Friday, 3 February 2017

Why is Brexit a serious problem for Labour?

Why is Brexit a challenge for Labour?

I just had a look at the Labour Party target list for 2020, and it makes bleak reading. Here are the 20 most marginal Conservative-Labour seats and the corresponding EU referendum result in those seats (Source: Dr Chris Hanretty constituency estimates which are widely regarded as very accurate).

Gower: LEAVE: 50.2%
 Derby North: LEAVE 54%
 Croydon Central: REMAIN 51%
 Vale of Clwyd: LEAVE 56%
 Bury North: LEAVE 54%
 Morley and Outwood: LEAVE 60%
 Thurrock: LEAVE 70%
Plymouth Sutton and Devenport: LEAVE 51%
Brighton Kemptown: REMAIN 57%
 Bolton West: LEAVE 56%
 Weaver Vale: LEAVE 51%
 Telford: LEAVE 67%
Bedford: LEAVE 53%
Plymouth Moor View: LEAVE 69%
 Lincoln: LEAVE 57%
 Peterborough: LEAVE 63%
Cardiff North: REMAIN 61%
 Corby: LEAVE 60%
 Waveney: LEAVE 63%
Warrington South: LEAVE 51%

 Even more worrying when you consider Labour is losing many people who voted Leave to the Tories is when you look at the 20 Labour seats most likely to fall to the Tories at the next election:

City of Chester: REMAIN 53%
Ealing Central and Acton: REMAIN 72%
Brentford and Isleworth: REMAIN 60%
Halifax: LEAVE 60%
 Wirral West: REMAIN 57%
Ilford North:LEAVE 51%
Newcastle Under-Lyme: LEAVE 62%
Barrow and Furness: LEAVE 57%
 Wolverhampton South West: LEAVE 54%
Hampstead and Kilburn: REMAIN 77%
Enfield North: REMAIN 52%
 Hove: REMAIN 67%
 Dewsbury: LEAVE 57%
 Lancaster and Fleetwood: LEAVE 52%
 Derbyshire North East: LEAVE 52%
 Harrow West: REMAIN 59%
 Bridgend: LEAVE 50%
Middlesborough South and Cleveland East: LEAVE 65%
 Westminster North: REMAIN 58%
Walsall North: LEAVE 72%

This group is a mixed bag, however it is clear that a sizeable number of Labour voters in these Labour held seats did vote to Leave.

Now look at the 10 most marginal Labour-Liberal Democrat seats to look at their unique threat:

Cambridge: REMAIN 74%
 Burnley: LEAVE 67%
 Berdmonsey and Old Southwark: REMAIN 73%
 Cardiff Central: REMAIN 70%
 Birmingham Yardley: LEAVE 61%
Bristol West: REMAIN 80%
 Bradford East: LEAVE 58%
 Redcar: LEAVE 68%
 Norwich South: REMAIN 60%
 Ashfield: LEAVE 71%

 Again a mixed bag, but the Lib Dems will have a chance in at least a few of these seats.

 Now the UKIP threat: 10 Most marginal Lab-UKIP seats:
 Hartlepool: LEAVE 70%
 Heywood and Middleton: LEAVE 62%
 Dagenham and Rainham: LEAVE 70%
 Mansfield: LEAVE 71%
 Great Grimsby: LEAVE 70%
 Stoke on Trent North: LEAVE 71%
 Rother Valley: LEAVE 70%
Stoke on Trent Central: LEAVE 65%
Dudley North: LEAVE 69%
 Peninstone and Stockbridge: LEAVE 61%

 Simply put, there are no easy answers...but it does not look promising.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Looking back at Barack Obama

By this time tomorrow, Donald J.Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.

I'm going to miss Obama. He did some fantastic things. His response to the financial crisis saved the United States from the same kind of austerity agenda we saw in Europe. Under his presidency, the war on drugs eased off, equal marriage was initiated and abortion access was defended and improved. The US response to the financial crisis involved fiscal stimulus, rather than the relentless austerity seen in Europe. New bank regulation (Dodd-Frank) was introduced to prevent a recurrence of the economic crisis. While it did not nearly go as tough as it should be, the fact that the Republican Party is foaming at the mouth to repeal it tells you all you need to go. Taxes on the top 1% are back to pre Ronald Reagan levels, something no one seems to know about. The economy grew, albeit slowly, and jobs were created, albeit disproportionately in the big cities. The Obama regime may not have put a serious dent in income inequality, which the President himself has described as America's greatest challenge, but he certainly tried.

 But while I mention Obama's successes, I must also mention his failures. A decisive failure is Obamacare. Ok, it has improved healthcare coverage for some people, but it has increased premiums for others. It has increased the anger toward the government and the system in general. Now even its own insurance premiums are set to hike. Obama's originally stated aim of universal healthcare looks set to be unfulfilled. Rights and conditions for African Americans have largely remained the same. He has failed to introduce comprehensive gun control or prison reform-both things which would help African-Americans who are disproportionately affected by them. His failure to successfully mitigate the effects of globalisation on working class communities, and to halt the destruction of manufacturing jobs, or put into place a long term replacement for those jobs, sowed the seeds for Donald Trump's victory.

That was pretty striking. Millions who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 turned away to vote for Donald Trump this time. Trump put on 3 million more votes than Romney, and more votes than any GOP candidate ever, despite being swamped in the popular vote due to safe Democratic states such as California and New York. He flipped hundreds of Obama counties, and managed to achieve a 16 point swing toward him with the low paid. He did something which no other Republican since Reagan has managed to do: Revive the "Reagan Democrats" (Now Trump Democrats) and win by sweeping the Rust Belt. The President was popular personally, but that's like saying the Remain campaign was ahead on the economy. People made a distinction between the POTUS and his policies. He was definitely a liability despite his huge personal popularity: Clinton would have been better off distancing herself from him. The "Obama 3rd term" campaign ultimately cost her as she was tainted with some of his failures and became a victim of the anti establishment mood.

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, more than 65% of those who voted in the election had an unfavourable view of Donald Trump, including half of Trump supporters-but they still voted for him because he represented change, and said he would bring the jobs back that had been destroyed over the course of the last decade.

Perhaps his biggest failure is on foreign policy, especially Syria. Assad is going to remain in power, with all of his opponents apart from the terrorist ISIS group crushed: that in itself is a failure of American leadership. The United States has fallen in the last decade from being the sole dominant superpower to one of a few superpowers. Russia is back. China is flexing its muscles. Again, not entirely his fault but he was partially responsible.  Under Trump, the US is set to see its influence shrink further.

 Of course, not all of this is Obama's fault, after 2010 he had to deal with a hostile Congress and found it difficult to introduce legislation, but he is at least partially responsible.

 Donald Trump is a decisive repudiation of everything Barack Obama stood for. Obama won't have a legacy. It's sad, but there you go.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

"Global Britain", what does it actually mean?

Source: BBC.

So, it's Sunday 15th January. In 2 months, article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be triggered. We're now starting to learn a little bit about the Tory plan for post Brexit Britain.

Theresa May is going to give a speech today calling for a "Global Britain", and declaring that immigration control is a red line, and if Britain doesn't get its way we are prepared to quit the single market. Conventional wisdom suggests that we won't get any concessions, but in fact a recent convo by EU leaders revealed that they also wanted a compromise to prevent massive economic damage to the whole continent, and the election of more Eurosceptic leaders in France and the Netherlands will help Theresa May.

So the negotiation option should not be ruled out. However, I now think it is more likely than not that Britain will leave the single market. What this would mean for Britain would be pretty profound. It would mean a parting of the ways with the Europeans. Britain would move much closer to America and be heavily dependant on U.S President Donald Trump for a trade deal.

Phillip Hammond, the chancellor, also hinted that Britain could "Change its economic model" to remain competitive: In effect this would mean swingeing tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that would make Ronald Reagan look moderate.

People will be afraid about such radical changes. But the Tories feel empowered to do this, partially because of Theresa May's relative popularity, partially because of the referendum, and also partially because the public might not fancy a hard Brexit, but they are more scared of the main opposition leader (Mr Corbyn) than they are of a hard Brexit. That seems to be the Tory gamble: Theresa May can do what she wants because Corbyn is hated. Strap on tight, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The sorry state of the Labour Party

Yesterday pretty much summed up why the Labour Party is in a sorry state. After announcing that Labour was not wedded to the free movement of people from the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn backtracked just hours later. A similar thing happened with the "Maximum wage" proposal. How did this happen?

Labour has a lot of thinking to do if it wants to be a serious party of government. The party is polling at 24%, and could go even lower.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Looking ahead to 2017: Will 2016 be remembered as the year of revolutions?

Source: Tome magazine.
It's been a month since the election, and I still can't really believe it. Donald Trump. Leader of the free world. What does that label even mean anymore?

It's also that time of the year when we're all getting asked to prepare for christmas and the new year. New year's resolutions, christmas presents, etc. Yet I can't help but want to look back on an eventful year and ponder (Or worry about) the year ahead.

Are Trump and Brexit really the peak of the strange, anti establishment movements sweeping the West, or is there more to come? My fear is that the answer to that question is the latter. In France Le Pen is likely to reach the final round. In Italy populist eurosceptics are likely to win the next election. In Germany, Angela Merkel, so often hailed as a champion of tolerant, liberal values now backs populist measures such as banning Muslim headscarfs. And so on.

In the future, we may look back on 2016 as being the start of the populist revolutions sweeping the developed world.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Trump is POTUS..What happened? What happens next?

Well. I didn't expect that. No one expected it.

Donald Trump is president of the United States of America. He is the leader of the free world. A man who insulted literally every minority demographic, women, Muslims, Jews, you name it, is now POTUS elect.

What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that the old "Third way" of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair is on life support, if not dead totally. The whole electoral strategy of the third way was based on chasing wealthy suburban and urban voters, but abandoning white working class voters and those in rural areas. We now see the consequence of working class and middle class America being left behind by the establishment. Donald Trump achieved a 16 point swing with the low paid-and won key blue collar states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton was the last serious champion of a managerial, economically liberal, establishment politics.

A narrative has been festering since the election, encouraged by the same media establishment that could not predict Donald Trump winning, that all of those who voted for Donald Trump were racist and that his election was driven primarily by white supremacy. In reality, white supremacy does not adequately explain the shift that was described above. There is no doubt that a significant minority of Donald Trump supporters are indeed deeply sexist and racist, but also there are many thousands of voters in the U.S Rust Belt who voted for Barack Obama but this time voted for Donald Trump. It does not explain why these trends are being replicated all over the developed world, from the USA, to the UK with Brexit, to Spain with the rise of Podemos, to France where right wing populist Marine Le Pen may win the elections next year, to Australia where the populist One Nation achieved their best ever election result. All of these trends were driven by working people rejecting the establishment political parties and opting for something different. Something deeper is happening-a rejection of political elites and a rejection of a particular brand of social liberalism that has left millions of workers behind.

The most striking statistic of this election for me was from the exit polls in Wisconsin, a rust belt state which Obama managed to win comfortably in 2012. Nearly 40% of those who voted for Donald Trump had a deeply unfavorable view of their candidate-but they still voted for him. Undoubtedly there were many who did not like his comments about Muslims/LGBT people/Women/Latinos/Insert minority group here, but still voted for him because they wanted change. That has to be recognised.

What happens now is the ultimate question. I personally suspect that Donald Trump will likely U-Turn on many of his more extreme policies. He has already indicated that he would soften his positions on immigration, and the Muslim ban which he had proposed during the campaign. He is however likely to push his messages on trade, on economics and healthcare hard, and he will likely clash with the Republican establishment on many of these issues. For his part, vice president Pence is likely to push deeply regressive policies that will attempt to reverse many of the social gains of the Obama years, especially on abortion and gay marriage.

The real question now is how the Democratic Party responds. The Democratic Party establishment is in disarray, and DNC chair Donna Brazille is likely to be replaced by Keith Ellison, who is from Minnesota. It is likely that the progressive wing of the party, who have blamed Hillary Clinton squarely for the loss of the rust belt, will try to take control of the party. Time will tell about how successful or not they will be. Many Democrats are already looking to blue collar populists for 2020, such as Sherrod Brown.

Whatever agenda Donald Trump pursues, have no doubts that this is a very dark time for centrists and those on the left. All sides of both the British and American left need to seriously examine their appeal and message to blue collar workers. Otherwise, Donald Trump could win again in 2020, and that would be a disaster for America and the world. Serious thought is needed.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Team GB Manchester Parade: Liveblog

15:35: Hello and welcome to this liveblog about the Team GB victory parade in Manchester.

15:42: The Parade isn't scheduled to start until 16:30, but plenty of people are already here.

15:50: Oh dear, looks like it's going to rain. The parade hasn't even started yet. I hope everyone has brought their brolly...

15:55: Lots of flag sellers around the parade area!

16:00: Today's parade is being kindly funded by the National Lottery.

16:05: A reminder about why we're celebrating. Team GB managed to achieve a truly astonishing result in Rio. Despite China having an astonishing 16 times the population of the UK, Team GB managed to pip them to 2nd place in the medals table, behind only the United States. The Paralympic team did nearly as well.

16:09: The route. The parade starts off near Castlefield, next to the old Roman Manchester and the Museum of Science and Industry, and will go through the city centre.

16:19: The parade, drummers, schoolkids and all, is finally starting to move.

16:30: Here come the coaches! A few snapshots of the athletes:

16:33: Some lovely and very ecstatic looking drummers here...

16:40: Let's not forget the Paralympians too. They did a fantastic job.

16:42: Loads of other lovely stuff on display here..

16:50: Everyone is now following the parade from behind!