Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Leave To Win 60:40

Its not the result I have been arguing for, and certainly not the result I want, but as things stand, with two days to go, my best estimate is that Leave will win the referendum with a 60:40 majority. Of course, there is still two days to go, and there could be some big event that changes things. George Soros has said that a vote to Leave will see the Pound drop by 20%, other analysts have a similar estimate, credit ratings agencies have warned that Britain would lose its credit rating, and Osbourne has said that he cannot rule out having to suspend trading on the Stock Exchange on Friday, in the event of a vote to leave. But, all those things would be closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. As things stand, as I wrote recently, the financial markets continue to massively under price the risk of Brexit, and that seems to be because they are paying too much attention to the headline poll figures.

The latest poll figures put the result as too close to call. Many of the poll of polls, have Leave ahead, but as I wrote some time ago, unless Remain had a 20 point poll lead, a vote to Leave was likely, because of the differential in the determination to vote between the camps. That has been reflected in a recent poll ,which showed that 44% of people would be delighted if the result was to Leave, whilst only 28% would be delighted if Remain wins. 

And that is not surprising. Jeremy Corbyn has been right to distance Labour from the Tory Remain campaign, because our reasons for wanting to Remain are diametrically opposite to those of Cameron. We are not on the same side as Cameron and Osbourne in this campaign, merely travelling in the same direction, but with opposing reasons for wanting to arrive at the destination. The core vote of Leave has one over riding concern. In reality, it has little to do with the EU. It is to do with immigration, which is why the official Leave campaign had to quickly give up its original stance, and jump on to the same xenophobic bandwagon as Farage. The core Leave vote knows what it wants, and believes that it will get it, if the vote is to Leave. That is an end to immigration.

They are, of course, likely to be disappointed, because it is all of the inefficient, small scale businesses, whose class interests the Tory right, and UKIP represent that needs to be able to employ workers on terrible conditions, and low wages, and zero hours contracts, who will continue to depend on immigration to be able to achieve that. Its why the Leave politicians have said they will want to have a bonfire of workers rights, as soon as a Leave vote won. It is large multinational businesses that have the resources to be able to employ workers in decent conditions, with decent wages, and for whom the regulations of the EU, are, therefore, quite acceptable.

Yet, across the EU, what workers see is the dominance of conservative politicians like Cameron in the UK, or Merkel in Germany. Even where they see nominally social-democratic politicians like Hollande in France, those politicians have gone along with the conservative political agenda of austerity. Where social-democratic parties like Syriza have opposed austerity, the conservative parties across Europe have slapped them down. Is it any wonder that workers, or politicians like Corbyn that seek to represent workers interests, have little enthusiasm for an EU that simply continues on that basis?

In fact, in other circumstances, there would have been a case, for advocating that workers abstain in this vote, on the basis that Marxists proposed during the 1960's of “In or Out, The Fight Goes On”. But, a call for abstention cannot be right under current conditions, because our place is now inside the EU fighting alongside workers across the continent for a different kind of Europe, workers who increasingly have been lining up behind anti-austerity forces such as Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Left Bloc in Portugal and so on. Britain has been a part of the EU now for more than forty years, an EU which bit by bit is clawing its way to becoming a state, and thereby creating the basic structure that workers will require for establishing socialism across Europe. Marxists cannot be indifferent to the conditions under which such a struggle takes place, and we are better placed to further that struggle inside the EU than standing outside it.

Moreover, Marxists cannot be indifferent to the basis upon which the referendum is taking place. It is not the case that if Britain leaves workers in Britain will be placed in no different a position than remaining inside. A victory for Leave will be a victory for reaction, and the signal for a series of attacks on workers rights to be undertaken by a vicious, authoritarian, right-wing segment of the Tory Party, supported by a rag bag of UKIP nationalists and bigots, in no small part also drawing along with them outright fascists and hard core racists. Who, in the last six months of the siren calls of that reaction, has heard one peep from the supporters of so called Lexit, or Left Exit? No one. Not only has the media more effectively ignored such voices than they have excluded the voices of Corbyn and others over Remain, but the very idea that an exit from the EU, under current conditions would open the door to some left-wing renaissance is itself ludicrous, and shows just how far from reality those that have proposed it have become.

Nevertheless, it is clearly more difficult to mobilise people to vote on the basis of the need to engage in a further struggle for improvement, than it is to present people with a simplistic suggestion that a vote to Leave will immediately resolve their problems. That is why its a mistake to simply take the polls at face value. Most of the polls put both camps on between 40% to 45% each, with between 10% and 20% still undecided. But, that is only an indication of voting intention, not an indication of intention to vote.

A look at previous elections shows that only around 30% of people vote in local council elections. The votes for Police and Crime Commissioners was as low as 18%. Similarly, the turnout for European Parliament elections in the UK is only around 35%. That compares with an average turnout in general elections of around 65%. Its these low turnouts that have always given the nationalists and bigots over representation, because their more zealous supporters are more likely to turn out to vote in these elections that are other voters. In fact, in the last European Parliament elections in 2014, it resulted in UKIP being the largest party with 26.6% of the vote, whilst Labour was second with 24.4%, and the Tories in third place with 23.1%.

We might expect that turnout for this referendum will be somewhere between that of a local council election, and that of a general election, therefore. Turnout for the 1975 EEC Referendum was 65%, and with all of the publicity for this referendum its possible that we may see that kind of turnout again. In that case, I would forecast a win for Remain of around 54:46. However, I suspect that the turnout will be lower than that. With a turnout above 60%, I forecast that Remain will win, with an ever diminishing margin the closer the vote is to 60%. However, I would not be surprised to see the turnout as low as 50%, in which case Leave will win 60:40. If the turnout is 55%, then I forecast that Leave will win 55:45.

The basis of this, as I wrote a while ago, is that on a low poll, the core vote for Leave will win it. That core vote is interested effectively only in the question of immigration. It is a core vote of around 30% of the population, whereas the core vote for Remain I estimate at only around 20% of the population. The problem for Leave is that outside the core vote, it struggles to increase its support, and the more it focusses on immigration, and drags its message down into the gutter, the more it alienates potential supporters who might favour Brexit on other grounds. The problem for Remain is how it motivates voters beyond its core support to be bothered to turn out to vote.

For the core Leave vote, the economic message will have little impact. If you live in a depressed area, where you have had no decent permanent employment for years, and no prospect of any such work in the foreseeable future, as a result of Tory austerity, the economic message is likely to pass you by completely, because if on Friday, the Pound collapses, interest rates rise, property prices collapse, and stock markets collapse with it, its not likely to immediately have any noticeable effect on your life. Its only for the core Labour vote, of those sections of more skilled, better educated workers, in more secure permanent employment for whom that economic message is likely to have any resonance.

It comes down then to the extent to which those workers will be mobilised to vote, and although Corbyn has presented the right message of the need to Remain in Europe so as to work with other European workers to build a better, more social-democratic, more solidaristic Europe that offers hope, and an end to austerity, the media have gone out of their way to prevent that message from being heard. Even today, when Corbyn was giving a speech to that effect in Manchester, the BBC cut away from his speech, for no other reason than to bring coverage of a court decision that could just as easily have waited, and been related later, especially as it was already being stated on the ticker.

And Labour's message of offering hope of a better kind of Europe has also been undermined by the actions of Blair-rights, who have stood shoulder to shoulder with Cameron on various platforms, phone banks, and factory visits, sending the message to Labour voters that a vote to Remain would mean nothing other than continued Tory austerity.

As I said at the beginning, a vote to Leave is not the outcome I have been arguing for, or wish for, and so I hope that my forecast is wrong, but on the basis of what we know at this point, a vote to Leave, seems to me the most likely outcome.

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