Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Review of 2018 Predictions - Part 1

As I have done for several years now, I examine how accurate the prediction I made for 2018 have been. Last year I reduced the predictions from ten to six, each dealt with in a bit more detail, with each one treated as a separate post. I am continuing that format. A new set of six predictions will be set out later, for 2019. 

Prediction 1 , last year was 

“There will be an inexorable dynamic that creates a coalition and demand for an exit from Brexit.” 

I would say that prediction has been 100% proved correct. As the argument around the prediction stated, the 52:48 result in 2016, was a tiny majority, compared to say the 2:1 majority, in the first EU referendum, in 1975. There was an argument for saying that the 1975 result was so decisive that no one could rationally call for a new vote, for several years after it had occurred. That is not the case with the 2016 referendum, or even with the 2014, Scottish referendum. Simply births and deaths, and changes in population, result in the electorate itself being physically different within a few years, so as to invalidate the earlier poll as a democratic mandate. That is even more the case, where actual changes in conditions, means that there is reason to believe that the opinion of surviving electors from the initial poll may have changed. 

Since 2016, around 2 million elderly voters have died, and they voted approximately 80% in favour of Leave. Around 2 million young voters have joined the electorate, and they support Remain by around 80%. The initial majority for Leave was only about 1 million votes. So, about 1.6 million elderly Leave voters have died, with only around 0.4 million new Leave voters having replaced them. That means that just on that basis, the initial majority would be overturned. But, in addition, whilst around 0.4 million elderly Remain voters have died, they have more than been replaced by around 1.6 million new Remain voters who have been added to the electorate. That means that around 1.2 million net new Remain voters have been added. Assuming no change in the opinions of the surviving electorate from 2016, that would mean that the 1 million majority for Leave would have turned into a majority for Remain of around 1.5 million. 

But, we know that it's not just a matter of the physical change in the electorate that has occurred since 2016. As I said last year, in making the prediction, 

“The tiny majority for leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum, quickly turned into only a minority supporting Leave, by February of 2017. In every poll since then the majority of those polled have favoured remaining in the EU.” 

And, that in itself is remarkable, because as the Brexiters never tire of saying, in 2017, both Labour and Tories committed themselves to “respecting” the 2016 result, and implementing Brexit, although it's clear that having lost their majority on the basis of proposing a hard Brexit, a lot of those, particularly younger voters, under 50, that flocked towards Labour, did so, not because of its commitment to respect the Brexit vote, but, quite the contrary, because they saw it as the only credible means of preventing a hard Brexit, and hopefully of stopping Brexit altogether. Had the Labour leadership been actively opposing Brexit for the last three years, it's quite clear that a decisive majority, in the opinion polls, would today be demanding it be scrapped, and would be flooding to Labour, as the only party credibly being able to implement that policy, and of stopping the catastrophic Tory Brexit folly. 

That Labour did not do so, despite the fact that 90% of Labour members oppose Brexit, and around 70%-75% of its 2017 voters oppose Brexit, is down to two basic factors. Firstly, as a parliamentarist party, Labour, even under Corbyn, sees its main task as winning elections, rather than standing on clear socialist and internationalist principles, for which it seeks to build a majority of support within society, primarily within the working-class, which today constitutes the vast majority of society. That means that it is influenced by arguments about representing the views of a majority of voters in each particular constituency, rather than trying to shape those views. In that process, it is also led to fail to distinguish between those voters in each constituency that are Labour voters, and those that are Tory voters, Liberal voters, UKIP voters, and non-voters. It accepts the bourgeois constitutionalist view that the role of each MP is to represent the views of all the electors within the constituency, and not just those that support Labour. That concept itself is clearly absurd, as Brexit shows, because it is impossible to simultaneously represent two diametrically opposing views. 

The second reason, is that the Labour leadership are massively out of step with 90% of the Labour membership, and that 75% of Labour voters that back Remain. Corbyn comes from that tradition of Bennite reformists that have been influenced by the reactionary policies of economic nationalism promoted by the Stalinists, and their fellow travellers, that stems from the reactionary Stalinist concept of Socialism In One Country. The visible expression of that is seen in the presence of Stalinists such as Andrew Murray, and Seamus Milne within Corbyn's inner circle of advisors. Corbyn has, therefore, been loathe to adopt a clear position of opposition to Brexit, and been able to cover that up, by pretending that Labour was playing a shrewd game of riding two horses at the same time, allowing the Tories to fight it out amongst themselves. But, the policy of riding two horses at the same time, which under Blair was called triangulation, is precisely the kind of politics that Corbyn and the Left would previously have criticised mercilessly. 

That triangulation means that Labour is simply seen by voters as dishonest, thereby undermining one of the main characteristics that Corbyn was seen to possess that distinguished him from all previous politicians, in that kind of position. Labour's position is seen by voters as not credible, and its proponents, thereby as themselves not credible, duplicitous, and incompetent. It has led to them being visibly laughed at, and treated with scorn when they have tried to justify those positions. There was only two ways the Brexit decision could ever end up going. Either it resulted in some form of hard Brexit, or it ended up with Brexit being cancelled. 

There is a third option that the Tories could forge an alliance with Labour, or a sizeable portion of Labour MP's, to push through a Brexit based on a Norway plus solution, but it was clear that Norway was not keen on a disruptive Britain simply using them as a convenient stopping off point, and that such a solution would have split the Tory party asunder. In addition such a solution would not meet Labour's Six Tests. There is no reason to agree to being a rule taker, without having a right to take part in making the rules, which the EU will never grant to non-EU members. Any Labour MP's joining with the Tories to push through such a solution would be kicked out by their members. 

So, Labour's leadership always eventually had to swing behind one of the two options. Either it became open advocates of a hard Brexit, which would mean its tenure would have been very short-lived, and counter-productive, as the mass of the party membership turned against it, and the coalition of Remain supporting voters that came behind it in 2017, dissipated, or else it had to swing behind opposition to Brexit. Its current policy of “respecting” the Brexit vote, whilst arguing for a General Election – in which it will say what exactly? - or if that is not possible, another referendum – again in which it will argue for what exactly? - is clearly untenable. By failing to argue clearly and consistently for opposition to Brexit, the Labour leadership have actually contributed to the growing movement demanding another referendum, rather than a General Election. 

It is only the Labour front bench that can create the movement and dynamic for a General Election, by actively opposing Brexit, and committing itself to scrapping it. By refusing to do so, it has meant that the opposition to Brexit has been channelled into the demand for another referendum, which is something that a broader coalition of forces can organise around. In so doing, the Labour leadership has also marginalised itself, and its role, and handed over the leadership of that social movement to its political enemies inside and outside the Labour Party. Tory Remain supporting MP's, can much more easily support another referendum, rather than a General Election, in which they would both be seen as opposing their own leadership, and risking their seats, whilst the campaign for another referendum, has allowed the Blair-rights inside the Labour Party to gain precisely the policy proposal they have lacked, around which to rally the party membership, and wider Labour supporting community. The failure of the Labour leadership to take a principled socialist internationalist position of opposing Brexit over the last three years, has been a massive tactical blunder that has weakened its own potential position, and strengthened the position of its opponents. However, the dynamic of the Brexit process itself is now forcing the Labour leadership to have to choose. 

Opinion polls now show around 70% of the population are demanding another referendum. That does not mean that 75% would then back Remain, though it does give an indication in that direction. The pressure inside the Labour Party to back another referendum is also becoming unstoppable, or at least, demanding that Corbyn do what any opposition party is supposed to do, and oppose the Tories, by putting down a motion of no confidence in them. As soon as Corbyn comes out to demand another referendum, the dynamic will shift dramatically. He will then have to say what Labour will be advocating in that referendum.  Corbyn is saying that he will argue for continuing with Brexit, were there a General Election or referendum. The party membership will not allow that to stand.  Either Corbyn will be replaced, or he will be forced to shift his position, or a powerful rank and file movement arguing for a socialist internationalist position demanding Remain, will by-pass him, and he will be removed later.  At that point, the numbers backing Remain will rise substantially. 

One factor leading some Labour MP's to say they were “respecting” the 2016 vote, was the idea that a majority of voters in their constituency voted Leave. But, as I have set out previously, John Curtice showed why this argument was itself facile from a Labour point of view. Even in those Labour seats that voted Leave most heavily, a majority of Labour voters, as opposed to a majority of all voters, actually voted Remain. In those constituencies, it was only that a slightly smaller majority of Labour voters voted Remain, whilst a larger majority of Tory and UKIP voters voted Leave, and a greater number of traditional non-voters, took the opportunity of venting their spleen, by voting on this particular issue. 

As I wrote recently, that situation is today reversed. Firstly the latest polls show that there is a majority for Remain in all Labour held seats. Secondly, every country in the UK now has a majority for Remain. Thirdly, it is today the supporters of Remain who are the ones feeling angry and betrayed, as witnessed by the nearly a million strong anti-Brexit march, compared to the paltry numbers that Leave Means Leave are able to mobilise. In 2016, although it was a large poll, a third of the potential electorate did not vote. Leave actually obtained only 37% of the total electorate's support. Many Remain voters did not vote, thinking they could not lose. Today, the momentum is with Remain, and it will be Remain supporters who make sure they turn out to vote. 

In the initial prediction, I discussed May's disingenuous approach to negotiations with the EU, whereby, on the one hand, in order to get some fudge deal, to move on to a new stage, she surrendered her ridiculous red lines, only to row back on that, as she came under pressure from her own Brextremists and the DUP. I pointed out that, particularly in respect of the Irish border, this would lead to splits and resignations within her Cabinet, all of which came to pass. It has also meant that the EU lost patience with May's continual vacuity, and duplicity in negotiations. May's government is now in tatters as a result, but Labour has set out no clear course of its own, to remove them, in the way Lenin talked about kicking down a rotten door. 

The economic and financial consequences of this dynamic, as set out in last year's prediction, has also been borne out. The UK economy under the impact of Brexit has all but ground to a halt, and is on the brink of recession. The falling Dollar meant the Pound rose relatively, taking pressure off inflation. But, continued rises in global economic activity, though at the predicted slower pace, due to the three year cycle, meant that primary product prices, for oil, for example, rose, and wages continued to rise, whilst global interest rates also were thereby pushed higher. In the UK, the very low levels of productivity, resulting from the low-wage model created since the 1980's, meant that, even with growth slowing to a standstill, wages continued to rise, and that is initially exacerbated by a sharp rise in the number of EU workers leaving Britain to go back home, exacerbating labour shortages in various areas, and pushing up wages in specific areas significantly. I will deal with the continuation of that trend in my predictions for 2019. 


George Carty said...

"Firstly the latest polls show that there is a majority for Remain in all Labour held seats."

Are you sure about that? If this is true then the swing to Remain in places like Stoke, Hull and Hartlepool would have to have been 20 percentage points or more!

Boffy said...

Hi George,

That is what the Channel 4 survey showed. It showed precisely that the swing to Remain was greatest in those areas where the Leave vote had been biggest.