Monday, June 05, 2017


My reader is probably waiting with bated breath for my views on the forthcoming election. In the blue corner, Teresa “strong and stable” May (or should that be “u-turn when you want to”). In the red, Jeremy “don't mention the brother” Corbyn. In the ignored corner, Nutter and Failing and a few others.

Of course, it's all about brexit, so there hasn't been any sort of meaningful debate about this. Both tories and labour are rushing headlong for the most catastrophic outcome they can possibly engineer, and there isn't a fag-paper of difference between them on anything substantive. Corbyn promises better employment protection and May less red tape but these are not really issues of how and why we leave the EU, rather what we do afterwards. The Labour vision may be marginally more attractive but that's basically a question of what colour deck-chairs you prefer on the “Titanic Success”.

It's important to realise, there is no such thing as  a “good brexit”. The only reasonable brexit would be something functionally indistinguishable from the status quo, which both sides have ruled out. The choice is between a bad brexit, a worse brexit and a catastrophic brexit, with all the smart money on the latter. All competent experts have repeatedly pointed out the huge problems that brexit will bring, including but not limited to our European flights (there's no agreement for anything post 2019 and timetables will have to be designed well in advance of that), the operation of our nuclear industry (including such details as medical isotopes), the huge customs problem at Dover/Calais for which the infrastructure does not exist and simply cannot be built in time, the Northern Irish border which will likely spark off unification violence, the harm to our financial industry, the fact that we aren't even normal WTO members in our own right and negotiating that will take agreement from the other 162, the 759 separate agreements with 168 countries that need to be renegotiated in the remaining 661 days etc. The whole thing is idiotic nonsense and the failure of most of our politicians to say as much in plain terms is a gross dereliction of their duty.

In my opinion, the most likely outcome by some way remains a year or so of increasingly acrimonious negotiations or rather arguments, followed by a collapse of the process and long period of recrimination. This national humiliation will come at great cost of course, not just economically but also politically, culturally and socially, as we are already starting to see. Lots of people are starting to bleat about the entirely predictable consequences. I'm intensely relaxed about the poor farmers, since just about every field round here had a “Vote Leave” placard this time last year. They of all people should realise that they will reap what they have sown!

And all for what? Even though it was all about “taking back control”, no-one is prepared to make any promises about immigration anyway. For while the EU was always the convenient excuse for the large-scale immigration that govts of all stripes have encouraged over recent years, it was never actually anything more than that. They could have reduced immigration substantially had they wanted to, but they saw the obvious economic benefits of it and rather than arguing honestly in favour, passed the buck on to the EU. That is no longer possible, so we get vague ambitions which are quite clearly meant as nothing more than a dog-whistle to UKIP voters who are presumably thought to be too stupid to realise that there isn't a plan to actually do anything.

I've been enjoying the way the Tory campaign has been falling apart. “Strong and stable” has been laughed out of existence, it doesn't seem such a clever idea now to base the campaign on May's personality when it is obviously so brittle and unpleasant. Amusingly, the local election leaflet which eventually plopped through the letter box just a couple of days ago features May more centrally than the candidate himself, which should lose him some votes but I'm sure won't affect the result. As for the central conceit of May being the only person capable of negotiating brexit, if anyone seriously thinks she'll actually be PM on the day we leave the EU, I feel a wager coming on.

The only mainstream party with anything approaching a sane policy on brexit is the LibDems, so I'll be supporting them. Or rather, I would be, but they have agreed a local pact with the Greens in a neighbouring constituency (Harrogate and Knaresborough) that they won't stand here and the greens won't stand there. Think they've got the better of that bargain as H&K is at least a possible LibDem seat though not one of their top targets. So I'll be voting Green instead, the candidate seems to have made a very good impression locally (though we missed the local hustings, being in Hamburg at the time). The Greens have a very similar policy to the LibDems anyway and it wouldn't matter who stood here, the local “pig in a blue rosette” is guaranteed to be re-elected even though he was a staunch remainer this time last year.


William M. Connolley said...

I guess you're OK. Your income is in Yen after all :-)

James Annan said...

What's income? Oh yes I remember those days.

James Annan said...

By the way, aren't you tempted by the prospect of a bet on May's survival?

William M. Connolley said...

Pension is incoming money, no? and the more the pound sinks the better you do :-)

A bet on May's survival: no, because I genuinely don't know what is going to happen; or rather, genuinely don't have a strong prediction. My best guess would be an increased Tory majority at the election counting as a boost for May largely offsetting how crap she's looked recently, followed by... then I find it very hard to guess what. Most likely, totally stalled negotiations (on both sides) leading to a Hard Brexit (Democracy is the theory that the public know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard...). Written that way, it argues for her survival, as long as she continues to hew to the Brexit line, because that guarantees her the support of a lot of Tories. And stalking horse would have to be either anti-Brexit (not likely to work in the Tory party) or in favour of "not this deal / no-deal, let's negotiate another) and its hard to see that happening in time.

James Annan said...

It'll be another 12y before we see any Japanese pension (most of which has been robbed, but you're right that we should get something) and meanwhile the yen and pound are racing each other to the bottom so it might be more or less than we currently expect :-)

crandles said...

>"As for the central conceit of May being the only person capable of negotiating brexit, if anyone seriously thinks she'll actually be PM on the day we leave the EU, I feel a wager coming on."

Good luck on finding such a person.

You could always lay off the risk:
Which first brexit or May
Digital odds______________ Back Lay
The UK to leave the EU _____4.4 5.2
May to leave office of PM _1.24 1.29

Year of next election - 2018 looks to be current favourite at 3.3 3.5

Brexit date market seems unpopular and so not efficient
Jan 2019 - Mar 2019 3.2 4.6
Apr 2019 - Jun 2019 2.08 10
Not before 2022____ 1.79 70

These odds from betfair. (If not familiar with digital odds, implied probability is reciprocal of these numbers.)