Why I got it so wrong?

So, the first thing to say is that my election prediction was completely wrong. Not wrong, as in “A couple of seats off for each party”, but wrong as in “the course of UK history would have been different if I had been right” sort of wrong.

Given my previous record, you might have expected a bit of caution on my part. Brexit, Trump and Corbyn. I have been completely off on all of them. I’m sure this inspires great confidence, but at least I am now able to write some observations on just how wrong I was.

First off, my prediction was a Conservative majority of 72. The result was in fact a Conservative majority of minus 8 or put more simply, they fell short of a majority.

So, where did it all go wrong? Let’s pick over my predictions.

Conservatives: 42.4% – 318 seats (prediction = 44% – 361 seats)

My prediction for the Conservatives wasn’t too far off. I anticipated that their unthinking ‘Brexit means Brexit’, ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ and flag waving platitudes would see them do very well. To an extent I was right, but where they fell short was in how well the Labour Party did. May thought she would trounce Corbyn for being unfit to be Prime Minister, but following seven years of Tory misrule and a rocky Brexit process she was the one who seemed unfit to people. May’s gamble, like Cameron’s gamble backfired massively.

Labour: 40.0% – 262 (My prediction: 33% – 212 seats)

I was as surprised as anyone at just how well the Labour Party did at this election. I imagined that May’s constant talk of Corbyn’s record and repeating the mantra of being ‘strong and stable’ would see them through. In fact, the result is like getting the first whiff of spring in the eternal winter of Narnia. I am very impressed (and pleased) with just how well Labour did, but someone ought to break it to them that they didn’t actually win and that against such an ineffectual government willingly embracing self-harming Brexit they really ought to be aiming to win, not avoid calamity.

Lib Dem: 7.4% – 12 seats (My prediction: 8% – 9 seats)

Here my prediction wasn’t too far off.  The Lib Dems had been hoping to mop up all those die-hard Remainers out there, but many of them ended up supporting the Brexit-supporting Labour Party instead. Funny old world.

UKIP: 1.8% – 0 seats (My prediction: 5% – 0 seats)

UKIP’s utter meltdown was more extreme than I expected, although they did win he anticipated number of seats (i.e. zero). Contrary to my prediction, UKIP voters didn’t go en masse for the Tories and instead split 50-50 to Labour and the Tories. Surprising maybe, but then many UKIP voters were Northern working class people who recoil at the idea of ever voting Tory. Maybe some of them thought, “The Brexit battle is won, now we need half-decent social services and a government that actually cares about people like us.” The idea of UKIP being a gateway drug from Labour to the Tories was not all it was cracked up to be.

Green: 1.2% – 1 seat (My prediction: 2% – 2 seats)

This result was probably the easiest to get right, nevertheless I went and got it wrong. I thought the Greens would hold onto Brighton Pavilion (which they did) and also take Bristol West (which they not). In fact, Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire in Bristol West got a majority of over 37,000, enough not only to cling on, but to build a small maisonette out of her votes and still have enough to beat the Greens with.

So the one prediction I could get on the nose fairly easily, I was also wrong on.

SNP: 35 seats (My prediction: 48 seats)

In a bizarre (and, were the circumstances different, amusing) turn of events, the only reason May is still in Downing Street is because of Scotland. Had the Tories lost all of their seats in England and not picked up any in Scotland, Corbyn might well be measuring drapes and putting his sandals on the shoe rack in number ten. It also lays dead the question of independence for the foreseeable future.

 

In summary, I was wrong, and wrong by quite a long way. This is good news in that usually when I’m wrong, I depress myself. This time there is a glimmer of hope that next time round “one-more-heave Corbyn” will come up trumps.

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UK General Election prediction

The UK General Election is tomorrow, and it’s time again for your sloth on the ground to give his predictions. Now this might seem like a silly and strange thing to do given my previous well-documented mistakes on Brexit and Trump. Nonetheless, I am nailing my colours to the mast and providing you a detailed breakdown of how I think each party will do (I’m a sucker for punishment).

Polls in the week leading up to the big day have ranged between a Tory lead of one to twelve. These figures are mainly drawing from the same underlying data, but it depends how many young people each polling company thinks will turn out. Those who think many young people will turn out give Labour better chances; those who think fewer young people will turn out give the Tories better chances. Now, call me a cynical old git, but I’m pessimistic on youth turnout – therefore my low prediction.

So my prediction is – drumroll – a Conservative majority of 72. Why do I think this? Let’s go through it in lurid detail.

Conservatives: 44% – 361 seats  

The Conservatives will do better than anticipated, though nowhere near as well as people thought going into this campaign. The more people have seen of the ‘strong and stable’ Theresa May the more they have concluded she is: ‘weak and wobbly’. Despite this I think many people will be unwilling to lend Labour their support and the Conservatives’ unhinged message on Brexit will see them through on the day.

Labour: 33% – 212 seats

Compared to where this campaign started it has to be said Labour are going to do really well. Seven weeks ago, when May called the election, Labour was around twenty points behind. The campaign has definitely increased their support, the question is how much. My prediction has them coming in rather lower than the Labour team will hope and losing seats in fact on 2015. Maybe this is the worst of both worlds for the Labour moderates. Corbyn increases their vote share, while taking them further from power than ever. They will remain stuck in this awful limbo where they can’t get rid of Corbyn, but the party can’t win either. I hope my prediction doesn’t come true, but I fear it will.

Lib Dem: 8% – 9 seats

They really haven’t taken off in the way we would have expected. They will lose some seats in Brexity seats and pick some up in London Remainy seats, but they won’t have a very good night compared with their early expectations.

UKIP 5% – 0 seats

One of the big stories of this election is the almost complete meltdown of UKIP. Having had their reason for existence satisfied by Cameron’s reckless referendum, there is no longer any point in UKIP.  On Brexit, the Conservatives are going for UKIP’s favoured damaging and hard Brexit, while the Conservative have also lapped up some of their key social conservative issues such as Grammar Schools and reducing immigration. Why vote UKIP when your abhorrent views have become mainstream in the new Conservative Party? In short, they’ll do badly.

Green: 2% – 2 seats

Their vote share will be artificially depressed due to them gallantly stepping aside in several seats and Labour and the Lib Dems not so gallantly stepping aside in seats the Greens may win. My prediction has them winning Brighton Pavillion and also Bristol West. Might be optimistic, but the rest of the prediction’s a bit depressing so completely rationally I put in a sweetener towards the end.

SNP: 48 seats

It’ll be interesting to see how many of their 56 seats the SNP can hold on to. I think the unionist tactical voting will be enough to lose the SNP a handful of seats, but they will still be the largest party by quite a long way. The interesting thing to see will be whether the result is spun as a rejection of independence. Unjustified though it may be, the Tories use any SNP losses as proof that Scots don’t want independence. Let the spin begin.

Scottish results: SNP 42%, Con 29%, Lab 23%, Lib Dems 5%, UKIP 1%, Green 1%

Much as I hope I’m wrong, and tomorrow is a great day for progressive politics, my fear is that my prediction will prove correct. It’s highly likely that’s for sure is that my prediction will be somewhat off – but analysing why, where and how my prediction is wrong will be the source of much fodder for the sloth to come.

Happy voting!

Why Brexit?

On the 23rd of June this year the Brits rather upset political pundits, betting markets and our international allies by voting to leave the EU. I will save the reasons for this decision for another post (/rant), but I thought I’d start this jolly (and not at all bitter) series by laying out why Britian decided to hold a referendum in the first place.

In the heady and blissful days of 2013, the Conservatives were in a coalition government with the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems are pretty relaxed about the EU, but the Conservatives have always been rather divided on the issue of Europe, to put it mildly.

The Conservatives were facing an electoral challange from a smaller anti-EU party called UKIP. In fact, in 2013 it seemed like the Labour Party’s best chance to win an election would be the Conservatives losing votes to UKIP and pro-EU Labour coming through the middle.

So in darkened smoke-filled room the Conservative elite figured out an ingenious strategy: They would promise to hold a referendum on EU membership if they won the 2015 election. If you wanted to leave the EU, they argued, you shouldn’t vote for the anti-EU party, but for the Conservatives, because then you would get the referendum you so badly craved, and if Labour won there would be no referendum.

The then Prime Minister could tell older provincial people that he had their back while telling financiers, who were reasonably worried about planting a bomb under the UK economy “No worries, we’ll win the referendum, unite the party, cut your taxes and reach for the champagne.” Nudge nudge, wink wink. All good so far.

It also seemed likely in 2013 that the Conservatives would need the support of the Lib Dems to stay in power after the 2015 election. The Lib Dems would never support a referendum on EU membership, because they’re imminently sensible and don’t have a wing of xenophobes harking back to the days of empire. (Comes with the liberal turf, I suppose).

It seemed, then, that this was a great, low risk strategy to win voters. However, it turned out the plan worked a little too well. Partly as a result of their carefully designed message, the Conservatives won the election, had to hold the referendum and managed to lose it!

That is briefly how we came to have a referendum. In coming posts I will explore more deep-seated reasons for why the UK, usually so content with following authority sent a massive two fingers up to Conservatives and their crew of high financiers and political elite.

 

Introduction to British Political Parties

Following on from my introduction to the Norwegian political parties, a presentation of the main British political parties seems in order.

Labour:

Labour were founded on ideals of equal distributions and opportunities for all. The problem is that no one seems quite sure how to interpret those ideals anymore. Following Labour’s disastrous election result in May they have rather self-indulgently torn themselves apart. Some think Labour lost because it was too left-wing, some because it was too right-wing, and some question the relevance of the left-right dichotomy in the first place.

New Labour, Old Labour, New Old Labour, New New Labour. All eager to push their agenda and policies forward in this era of openness. It makes it hard to be sure what the Labour policies are in this blaze of ideas.

Greens:

Similar to Labour it’s hard to pin down the Greens’ policies. But unlike Labour that’s not because there are too many being spouted around. Erm… I suppose they want to be green… Yes, that sounds about right. Though, saying that, the one council they control has one of the worst recycling rates in the UK, so who knows, really?

Liberal Democrats:

The commentariat love to use the phrase that the Lib Dems were “reduced to a rump” at the last election. I’m not quite sure what that term means; I presume it refers to the fact that the Lib Dems can now get their parliamentary work done in a largish taxi on their way to parliament. Alternatively, they could raise their green profile and start commuting in on four tandems.

More seriously, the Lib Dems might have a golden opportunity to build support for themselves in the centre ground, while the Tories cut public services to the bone and Labour go for an existentialist scream in the wilderness.

Scottish National Party:

The self-styled progressives in the SNP performed an impressive rout in Scotland in May, winning 56 out of 59 seats. Even more impressive seeing as it’s hard to think of any actually progressive policies the SNP have implemented while controlling the Scottish Parliament. Though they have given a few sticky-plaster policies to the middle-classes, their record for helping the poorest in society and redistributing wealth is poor.

Conservatives:

Things should be looking pretty for the Conservatives ahead of this week’s conference in Manchester. They have done something no party in the history of modern British politics has achieved; improved their share of the vote to go from a coalition government to a majority government.

However, PM Cameron faces many challenges. Chief among them being to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, and then persuading the British people that he’s obtained fabulous concessions. In addition, his comment that he would not fight another election means that the party conference resembles an audition for next Conservative leader.

UKIP:

UKIP seems to be trying desperately to implode. A year or so ago, things were looking pretty for UKIP, with two well-publicised defections from the Conservatives and high hopes for the May 2015 election. However, despite picking up nearly 13% of the vote, they are left with only one MP. This one MP can only scratch his head at how the rest of the party promptly descended into chaos. He is an alarmingly articulated and well-spoken person, making interesting points on PR and the need for a fair EU referendum. Whether the move from backbench obscurity to high-profile irrelevance was worth it, only he can decide.