especially after the shambolic ALP in Victoria nevertheless manage to reasonably comfortably topple the incompetent but poorly-communicating Liberal-National Party Coalition in November.

In Victoria, Labor are current 3-1 “on” a victory, (hardly worth the risk, except one third of your stake for certain is better than none of it for getting it wrong, we guess) and the Coalition 2-1 against. If the Coalition suddenly lifts its game we reserve our rights to change that prediction, because if a week is a long time in politics then 122 days and 5 hours is a positive aeon, but we don’t see any real sign that is going to happen.

Considering the Napthine Government just delivered the highest spending infrastructure budget in Victoria’s history without borrowing a cent, one does actually feel rather sorry for them.

Of further interest to those who mainline psephology, (oh, look it up), we see that Labour in the UK are 5/6 to win the largest number of seats there, against Evens for the Tories. We think that’s too tight, and Labour are currently much better placed. We’d be interested, if you disagree, to know why. And in the US the Democrats are paying 1.60 to the dollar against 2.25 for the GOP. Unless Hillary is discovered doing something highly illegal between now and 2016, we reckon you should lump on, although the mid-terms later this year will be a further helpful guide, so maybe hold off for now.

Er … that’s it.

*Gabbled in a very fast high-pitched voice “All betting advice is purely speculative and should not be taken as true. Don’t rely on us. All care, no responsibility. No, nu-uh, tough shit, so sue us.”*

A psephologist is someone who simply eats lives and breathes the sways and nuances and surges of voter opinion, burying themselves in electoral statistics, voting boundaries, and opinion polls, to try and divine what is likely to happen in any given election. So far I haven’t got a major election wrong in over 30 years in any jurisdiction I have turned my mind to, but I will freely admit this Presidential election is fascinatingly obtuse and difficult to parse.

I am not a professional psephologist by any means. I am, however, a really sad anoraky type who would rather spend hours working out a likely election result than just about anything other than watching my beloved Southampton FC win easily. (Preferably against Portsmouth, but honestly, any win will do.)

This little play toy is, therefore, much like heroin to an opiate addict for me.

Make your own electoral map

 

Click on the map or this:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/president/obama_vs_romney_create_your_own_electoral_college_map.html

Just click on a state and give it to one of the candidates, and bingo, the updated expected electoral college vote materialises.

You wanna know what all the apparatchiks and backroom boys do all day in the Obama and Romney camp? This! Wanna feel like you’re Josh Lyman living an episode of “West Wing”?  Here it is.

Get rid of all the swing states at a touch of a button and award them to the current leader in that state. See that? Way cool. (Yes, the current electoral standing in each state is there too to make life easy for you.)

Think Romney will pull a surprise in Ohio, or flop unexpectedly in Florida? At the touch of a keypad or mouse it’s all yours.

Last time around this little tool won me a lot of money at the bookies by allowing me to correctly pick Obama’s tally. So go for your life, if you think you know what’s going on. But all care, and no responsibility, eh? Don’t blame me if they take you to the cleaners. This is the hardest election to call accurately in a l0ng time.

If you wanna know what I think, I have different scenarios running currently: Romney winning by a few, and Obama winning by a lot, depending on what happens in the next few days. In other words, it’s still too early to tell.

In summary, I still think the “win all the swing states” bar for Romney/Ryan is set too high, but we shall see what we shall see …

Really, it’s better than sex, innit?