Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Trump will win

So says Michael MooreThis guy is worried about it too. This is why. Or maybe this. Scott Adams also explains it a lot (e.g. here).

You want data? FiveThirtyEight is the place for you. Here is the graph showing their assessment of who would win if the election were held today:

So it's basically a toss-up at the moment but Trump is ahead and has been improving. (FiveThirtyEight has other models for predicting the result in November - but they are not great reading for Clinton either.)

Here are two other points.

First, although it's pretty easy to think of events that could help Trump's chances, it's hard to think of ones that help Clinton's: terrorist attacks, for example, play more to Trump than Clinton. Or imagine any plausible revelation about a candidate's private affairs: could Trump's reputation be affected? Short of it turning out that in fact he's poor, it's hard to see how. But all kinds of revelations about the Clintons could be unhelpful for her.

Second, everyone has already made up their mind about Clinton. She's not gaining new converts. But as the idea of President Trump becomes more familiar to people, more people will come to accept it and perhaps welcome it.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

How wrong was Leave? [postscript]

A little postscript to this series.

We started with an article by Matthew Parris that put me in mind of some lines from TS Eliot. Neither Eliot nor Parris was born in the UK: Parris in Johannesburg and Eliot in St Louis.

It's notable that the leaders of the Leave campaign were also largely born not only outside the UK but outside the Commonwealth: Boris Johnson (born in New York), Daniel Hannan (Lima, Peru), Gisela Stuart (Velden, Germany). (Stuart came to the UK in 1974 - it seems that it had some attractions even before the EU had much time to work its magic on the UK or to introduce freedom of movement.) Even Michael Gove has crossed Hadrian's Wall, perhaps soon to be an international border.

So, even if we are looking only at the main players in the story of Brexit, we see that there is far more to the UK's global links than the EU. That's not going to change.

Finally, a thought about stereotypes. Eliot came to London and worked in finance. (He worked for Lloyds Bank, an institution founded before the EU was thought of and one that might still be in the business of furthering global trade after the EU has passed away.) He was also a poet and critic, i.e. not the stereotypical banker. We have stereotypes about foreign bankers that do not always fit the facts. I hope Parris' stereotypes about Leave voters are similarly far off the mark.

Monday, 18 July 2016

How wrong was Leave? [part 5]

We are, you will be relieved to hear, coming to the end of this series. You may recall that it started with Matthew Parris telling a story about Brexit being a shocking revelation of an unpleasant national character. I want the story of Brexit to be something much more pleasant and, as I have shown, there is plenty of evidence from which a far more pleasant story can be constructed.

This post, however, deals with something a little different: assuming that I am wrong in everything I have said so far, to what extent should the leaders of the Leave campaign, not themselves xenophobes, feel personally guilty for having ridden a wave of xenophobia? My answer is: not at all. All is explained below.

Friday, 15 July 2016

How wrong was Leave? [part 4] UPDATED

Next question: let's assume that everything I've shown you so far is wrong. Let's assume that people voted Brexit simply to reduce immigration. Does that make them bad people?

In short, no.


Thursday, 14 July 2016

How wrong was Leave? [part 3]

Now to the next question: insofar as immigration mattered in the Brexit vote, was it control over immigration or a reduction in immigration that made the difference? In this post, with the assistance of a dodgy masseur, I will attempt to show that it was control.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

How wrong was Leave? [part 2]

So, following yesterday's introduction, we go to the first question: was it immigration wot won it for Leave? (You will recall that, for the moment, we are leaving aside the question of whether it is 'control over' or 'reduction in' immigration that matters.)

Now, it would of course be idiotic to say that immigration was not a factor. Indeed, it would be hard to disprove the thesis that, in a near 50-50 split, immigration was a crucial factor. But Leave had much more going for it than that, as we shall see.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

How wrong was Leave?

Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”

Those lines from Prufrock came to mind as I was reading this, a piece by Matthew Parris about (what else?) Brexit. What he says is interesting and challenging (I'll tell you more about it below), but the overall flavour is one of disappointment and disgust.

Parris thinks that those who proposed Leave in answer to the "overwhelming question"should now be deep in regret, turning to the window and murmuring that that is not what they meant at all. I am not sure I agree. So I want to tease apart what Parris says and see where he might be mistaken.

Doing that will take a few posts. Before I start, I want to say why this matters. The story of how Brexit happened is likely to be one of those political stories that "everyone knows", even if what everyone knows might not quite be right. Other examples: appeasement was well-intentioned but doomed to fail; 1940 was our Finest Hour; Suez was always a bad idea; going to the IMF in the 1970s was a national embarrassment; Thatcher had to break the power of the unions; Blair should never have gone to war in Iraq. A political culture needs stories like these. Indeed, one of most important things that brings a country together and distinguishes it from its neighbours is a shared understanding, capable of expression in short, 1066-and-all-that stories, of what happened in the past that matters and why it happened. We will need a Brexit story.

But I don't want the story of Brexit to be Parris' story, a story of bad people and useful idiots. I think we have a better story to tell.

Let us go then, you and I ...

Betting success

You might remember my betting failure at the General Election. Some you lose, some you win. Here is a win:


It's all about timing. On 27 June, Boris Johnson was being described as the front-runner, but I knew enough not to put any money on him. (Full disclosure: once it was down to the final two, I put enough money on Leadsom to ensure that I would make a profit in any event, but not enough to make a material dent in my profits.) Now for the Labour leadership contest ...

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Regional GDP per capita disparities in the EU - boring title, fascinating graph

We have been hearing a good deal about our divided country. I thought I'd look up the figures. Here is the link to the ONS' statistical bulletin, but I have copied and pasted the relevant section below, without further comment. Just scroll down to see how much richer London is than the rest of the country - and indeed the rest of the EU.

Monday, 4 July 2016

This guy sounds interesting

"I’m a man of science and a lover of history; after studying the classics at Princeton, I trained in psychiatry at Yale and in psychoanalysis at Columbia. ... For the past two-and-a-half decades and over several hundred consultations, I’ve helped clergy from multiple denominations and faiths to filter episodes of mental illness — which represent the overwhelming majority of cases — from, literally, the devil’s work. It’s an unlikely role for an academic physician, but I don’t see these two aspects of my career in conflict. The same habits that shape what I do as a professor and psychiatrist — open-mindedness, respect for evidence and compassion for suffering people — led me to aid in the work of discerning attacks by what I believe are evil spirits and, just as critically, differentiating these extremely rare events from medical conditions."

That's Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College. More here.