Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Wales’s ‘Mystic Meg’ on the election result in Wales

Not much change in popular support but some musical chairs in 2 or more seats.

In a few hours the final YouGov poll forecasting the likely outcome of the General Election in Wales will be available for us all to consider and review. So in eager anticipation of the moment…

There have been three such polls to date and the last one showed a remarkable transformation in the fortunes of the Labour Party. The first two polls having indicated an unprecedented Conservative revival in Wales.

The last poll indicated Labour at 46%; Conservatives 35%; Plaid Cymru 8%; Liberal Democrats 5%; and UKIP 5%.

In terms of seats this translated into Labour with 26; Conservatives 10; Plaid Cymru 3; and Liberal Democrats 1.

My hunch is that very little will change in the next poll, in terms of percentage points, but there might well be changes at the margins with some musical chairs.

So my prediction is that Plaid Cymru could well have 4 seats with Ieuan Wyn Jones winning Anglesey, Labour regaining Gower,  and Ceredigion a very tight contest between the Liberal Democrats and Plaid.

The major feature of this election has been the return to two party politics as it pretty much was pre-SDP and Alliance days. There have been a number of reasons for that—including decline of the Liberal Democrats post-2010 and its voice in almost all debates in the Welsh Assembly effectively silenced, the collapse of UKIP and the Brexit effect  being the most prominent influences.

Finally two questions have to be thrown into the mix which could muddy the waters - which party or parties will benefit most from the collapse of  UKIP support in individual constituencies and what part tactical voting will play in certain seats. It is envisaged that tactical voting will be the highest it has ever been.  

An interesting aspect to watch out for will be how the 18-24 year old people vote. Across the UK there has been a massive surge in voting registration amongst that age group. UK opinion polls strongly indicate that over 60% of them will be voting Labour.

So what will happen in Wales? I have a feeling that Plaid Cymru will be vying with Labour for their support. …

There we go – I will have to wait couple of hours 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Brexit election that never was … but remaining in the Single Market is still the ‘Best Deal’

‘No deal better than a Bad Deal’ sloganises Theresa May irresponsibly—which is a dangerous proposition for the economy, trade and living standards.

Mrs May also says ‘We’ll make Britain Global’ … but I say we are already!

The second main reason why Mrs May did a U-turn and called a snap election ( despite some 7 times stating to the contrary ) was that she saw an opportunity to advance with her Brexit project without having to explain hardly anything to the public about what constitutes a ‘good deal’ or a ‘bad deal’ nor the consequences of a ‘no deal’. Keep everything nice and vague was and remains her tactic—win the election with a massive majority and end up with another five years unhindered…

But ‘events, dear boy events’ intervened and so the Brexit debate slipped down the campaign headlines as Mrs May’s series of U-turns, disastrous manifesto gaffes and her poor, if not disastrous, campaigning style took centre stage.

Then recalling Wilson’s warning that ‘a week is a long time in politics’ the Manchester and London terror attacks came from nowhere and now questions as to Mrs May stewardship over seven years of domestic security matters, terror surveillance and the severity of police cuts are dominating the headlines.

Oh dear me …

This was not the way it had been choreographed—being over 20% ahead in the opinion polls, her popularity soaring and with a struggling Labour Party leadership, the winning strategy was to be all about ‘My team’, ‘My manifesto’, ‘Strong and Stable’ leadership and ‘Give Me a strong hand to negotiate’ over Brexit.

Well before it’s almost too late for this campaign, best return to the topic of Brexit, the negotiations and where we are at currently.

Now I am passionately pro-Europe and will campaign to either stay in the EU or, if the UK does actually Brexit in 2019, campaign to re-join one day. As Nigel Farage and others said at the time of the referendum, if the result was 52/48 in favour of remaining then ‘the matter was not settled’.

My position on Brexit is possibly even more hardline than the Liberal Democrats stance (although it is close to my views). Whilst disappointed with the Labour Party’s stance I readily accept that it would be better to have a Labour team led by Sir Keith Starmer negotiating with the EU, than the Conservative team led by David Davis. Starmer is a better negotiator being less arrogant and confrontational.

The Prime Minister, as a Remainer, in truth has little credibility. It is just not honest to hold the views she had on the single market and security as during the referendum and now argue completely to the contrary. The burning ambition of being Prime Minister has caused her to quickly cast her principles aside, I am afraid. And all for the sake of trying to keeping her party together. But I reckon, should she win, the unity will unravel somewhere along the journey towards Brexit and beyond.

Mrs May was right during the referendum to describe the single market as the largest trading block in the world—even Mrs Thatcher agreed in the late 1980s when the single market then embraced only 300 million people whilst now its over 500 million! It can never be replaced by a good or better deal, either with the EU or the Rest of the World.

Mrs May and David Davis aim to replace the UK’s trading arrangements with 27 countries of the EU and a further 57 countries with which the EU, and thereby the UK, have agreements presently in place. It is far from clear what these new trade agreements might look like in the future and which countries would be involved.

With Brexit divorce talks starting in two weeks’ time, as I have said Theresa May fatuously insists that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. Continues to keep everything close to her chest despite the fact that opinion polls indicate the the public want much more transparency. After all the EU have done just that. All we know from David Davis is that some 30 plus sector impact studies have been undertaken but they are not going to be published. Also he has ready some 100 pages of negotiating detail. He will need much more than that as negotiations proceed.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world, Brexiters argue, if we failed to reach a free trade agreement  and had to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules. After all, the likes of the US and China have no preferential access to the EU and yet trade smoothly under WTO rules. But it is all very misleading and untrue.

Then Mrs May talks of having trade commissioners based "overseas in nine different regions, determined by markets rather than national borders, to ensure UK trade policy is guided by local experience and expertise". It is all fanciful and of little impact compared to out existing trading arrangements..

What are the alternatives that they considering? A US-UK trade deal? Or a more extreme worldwide trade deal? Based on the evidence of existing global trade agreements, it is clear that if the Brexiteers want to limit the negative effects of Brexit. The UK has no viable trade deal alternative to an agreement with the EU that essentially does not replicate, to some extent, the present ideal situation reading the single market.

Ah, but we can become ‘Global Britain’ so the story goes—there’s no need to worry! But we are already global and the yearning to reinvigorate, for example, Commonwealth trade is too simplistic. Not only does the Commonwealth make up a relatively small part of UK trade, receiving 8% of their imports, it is dwarfed when compared with our exporting 44% to the EU and receiving 53% of imports from the Union.

In this post I have only concentrated on what might happen to UK trade after Brexit. It is a serious question—and in this election no attempt has been made to begin to give some detail other than platitudes and vague references.

There are indeed some serious times ahead for all our industrial, financial, service, food, drinks, agricultural and fisheries sectors. If I have to choose one or the other … I would prefer to have Labour rather than the Tories negotiating Brexit for all sorts of reasons…but that will have to wait for another day. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

The snap election has turned out nothing like the way May and the Tories expected

‘Events dear boy events’

‘A week is a long time in politics’

The first was by Harold Macmillan in answer to a question as to what is most likely to blow governments of course. It is debated whether he just said it to a journalist or at the time of the Profumo Affair or indeed to President Kennedy.

The second was by Harold Wilson.

Both were wise and experienced politicians who were indeed masters of their craft.
How appropriate the quotations are in connection with what has happened the last six – eight weeks.

Theresa May was seemingly determined to stick to her oft quoted remark (repeated some 5 -7 times) that there would not be a snap election and that she would stay the course until 2020 and see Brexit to a conclusion. Yet there was a lingering suspicion that she could succumb to pressures from within the Tory hierarchy to take advantage of the parlous state of the Labour Party and the weak showing in Parliament of its leader Jeremy Corbyn. Also that UKIP was riven with internal difficulties, the Liberal Democrats was finding it difficult to cross the 10% barrier along with reports from Scotland that the SNP was on the slide with the Tories were making a comeback.

It must have been as it proved to be too much of a tempting scenario indeed.

But how to create a situation where Theresa could credibly change her mind? – Ah weekend walks in Snowdonia that should do it.

I recall reading a speech once by Lloyd George of when he was confronted with difficult decisions as he often was. He would walk in the mountains of Snowdonia and he said something along the lines that before climbing the weather was cloudy and misty but as he got higher the skies would brighten and he could see more clearly.
So it was a ‘snap election’ was announced.

Everything looked well with the world. According to opinion polls the Conservatives had a 20 points lead and more, there was talk of a landslide majority in Parliament of between 100 and 200 seats and Mrs May had the highest satisfaction ratio with the electorate since the mid years of Mrs Thatcher and the early years of Tony Blair. Conversely Corbyn and his party were floundering, stuck in the 20%s.

Indeed the Tory strategists decided let’s just campaign with Mrs May at the forefront – hence ‘my team’, ‘my candidates’, ‘my manifesto’ ‘give me a big majority’ ‘when I negotiate with Brussels’ and on and on.

It was going to be a ‘Brexit election’ and ‘give me my mandate’ campaign.

But ‘a week is a long time in politics’! and the campaign started going wrong with an uncosted manifesto, U-turn on social care and the dementia tax, lack of clarity on the ‘cap level’, uncertainty over the arrangements for the winter fuel allowance. Yet worse was to come because Mrs May did not want to participate in TV debates and was coming up with all sort of spurious reasons for not participating. There was a clear strategy to give as little detail as possible and most certainly avoid answering questions directly.

Off course after a while the reason came very apparent, she is poor at explaining and debating when outside her comfort zone and especially in an environment where she cannot control the questioning and the like.

In fact Mrs May has had the poorest campaign for a Tory leader since Sir Alec Douglas Home in 1964 and it must have come as a terrible shock to the Tory grandees, the barons of the right wing press and her cabinet colleagues. Because she is anything but a confident, ‘strong and stable‘ leader and is offering pretty much more of the same economically and also as we move towards Brexit. Although on Brexit all we had are platitudes, no detail just want ‘the best deal’ and ‘no deal is better than bad deal’

Conversly Jeremy Corbyn has clearly thrived on campaigning, enjoyed meeting people, addressing large rallies and appearing human. In fact he has been a revelation to us all and not least to his detractors in the party and the press. Also he has been helped by a costed manifesto that is very popular. His message is being one of hope, change and ending austerity. To be fair Labour has been somewhat clearer on Brexit but they are quite a way away from the position of the other ‘progressive’ parties and certainly the Lib Dems.

However, in the midst of it all came ‘events dear boy, events’ – the terror attacks in Manchester and London and the inevitable politicking about how secure are our streets after all, the extent of the police and security service cutbacks over the last seven years, the causes of this this extremism visited upon our country and the effectiveness of surveillance arrangements.

In this situation it was inevitable that attention was drawn to Jeremy Corbyn’s actions, speeches and who he met with the 1980s and for some 20 years after. He was open to many personal attacks by the media and the Tory party on that and his views on nuclear weapons. 

However whatever his shortcomings in all of that there has emerged a more serious question mark and that is over the seven years that Mrs May has been in charge of security matters as Home Secretary and Prime Minister. Awkward questions are being asked.

So with four days to go I am still of the view that it is all to play for – but more of this in the next post very soon.