As we head into the final two and a half months of 2019, I wanted to write a little about the current state of play in Irish politics. A lot has changed in the public’s perception of the parties, while many of the underlying, fundamental dynamics remain the same since I last wrote a piece.
My headline back in March was “If the Next Irish General Election comes in 2019, it's Fine Gaels to Lose...” and while they may still be slightly ahead in the polls – though it could equally be called a dead heat – I no longer think this is the case.
I wrote a lot about how the Confidence & Supply agreement was more favourable to Fine Gael than Fianna Fail. There are two main reasons for this, and they weren’t as obvious when the C&S was agreed back in April 2016.
The first is Brexit. I don’t know if there has been a “safer” issue to don the green jersey than Brexit for Irish politicians in my lifetime. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement was a phenomenal achievement, but it involved major compromises by all sides and there were many awkward meetings that didn’t always make for the best of optics.
Brexit is different in the sense that nearly all Irish politicians are united in their opposition to any land borders on the island of Ireland. It also helps that the government’s position has been wholeheartedly endorsed by all the European countries and many high profile Democratic politicians in the US.
As the Brexit vote came in June 2016, it was impossible to foretell but I am quite confident in stating that Micheal Martin would have demanded a frontline role in Brexit negotiations had he known how prominent the issue would become. It’s been a difficult position to have where you back Fine Gael’s actions but have to try and garner some attention/credit for the accomplishments.The second issue is the economy. It probably was a little more predictable back then that the Irish economy would continue to have another 2-3 years of strong growth as the Irish economy was buoyant the global outlook was also positive.
However, in my view, Fine Gael have squandered a lot of this potential upside by failing to adequately address two of the public’s major concerns; health and housing. The Children’s Hospital scandal severely dented Fine Gael’s reputation as the party of economic prudence while continued housing shortages and astronomical rent prices have helped to facilitate Fianna Fail’s resurgence in Dublin and other major urban centres.
This led to Fianna Fail leading a national opinion poll for the first time in on April 16th since July 2017, while leading five out of the ten since. They are now the bookies’ favourites to win the most seats at the next election and Micheal Martin is the favourite to be the next Taoiseach.Sinn Fein have been stagnant in 2019 from a polling and (in my view) policy perspective. The Irish electorate are largely sick of protest, anger politics that dominated in the aftermath of the financial crash and the Troika but genuine frustrations exist.
More exciting policies are needed and while Sinn Fein are in the best position to deliver this platform (as the third largest party in nearly all of the polls) of progressive change, they are in danger of losing out if the Greens or the Labour Party can capture the momentum.
I think the Greens are in a stronger position since their strong showing in the European elections in May, as well as a European-wide boon in green party voting support. Their main decision in any pending election campaign will be deciding whether to openly court being part of a coalition or whether they want to stand alone and continue to grow their support from the opposition benches.
This could be seen as a battle between the old guard who have experience of the perks of government against the Young Turks who want a radical overhaul.Their current ceiling seems to be around 10-12% but I actually think they could hit 15% in polls in the run up to a General Election with a well-executed campaign.
The final point is when will the election take place. I predicted at the start of the year that it would fall some time in 2019. However, once Brexit was delayed from March 29th and October 31st was the new deadline, the consensus moved to a Spring/early Summer 2020 election. This position was endorsed by both parties at the time.
I do think that the gradual increase in Fianna Fail support at the expense of Fine Gael leaves Leo Varadkar with a major strategic decision; does he decisively strike with a (if it happens) post Brexit deal snap election or wait and hope that Fine Gael will increase their lead again between now and next Spring. At this stage, it is probably more likely that the election will happen in 2020 but I do think many political commentators are underestimating the chances of a snap late November/early December election.
Regardless of when it takes place, I still think Fine Gael are slight favourites unless there is a disastrous crash our No Deal Brexit or another major financial scandal erupts in the days preceding the vote. Alternatively, an election held after the public deem Leo’s handling of Brexit a success could be very beneficial for his party’s chances of forming the next government…
For the second time in 2019, the Israeli electorate go to the polls and again it is too close to call.
In April, the key battle was between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz and this remains the case now.
However, the situation has deteriorated for Netanyahu since, as the net has closed around some of the activities of him and his wife in relation to allegations of corruption.
It may not be too surprising then that he has stated that he would like to pass legislation that leaves Israeli MPs immune from prosecution while in office.
However, Netanyahu also faces challenges on the right from smaller parties who have increased their appeal in recent years by offering different versions of right wing Isaeli politics.
His most potent challenger on the right is probably Avigdor Lieberman. His secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu seeks to break the link between the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and the right-wing governance while not conceding an inch to the Palestinians – he famously resigned as Defence Minister of Israel in November 2018 after calling the Gaza ceasefire as “surrendering to terror”.
These aren’t his only challengers, he also has more traditional right-wing rivals like Yamima,, comprised of 3 smaller parties ahead of this election, who are currently polling between 7% and 10% which could give them up to 12 seats in the next 120 seat Knesset.
Netanyahu is not giving up his dominance of the right though. He has vowed to annex up to 30% of the West Bank if he wins tomorrow.
Benny Gantz’s Blue & White Part has been on 32% in the last 6 opinion polls which puts them practically neck and neck with Netanyahu’s Likud.
However, the last 20 polls have given Netanyahu a clear lead, approximately 10%, in the Preferred Prime Minister question.
This leads to me to believe that Netanyahu will again find a way to form a majority and remain as Prime Minister. He has undoubtedly moved the electorate to the right during his second, ten-year stint as Prime Minister and it will be very difficult for Gantz to create a stable, left of centre majority, even if his Blue and White Party end up with the most seats.
I believe Netanyahu is one of the most destructive and destabilising figures in global politics and would love to see him replaced with a less belligerent leader.
Unfortunately, I acknowledge that he is one of the craftiest and politically astute leaders anywhere in the world. Like every politician, his career must eventually end but I think he may yet again defy the critics and remain Prime Minister when the final votes are counted….
I had intended to write this in the immediate aftermath of the second round of the Democratic Debates, hosted by CNN, which took place on July 30th and 31st. However, I got a little distracted by summer and other events which means the last update is now almost two months old.
There was serious movement in that update where the field went from having two main frontrunners in Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to flattening out to five serious candidates, with Warren, Harris and Buttigieg joining. That first set of debates were very damaging for Biden who looked his age and was hammered by Kamala Harris (in what was almost certainly a pre-meditated attack) on his actions on race in the past.
What started then and has continued now is the rise and rise of Elizabeth Warren in the betting markets and polls. In this collection of blogs, I have always ranked by the implied odds from the betting markets which has been at considerable variance with the raw data from the polls. Warren has risen in both and is now basically joint second in the polls with Bernie Sanders (though individual polls very greatly) while she is now the bookies’ favourite after two very strong debate performances.
The next set of debates are set for September 11th and 12th and I will be closely following these as, so far, only ten candidates have qualified so there should be more speaking time and some serious rises and falls, based on performance.
Cory Booker (Implied Probability: 2% / NEW (Polling 1% - 4%):
Cory Booker has down well in the debates without yet getting the rewards in the polls. I still believe he can have his “time” with the media, and I can easily see him move into the low double digits with a break performance and become a serious contender.
It hasn’t happened for him yet but as the race moves forward and candidates drop out, it’s much better to get the momentum later on. He may also be deemed as an attractive unity candidate by the Democratic Party.
I think he offers a lot more value than Harris, who I would place him in the same grouping as, and I think his rise may come at her expense later on.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.7% / -0.1% (Polling 1% - 3%):
Andrew Yang baffles me every time I write about him. He is incredibly stable and consistent with hardly any change in his polling or odds. He didn’t have a particularly good second debate and while he may not drop out of the top seven after the third round, I really can’t see him break the top five.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 5.6% / -6.3% (Polling 3% - 8%):
He’s dropped a place; his polling is lower, and his odds are longer but none of this is fatal to Buttigieg’s chances. He’s definitely in a bit of a lull and there are criticisms that he is more style than substance but, on the other hand, I do think he can benefit from staying in the race, building his policy platform and communicating that to the Democratic electorate as the field narrows and each candidate gets more screen and debate time.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 11.4% / -11.3%) (Polling 5% - 8%):
Harris had a fantastic first debate which propelled her to the top of the pile but then fell flat in the second debate which has seen her fall back. I think she is a little flat and doesn’t deliver consistently when the cameras are on her.
Harris can win the candidature and I expect her to last quite far into the process but must find that spark needed to really connect with a large part of the Democratic electorate as she is still not breaking 10% in any of the recent polls.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 13.2% / +2.6%) (Polling 10% - 20%):
Sanders is holding steady in second with Elizabeth Warren in joint second but, since late April at least, he has been on the wane while her star has risen.
Their combined vote is enough to overtake Biden but it remains to be seen if they will continue to gradually expand the Left proportion or eventually turn on each other.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 24.4% / +4.0%) (Polling 19% - 33%):
Biden recovered well in the second debate and despite being attacked from everywhere, he was able to parry off most the attacks.
He remains well ahead in the polling, though his lead is no longer insurmountable. It would be foolish to discount him and if the field below him continue to be divided quite evenly then he could easily do well in the early states and look like a presidential candidate in waiting.
Equally, he could continue to drop further gaffes and slowly fade away…
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 31.7% / +15.6%) (Polling 14% - 20%):
Warren is riding on the coattails of two great debate performances and is probably now just slightly ahead of Sanders and there is a good chance she consolidates the Left vote and then looks to eclipse Biden in the polls.
Even though she eventually endorsed Clinton in 2016, she is probably too far to the Left for many mainstream Democrats who may be happy to have her in the race now to split the vote between her and Sanders but who may then work against the eventual champion of that side of the party.
Having said that, if she performs well in the third debate, now that she has a much higher profile and may be the target of more attacks from across the field, then I believe she can eclipse both Sanders and Biden and become the frontrunner.
*Polling date taken from here
I haven’t written about British politics in some time, but I have been following quite closely with regular tweets.
The challenges with writing about British politics currently are manifold; the press coverage is omnipresent, everyone has an opinion, it is very difficult to keep up to date as there are constant small updates and finally, yet paradoxically, the underlying Brexit fundamentals remain the same.
I first tipped Boris Johnson to be the next Conservative leader in August 2017. At the time he was Foreign Secretary but was also tacitly criticising Theresa May’s performance as Prime Minister. When she failed to sack him after a particularly belligerent Telegraph article, I decided that she was already too weak to last much longer and that Boris would soon swoop in.
It didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisaged, and at times my belief in Boris to be the next Conservative leader and therefore Prime Minister wavered, yet we are now on the cusp of his premiership, bar a 40/1 Jeremy Hunt upset in the Conservative leadership announcement tomorrow.
The focus of this blog is to try and take a step back and assess how long Boris is likely to remain as Prime Minister. It’s an impossible challenge though I think it is reasonable to figure out some major early hurdles and analyse whether it appears likely that he will be able to clear them.
Firstly, Boris must maintain the confidence of the House via the Queen accepting he can form a majority. I am not a British constitutional expert, but it seems this is a lot easier than having a Vote of Confidence in parliament.
For this reason, I do expect him to become Prime Minister on Wednesday as expected. There is far too much uncertainty for many Conservative MPs to publicly denounce him as they would lose the whip immediately and would not be able to stand as a Conservative candidate at the next GE. There is also talk that up to six Conservative MPs could switch to the Liberal Democrats but even if they did, I am not sure they would take down a Boris government with Labour largely ahead in the polls.
Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats are also only announcing their new leader later today so those wavering Conservative MPs will probably delay this move until they see what direction the party are moving in, what sort of new leader bounce the Tories and Liberal Democrats enjoy respectively and how much traction Boris is getting in his negotiations with the European Union.
Once he does pass this initial hurdle, the next step will be to survive any Motion of No Confidence put forth by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party in September. I think he will survive that as the hatred of many MPs (unfortunately from all parties) for Jeremy Corbyn should be enough to prevent them voting down Boris at that stage, especially if he has made any progress in talks and/or has downplayed No Deal Brexit (though not dismissed it as that could be fatal too).
After that, there is another parliamentary break and not long until October 31st. I think this is the moment we will know if a Boris Johnson premiership is any different to that of Theresa May’s. Under her stewardship, I would have confidently expected another delay while somehow avoiding a second referendum or general election.
I’ve realised that this takes us up to October 31st and I have decided, for now, that is my ne plus ultra. I think Boris will still be Prime Minister on that date, an election will not have been called though I can’t decide if the United Kingdom will be leaving the very next day.
That prediction will have to come at a later stage, when things have become a little clearer….
A lot has changed since the last update. There have been a few further new entrants, candidate’s campaigns have slowly waned while others are finally gaining momentum.
However, this week has been dominated by the first two Presidential debates, which took place over two nights on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, with ten candidates taking part in each.
These debates had plenty of talking points and have certainly moved the dial on a number of candidates. In each of the two debates, female candidates dominated while the more established, incumbent runners took some serious flak.
This has led to some dramatic changes in the rankings while one of the former favourites, Beto O’ Rourke has fallen out of the top seven and it looks like time is a serious contender has come to an end.
Furthermore, it has flattened out the race from two main contenders (Biden and Bernie) leading the way to what currently looks like a very competitive five way race…
Tulsi Gabbard (Implied Probability: 2.9% / NEW (Polling 1% -3%):
In my view, Tulsi Gabbard has always been an exciting, radical candidate with many traditionally contrarians American foreign policy views that are becoming more mainstream as the party drifts to the Left. She was one of the stars of the first night of the debate and had one of the highlights of either night when she lectured Tim Ryan on the America’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. She backed Bernie Sanders in 2016 and I think she will ultimately end up being a high profile endorsement of his again as we reach the competitive end of the campaign.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 3.8% / -1.3%) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
I wrote in the last update that;
“Yang has been remarkably consistent over the last six weeks. Despite polling on average at 1% and in 11th place, he remains in sixth place in the probability rankings. He needs to be do more and be heard by a larger proportion of the electorate if he is going to kick on from here.”
This remains the case and I am now very surprised that he has managed to stay in the top seven as he hasn’t really managed to further his audience. He did manage to pitch his key policy of a universal basic income in the debate, though I don’t think it has captivated the public imagination.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 10.6% / -9.2%) (Polling 13% - 27%):
It’s been a strange lull in the campaign for Bernie Sanders where he hasn’t had any major blunders but it’s impossible to shake the notion that his star has waned slightly. This is also reflected in the polling where instead of consistently polling second, he is now behind Warren in about half of the polls. It’s the most over rated piece of analysis on the Democratic race but it’s impossible not to ask why Bernie in particular, when you can get Bernie’s policies from about 3 or 4 other younger, fresher candidates who are less belligerent against the parties’ establishment?
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.9% / +3.6%) (Polling 4% - 9%):
Buttigieg has slowly and steadily increased his polling and is now undoubtedly a top tier candidate. That said, he didn’t particularly shine in the second debate (which was definitely the more competitive of the two) and he may need to launch a few policies in the short term to not only maintain the growth but also to re-capture some of the earlier excitement around his candidature.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 16.1% / +8.4%) (Polling 7% -19%):
Warren has arrived in a big way. She was already rising in the polls due to a number of exciting policies and a slicker, more authentic approach to the media but she then dominated the first debate and looked like a genuine, potential president. While I was previously sceptical, I now believe she can win and, for the first time, is now a serious, credible alternative to Bernie Sanders for many on the Left in Party.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 20.4% / -6.3%) (Polling 25% -38%):
Biden still has a massive lead in the polling (though his numbers will probably take a hit following this performance) but he looked rattled at points in the second debate and he was skewered by Kamala Harris when she turned on him and confronted him on his record on bussing earlier in his career. He did bite back that he has always tried to protect people and not a prosecutor but it was lost in the moment and it will now be interesting to see if he can reclaim the top spot or we’re already reached, and passed, peak Biden.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 22.7% / +14.2%) (Polling 5% - 8%):
Harris has jumped up two places to take the lead in the betting. This is mainly based on her strong performance last night though she has always been seen as a very strong candidate by many in the press. I think she is much more suited to questioning and debating then to stump speeches (where she sometimes fails to capture the crowd) and I imagine her campaign team are now wracking their brains trying to think of ways to build on her momentum between now and the next set of debates on CNN. I think this may include a number of interviews on the main talk shows that focus on her childhood and formative years in order to connect further with the wider electorate.
*Polling date taken from here
The biggest change since my last update has been Joe Biden entering the race. He has more than doubled his chances of being the next Democratic Presidential Candidate and six of the other seven candidates
Beto O’ Rourke (Implied Probability: 4.8% / -9.9%) (Polling 3% -6%):
I think O' Rourke's star has truly waned now. In the last update six weeks ago, I claimed that Pete Buttigieg offered a more dynamic, compelling alternative for Democratic voters looking for a fresh candidate who could appeal to a vast swathe of the Party's voters. When I googled O' Rourke today, the only headlines he had generated recently were articles about his regret over his Vanity Fair campaign launch. I think there is every chance he drops out of the top seven in the next few months.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 5.1% / -0.2%) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
Yang has been remarkably consistent over the last six weeks. Despite polling on average at 1% and in 11th place, he remains in sixth place in the probability rankings. He needs to be do do more and be heard by a larger proportion of the electorate if he is going to kick on from here.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 7.7% / +4.3%) (Polling 5% - 12%):
Apart from Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren has had the best time of it among the Presidential hopefuls since the last update. She has more than doubled her chances, moved up two places and her polling has increased significantly. I have said for a while that, despite some very interesting and innovative policy launches, she needed momentum. Warren's campaign now seems to have sparked a little and it will be interesting to follow if she can close the gap on Bernie Sanders and challenge him for the champion of the progressive side of the party.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 8.3% / -2.8%) (Polling 2% - 10%):
It appears as if Buttigeig is in this campaign for the long haul. He needs to continue to build his voter recognition levels and launch more policies. He is definitely focusing on the former and in the last three days alone, he appeared on Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert. I personally found this appearance a little cringey but Jimmy Fallon is definitely an influential media star for young, liberal voters in the United States. I do think he can do quite well in the debates if he makes it to them in a strong position but he'll need more substance to keep the momentum until then.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 14.7% / -6.1%) (Polling 5% -10%):
The second update in a row where Harris has dropped by a place. In my view, third looks about right for her at the moment. Harris is certainly a very strong candidate but can not be currently classed in the category as Bernie Sanders, yet alone Joe Biden. The upper end of her polling is similar to Buttigieg and Warren and it is in this second tier of candidates she should currently reside. She has recently started to work on her appeal to voters on the Left and she still has the potential to win, especially if she can take her home state California early on.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 19.6% / -1.7%) (Polling 11% -25%):
Sanders has continue to campaign well though last time my concern for his chances was "has had everything go right for him so far and avoided any major controversies but still never polls above Joe Biden". This was before Biden had formally entered the race. Now that he has, the gap has increased significantly and Sanders will have to lift his game even higher. He is a good speaker though and once he sees off the challenge from Warren on the left he may be able to frame it as Hillary 2.0 versus the Left.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 26.7% / +14.2%) (Polling 33% - 46%):
Biden is now the clear front-runner in almost every category. Polling, betting, endorsements and name recognition. In the last update, he was beginning to waver a little and I did wonder whether he would decide it wasn't worth it at all. However, he recovered from this slight flounder and he now has every chance of taking on Donald Trump in 2020. There is still an expectation that he may commit a few more gaffes and could throw it away but for now, the candidacy is Joe Biden's to lose...
*Polling date taken from here
There have been some significant changes since my last article a month ago. We have seen the 6th favourite at that time, Sherrod Brown, declare he is not running while Joe Biden has recently come under serious pressure for allegations of inappropriate touching, initially from Lucy Flores while six other women have since almost made claims.
At the suggestion of a previous reader I am going to add their performance from the most recent opinion polls (using this link for the polling data) to give a little more context and depth. This is very relevant for a candidate like Kamala Harris who has been the frontrunner, or very close to it, in the betting markets for quite some time without ever topping a poll.
Elizabeth Warren (Implied Probability: 3.6% / -1.4%) (Polling: 4% - 8%):
Warren’s campaign is still struggling to come to life. She has tried to embrace a few radical ideas recently like backing moves to dissemble America’s tech giants into smaller companies. I really think she is in serious danger of being a nearly-ran. While the two candidates directly above her have much chance of dropping out of the top seven by next month, they have come from nowhere and are causing a stir. The challenge for Warren is that she has had every advantage starting off her campaign but is now barely making headlines.
Andrew Yang (Implied Probability: 5.3% / New) (Polling: 1% - 2%):
I know very little about Andrew Yang but his campaign and approach have been very sleek and well timed. He is certainly targeting younger, more radical voters and if he can increase his polling slightly, he could make a stir in the early debates. However, I ultimately don’t think he will be a top tier contender and will be surprised if he stays in the top seven.
Pete Buttigieg (Implied Probability: 11.1% / New) (Polling 1% - 4%):
The most interesting candidate in the field. Yes, I am slightly biased as his paternal ancestors hail from my current home, Malta, but he has so many facets to his candidacy. He is a gay Afghanistan veteran, Harvard and Oxford graduate who speaks seven languages. He is currently mayor of South Bend, Indiana. I highly recommend watching this short profile of him from the Tonight Show. I will be following him closely as, in my opinion, he is a much more interesting character than Beto O’ Rourke who also represents the “fresh face” of the Democratic Party’s 2020 candidates.
Joe Biden (Implied Probability: 12.5% / -3.6%) (Polling 26% - 33%):
Biden has had a horrific week for reasons I’ve mentioned already. He still hasn’t officially announced his intention to run but that is seen to be one of American politics’ worst kept secrets. However, these allegations will certainly have been food for thought for him and his advisors. He’ll probably have to try and reverse the damage in the next few weeks before announcing as I am certain he will not want to kick off his campaign in this cloud of controversy. There also still a small chance he decides it’s simply not worth running at all…
Beto O’ Rourke (Implied Probability: 14.7% / No Change) (Polling 5% -12%):
Since Beto announced his intention to run on the 14th of March he has managed to raise a significant amount without really exploding out of the tracks. There have been criticisms of the blandness of his key messages and I do wonder if he will really make his mark in the business end of this campaign. Incredibly, he is the exact same odds as he was a month, which is even more surprising given the other major swings.
Kamala Harris (Implied Probability: 20.8% / -0.9%) (Polling 8% -12%):
She has fallen one place to second, but Harris is a big beast who many believe will go all the way. One of her major advantages is that her home state, California, has moved earlier in the campaign from June to March. If I was her campaign manager, I would still be slightly concerned by her polling numbers which are not really ticking upwards. However, I would still not bet against her and I think she will be there or thereabouts at the business end of proceedings.
Bernie Sanders (Implied Probability: 21.3% / +4.6%) (Polling 18% - 26%):
The bookies have him favourite and I think I agree. My one concern is that he has had everything go right for him so far and avoided any major controversies but still never polls above Joe Biden. However, he has raised the most funds, has a very strong online presence and has managed to prevent Elizabeth Warren eating into his vote (at the outset many progressives feared that if they both ran it would split the progressive vote). I have long backed Sanders and have grown more confident over the last month, but his age is such a massive disadvantage and I do worry he could struggle against younger candidates in the early primaries, especially in California. On the flip side if he starts strongly, and Biden’s star continues to wane, he could convince the Party that the electorate have moved to the left and it would be fatal not to support his candidacy for a second time.
Notable Others: It would be foolish to discount Cory Booker (3.3%)(2% - 4%), Tulsi Gabbard (2.9%)(1%) or Amy Klobuchar (2.5%)(1% - 3%) yet but Klobuchar in particular has dropped significantly. There are other candidates, but they aren’t making the impact required to be mentioned this time.
It's been a tumultuous start to the year for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu with the Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Manderbilt, announcing on Thursday that he intends to indict him on a number of corruption-related charges.
On top of that, his party Likud has fallen behind the new Blue and White left of centre party led by former Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, Benny Gantz. For any more mere mortal politician, either of these would be very ominous ahead of the next General Election on April 9th.
However, Netanyahu is no ordinary politician. Despised politically by many (including this author) for his machiavellian tactics and seemingly genuine contempt for the plight of the Palestinian people, there are still very few analysts or followers of politics who really question his political acumen.
He has been the Prime Minister since 2009 (he previously also served from 1996 to 1999) and in that time has achieved numerous goals that at one point or other looked almost impossible. From his perspective the chief among them include completely stalling two-state negotiations through intermittent wars, military crises and clever delays, reversing the United States's involvement in the Iran de-nuclearisation deal and convincing the United States to recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
He has achieved many of those goals by promoting himself as a safe pair of hands who knows how to forge alliances around the world with like minded leaders. These key allies include Donald Trump, Viktor Orban and, most recently, the new Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
However , even with all those achievements, this time might be different. While Netanhayu has displayed an almost magical hold over Israeli elections and an understanding of the Israeli electorate unmatched by any of his domestic rivals, he now also has to contend with the independent judiciary in the run-up to the election.
I last wrote about Netanyahu's struggles with corruption accusations over a year ago and even then it looked like he may be forced to resign. However he has held steadfast. He must now be hoping he can command a mandate form the Israeli electorate on April 9th and beat any charges that come his way.
If he can make it to July as premier, he will become Israel's longest serving Prime Minister. Given everything he is up against, it is looking increasingly unlikely. That said, there is no probably no politician in world politics better equipped to succeed...
This is the first in a new series of articles I'm going to run in the race to become the Democratic 2020 Presidential candidate. I will rank the top seven candidates in order of implied probability from Betfair Exchange. Implied probability gives the % chance of an event occurring based on the odds. I prefer using the exchange as it is more fluid and reflects changes more accurately.
I will try to write a new article quite regularly (but at least thirty days apart) and I will highlight how the candidates have moved both positionally and from a probability perspective. To keep it exciting I'll write from least to most likely to become the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate. Despite the fact that more than 10 candidates have already announced, with another ten or so actively exploring, I will keep it at the top seven so I can focus more on each one. Naturally, the candidates with the highest percentage will dominate the majority of the post. When the race gets close to the finale, the number of candidates will have whittled down to a handful but for now it is a massively open and competitive field.
7: Elizabeth Warren (5%):
Warren announced her campaign on February 9th. She was one of the first Democratic heavyweights to do it and it was expected she would rapidly become one of the favourites, competing with Bernie Sanders on the progressive side of the party. However, it simply hasn't happened for Warren so far. She doesn't seem to have the charisma on the campaign trail and if she doesn't gain some momentum soon, this once very promising campaign is set to fail before it ever really began.
6: Sherrod Brown (5.1%)
The sixty-six year old Ohio Senator was one of Bernie Sanders' strongest allies in the Senate but ultimately endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is seen as a potential unity candidate but hasn't announced if he will run yet. He is currently finishing his "Dignity of Work" tour which has seen him visit many of the most important early primary and caucus states.
5: Amy Klobuchar (5.9%)
The Minnesota Senator announced she would run a day after Elizabeth Warren on February 10th. She is seen as a tough, no-nonsense candidate who could garner the support of the Democratic Party elites while being competitive in "purple" states like her own Minnesota. There have been accusations of bullying from former members of her staff which may haunt her moving forward.
4: Beto O'Rourke (14.7%)
At the moment we have a "Big Four" in terms of probability. Beto is one of the rising stars of the party. Up until a few weeks ago he was the favourite but his delay in announcing his bid has been seen by some as indecision after a meteoric rise in profile following a very close defeat to Ted Cruz for a Texas Senate seat in the November midterms. If he does announce and gathers some momentum, he could easily become the front-runner.
3: Joe Biden (16.1%)
The two-time Democratic Vice President is loved by many on the Democratic side and even now before he has announced if he will run or not, leads almost every poll with approximately 25% to 35% of the votes. Though he is another candidate who could become the front-runner with a well-executed announcement, there is a still a significant chance he'll decide it isn't for him...
2: Bernie Sanders (16.7%)
To many, Bernie Sanders should have been the candidate to take on, and beat, Donald Trump in 2016. However, that campaign, and the grassroots success it had has undoubtedly pulled the party to the Left. The question is now whether Bernie Sanders is still the candidate that best represents democratic socialism in the United States in 2019 and 2020. His campaign has started well with large crowds and very impressive fundraising but it still remains to be seen whether his chance of being President of the United States has passed.
1: Kamala Harris (21.7%)
The front-runner. A Senator from California, she also served as the state's Attorney General from 2011 to 2017. She has almost everything going for her. A woman of mixed background, she embodies the diversity that many in the party want to see come to the fore, in direct contrast to candidates like Biden and Sanders. She was also very impressive in the Senate Hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The key questions that remain are can she compete on the campaign trail and is she progressive enough for the Democratic Party in 2020?
Notable Others: Cory Booker(4.8%) is very unlucky to miss out though having announced on Feb 1st, he will need to get moving up the chart soon. Tulsi Gabbard (4.2%) is an interesting candidate from Hawaii and who is very anti-war but I will be very surprised if she ever really becomes a key candidate in this race.
I haven't written about Irish politics for quite some time as I have had less time to write overall and the antics in Britain have kept me enticed. Unfortunately, following British politics these days is a little bit like watching the 2000s TV show Lost; it is hard to take your eyes off but you never seem to get anywhere from watching it.
I've spent some time looking at the polls and recent events in Ireland and I still believe Fine Gael is in the driving seat to win the most seats at the next election and could even come quite close to an absolute majority if a few things go their way.
There is no doubt that the Confidence and Supply Agreement has been much more beneficial to Fine Gael than Fianna Fail. The contrasting fortunes of Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin since the last election on Friday 26th February, 2016 are striking given Fianna Fail came within 1.2% and 6 seats of equalling Fine Gael's performance.
In hindsight, I've come to believe Fianna Fail gave way too much in exchange for very little. While the formation of the government did take quite some time and the public was getting itchy for progress, they effectively allowed Fine Gael to take complete control with no real opposition in a period of sustained economic growth. Not only that but with Brexit, Fine Gael were able to really boost their support by being seen to stand firm in their desire to prevent a hard border and protect Irish interests.
From this perspective, very few could have predicted when Fianna Fail and Fine Gael made their agreement on April 29th, 2016 just how potent a role Irish nationalism would play in the following three years. Even more difficult to predict would have been that Fine Gael would be the party to benefit the most form this dynamic.
The visuals of Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and even one of Ireland's least nationalist parliamentarians, Neale Richmond, firmly holding the line on the backstop and Brexit, in general, have been very powerful.
I started with this background because it's very difficult to asses the parties' relative strength today without looking at the wider context. While housing and health are both major issues of concern for the Irish electorate, the economy and Brexit seem to be playing a more active role in formulating Irish voters' opinions.
Firstly, the health care system has been a perennial problem for Irish governments and while public anger sparks up intermittently (the Children's Hospital overspend/ Simon Harris Confidence Vote being a recent example), I think to many it is simply something that can't be "fixed".
On a different note, the housing crisis is more of a double-edged sword. The rapid rise in purchasing and rental costs has caused serious hardship for many but (and this is less spoken about) the sharp rise in property prices has benefited many people, who are now either seeing their pre-Crisis properties return to the black or are simply enjoying the bump in the assets on their balance sheets.
There are risks for Fine Gael. A major climb-down on the backstop between now and March 29th or the unmitigated disaster of a No Deal Brexit could really damage though a No Deal Brexit now seems much less likely than an Extension to Article 50.
At some point in the mid-term, the Irish economy will slow down as this sustained period of economic growth can not continue forever. However, even then it is difficult to see why or how Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein will capitalize.
Fianna Fail has tacitly approved every legislative action Fine Gael has taken since the Confidence & Supply Agreement commenced. They really are not in a position to criticise. While they have re-grown their core base, I believe in an election campaign the undecideds will see through their allusion of being an opposition party.
At the same time, I don't believe Sinn Fein have truly done enough to convince the electorate (outside of their 15-20% core support) that they are ready to lead.
I personally would like to see Sinn Fein lead a centre-left coalition and break the hegemony of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail but over the last 18 months they have simply shouted too much while failing to deliver eye-catching, transformative policies like what we are seeing from Labour in Britain or Bernie Sanders and even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the United States.
Fine Gael have, rightly or wrongly, positioned Sinn Fein as a party of protest and complainers. Unfortunately for Mary Lou McDonald, the label is beginning to stick. I do believe Sinn Fein can mount a more concerted challenge to Fine Gael than Michell Martin's Fianna Fail currently can but this will not be the case if we see an election in 2019. Sinn Fein will need longer to deliver these policies through a groundbreaking manifesto as there have been rapid changes in the Left in the kast 18 months; nationalisation, wealth taxes, company ownership and battling climate change are now very much part of the conversation.
For all of these reasons, I find it very, very difficult to envisage an Irish General Election in 2019, where Fine Gael do not win the most seats. The real question is whether Fine Gael will be able to orchestrate an election. Obviously, if local and European elections go badly for them in May, then my thesis is wrong and they may be happy to see out the new Confidence & Supply extension until summer 2020.
However, if I am correct and Fine Gael do win quite comfortably, I expect them to up the ante with the aim of forcing an Autumn election, without being deemed by the Irish public as being the party who forced it. A difficult but feasible task, particularly as a number of Micheal Martin's colleagues are becoming less and less comfortable with the Confidence & Supply agreement, as recent remarks by John McGuiness and Marc McSharry have shown.
In summary, my view that Fine Gael will win the Most Seats in the next election hasn't changed, I also believe there is a very good chance we'll see a 2019 election and finally the main opposition parties have to do more to differentiate themselves on policy, not just on soundbites...
The snap Spanish general election called on February 15th by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez came about after the Catalan parties his minority government relied on rejected his budget.
It was always going to be difficult for Sanchez, who has been in the job for less than a year, to pass his budget. Deep tensions still exist in Spain and the Catalan Question has most certainly not been resolved. Unfortunately for Sanchez, the trial of the Catalan leaders, accused of rebellion and misuse of public funds, began at almost the same time as budged negotiations came to a head.
I last wrote about Catalonia and Spanish politics in late 2017 and early 2018. This was at the time of the Independence referendum and the subsequent crackdown by Madrid at the behest of the former Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.
Rajoy was forced to resign on June 1st, 2018 when he lost a Vote to No Confidence, called by Pedro Sanchez, following the sentencing of a former People's Party treasurer for 33 years for money laundering, among other crimes.
The law in Spain dictates that the leader of the party who successfully pass a Motion of No Confidence must form the next Government. Incredibly, that led to Pedro Sanchez becoming the Prime Minister despite his Socialist Party having less than a quarter of the total Congress seats.
Since then, the Socialist Party have polled consistently somewhere between 22% and 28%. In fact, they have placed first in over the last 20 polls stretching back since the election as called. While it is not inconceivable that they will not win the most seats on April 28th, they certainly look set to do so today.
I think it's fair to say they have benefited from a buoyant economy as Spain had a great second half of 2018 with economic growth set to hit 2.2% in 2019 and 1.8% in 2020. There is a finally a sense of the "the good times are back" for many in Spain though this can rapidly change if Europe heads towards a recession.
The Socialist Party have benefited from a splintering of the right of centre vote. The Citizen's Party have taken quite a lot of former People's Party voters who became disillusioned with the corruption while the Vox Party, a more right-wing party, are now regularly polling at over 10%.
I will definitely start following the election campaign more closely as we reach the crescendo. I do believe that the Socialists will win most seats but forming a government will prove very difficult. We may end up seeing a coalition of the right, though it remains to be seen whether the People's Party or the Citizens would replicate their Andalusian coalition in a national election...
The last four days have been tumultuous in British politics. At the time of writing, we've seen 8 Labour MPs and 3 Conservatives leave their respective parties to form The Independent Group. Most of the analysis I have read so far has implied that it will be much more damaging to the Labour Party in the short and long term.
So far, this has been reflected in the early polls where the core Conservative vote seems to have remained in the high 30s, while Labour have dropped into the 20s. Based on this, any early snap election would result in the Conservatives regaining their majority and Labour suffering seat losses.
As things stand this probably is the case. I believe there are a lot more Labour MPs whose loyalty is wavering and if we see a mass exodus then it could take Labour years to repair. Their issue would then be that all the “moderate” MPs would be replaced by socialist or more left leaning candidates at the next election, whereas the constituency profile of Britain probably requires a broader offering of candidates to win a majority, or to even secure the most seats.
What has struck me so far though is how several of the seriously Corbyn-skeptic Labour MPs who have come out and said they will stay with the party, some examples being Stephen Kinnock, John Mann and Stella Creasy.
There is no doubt that there is a serious disconnect between the Labour leadership and its members on Brexit. Their policy has been vague though, in my opinion, not quite incoherent or contradictory. However, the fact is that isn’t what the majority of its members or voters want as a Brexit outcome. The next 6-9 months will be a very dangerous time for an election as they could lose a massive chunk of their 2017 support if it became a Brexit election.
However, I actually believe the Tories current level of polling stability is a little misleading. They have lost 3 strong, female MPs who were unpopular with a large part of the Conservative membership but who have relatively strong national profiles.
While the number of other potential defectors seems to be in the single digits at the moment, if the trend of dynamic, outspoken MPs continues (examples would include Justine Greening and Johnny Mercer) they will actually serious impact their “electoral brand”.
Simultaneously, the potential emergence of The Brexit Party (which has so far been absent from polling) could also take votes from the right, especially if Brexit is delayed.
What is true is that Brexit voters’ loyalty certainly seems to be to Brexit above all else and they will vote with the party that the believe best serves this purpose (in the last election we saw former UKIP voters move back to the Conservatives as they believed Theresa May would deliver for them.
Now that seems less likely, and if Nigel Farage gets seriously involved, they could start to lose %s in the polls to both The Brexit Party and potential even UKIP again , May may take an even harder line or look more favourably on a No Deal Brexit.
This would almost certainly result in further Conservative defections to The Independent Group. The question is are there really many sensible, slightly right of centre voters who would stop voting Conservatives in large numbers?
If so, Theresa May is doing almost everything possible to drive the very MPs that they would look favourably on as future leaders away. I believe this could ultimately do serious electoral damage to the Conservatives and while there may be a sensible way to avoid it by remaining in the Customs Union and possibly the Single Market, I don’t think Theresa May will take this approach.
So ultimately, I don’t believe Brexit will break the Conservatives like so many political analysts do, but it may be the catalyst for more centre right MPs and centrist voters to realise this isn’t the party that has the policies they want to vote for, and not only on Brexit…
The last forty eight hours have been equally captivating and frustrating for followers of British Politics. Captivating because those watching were constantly reminded that they were watching history being made. This was particularly true in the build up to the Meaningful Vote when the estimates for the margin of the defeat May would suffer were being projected. The frustration came in the gnawing feeling I had that, despite the drama, nothing would fundamentally change and we would have no decisive Brexit resolution.
The Meaningful Vote contributions from the Conservative's backbenches mainly contained watery calls to support the deal but, unsurprisingly, more confessions that it was impossible to get behind it given the backstop and other unpalatable elements. However, even after that, I still did not expect it to be such a large defeat and naively assumed many of Theresa May's own MPs would row back into line for the final vote.
On the Labour side , there were also a lot of contributions calling for a People's Vote . Yes, many did caveat this with "if we can't have a General Election" but most of these felt half hearted and tokenistic.
When the result was called, I genuinely leapt up with anticipation and thought "this is it, she's gone". For one moment, the sheer magnitude of the defeat seemed absolutely impossible to survive for this government.
However, Theresa May almost immediately quelled my excitement by confidently pre-empting the calls for a Confidence Vote and went even further by stating that the Tories would consider a motion from the smaller opposition parties if Labour chose not to pursue it. It was a smart move that cornered Corbyn though I am certain she already knew she had the support of the 10 DUP MPs at that stage.
So then we had the Confidence Motion debate. It was exactly as you'd expect. If we've learned one thing since the Brexit vote it's just how tribalistic British politics still is. This clearly has a lot to do with the first past the post electoral system but it's still incredible that the same party lines remain despite the political upheaval of the last two and a half years. Apart from a few former Labour Independents there was almost no dissent on either side (again some Labour MPs mentioned a People's Vote) and the debate slowly meandered to the finish line and the vote.
The result was in the ball park of what everyone was anticipating though it had the numerical perfection of highlighting just how reliant the Conservatives are on the DUP's 10 votes, without them Labour would have won by a single vote.
Theresa May did win tonight but overall the last 48 hours will probably prove to be a Pyrrhic victory for her. She has exhausted so much of her political capital and has massively limited her flexibilty in two ways. Firstly, and over a long period of time, by narrowing her options though "red lines" and stump speeches since the Brexit vote. More recently interventions against a No Deal from members of her now emboldened Cabinet shave further hemmed her in. This new found freedom comes as a result of the Conservatives having their own confidence vote in Theresa May in December.
She can now only offer her political opponents a Brexit deal that includes leaving the Single Market and Customs Union on March 29th. The parliamentary arithmetic and the sheer scale of her Meaningful Vote defeat now make it unlikely that of all these conditions will be met.
I personally think there isn't any chance of all of these things happening and getting through parliament. Unfortunately for May I equally believe her failure to achieve all three of these conditions could split her party and end her premiership.
I will soon write about what I think might happen next and focus on the other players in the tragedy that is Brexit but for today I think the Deputy Leader summed the last 48 hours up best when he said "most people...simply feel sorry" for the Prime Minister who has run out of ideas, carrots and stick by stubbornly putting her red lines on a pedestal above all else...
I reviewed my 2018 predictions here yesterday. I had a mixed bag in terms of success, but it really did give me some food for thought looking at the year ahead. It has been a year of some drama but on reflection, particularly in Ireland and Britain, it does feel like we’ve experienced a holding period. A major player in this has been Theresa May who has pushed every single major Brexit decision as far out as possible, the latest example was her delay of the Meaningful Vote to the week of January 14th. I think 2019 will be a year of events and drama with no road left for delay or obfuscation.
Beginning of a serious global economic downturn
2018 was still a good year for economic growth despite the growing uncertainty and pockets of geopolitical turmoil across the globe. The growth projections for 2019 are still mostly positive but these can quickly change direction. While I am not going as far as predicting the global economy contracts next year, I think by the end of the year it will be evident the current cycle has reached the end of its growth trajectory.
This should mean the financial markets face another tough year and could place further pressure on incumbent Western governments though I think this will become more of a factor in 2020.
Brexit to happen
I do not think Brexit will be reversed. Firstly, in my opinion, there is less than a 50% chance that there is a People’s Vote and even if there is the outcome is far from certain.
What I am now less reluctant to confidently predict is that Brexit takes place on March 31st, 2019, despite previously adding it to my Political Punts. It seems increasingly likely that there will need to be an extension to Article 50 to ensure a deal can be gotten over the line in Westminster. The issue with this is that so far, the EU have said this is only possible in the case of a General Election or a Second Referendum.
No British General Election
I don’t envisage a General Election in Britain next year. I can’t see the Tories losing a Confidence Vote and I also don’t believe Theresa May would be foolish enough to call another snap election, given her government’s atrocious performance in the run up to the last one. Yes, the Conservatives currently lead in at least half of the polls but as she will probably be leader until December 2019 (given she won the Conservative Leadership Confidence Vote) I don’t believe the party will want to contest another election.
Theresa May to be Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn still to be Leader of the Opposition on January 1st 2020
Since the last General Election in June 2017, British politics has been in an almost constant state of low intensity chaos. I do expect this to continue post Brexit but unlike many others I see many of the same figures involved at the end of year as are now.
This prediction flows from the previous one. Firstly, without a General Election it is less likely that there are party leader changes in general. Furthermore, Theresa May has just won a Conservative Leadership Confidence Vote. This does not mean it is impossible to dislodge her as a coordinated mass resignation by some of her senior cabinet members could also be deadly however as many of them are jockeying for next leader, it is less likely they will work together.
Finally, I think Jeremy Corbyn will still be Labour leader as the majority of the membership still believe in his domestic policies and that he can win the next election. The biggest threat to his continued supremacy is a membership revolt over a Second Brexit Referendum or if Labour back the Conservatives Brexit deal. I think this will be avoided and that I’ll be making predictions about both May and Corbyn’s respective years ahead next December.
Irish General Election to take place
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have both recently agreed to extend the Confidence and Supply agreement to Summer 2020 so this is a contrarian position to take as the markets do not envisage a Dail election next year. However, I really think both parties are eyeing up the right time to force an election with the caveat that they will try and spin it to the being the fault of the other.
Fine Gael to win most seats, just…
Fine Gael have finished every single opinion poll in first place in 2018 as can be seen here. The economy is still buoyant and despite crises in both housing and health, there is still a feel-good factor in the Republic as the pain of the financial crisis recedes into a distant memory for many.
However, this a double-edged sword for Fine Gael as many of the Irish electorate still have Fianna Fail hardwired into their DNA. I got a shock when the last poll of 2018 only had 2% between the parties. I do not think Leo Varadkar is a good campaigner and if the gap is this low at the start of the campaign it could be a very fine margin of victory for Fine Gael.
Trump to still be President on Jan 1st 2020 even if impeached…
This is quite straightforward. I believe Donald Trump will still be President this time next year. I do not believe the Mueller investigation will uncover enough to force him to resign or lead to a criminal conviction. It is less clear whether he will be impeached by the now Democratic held Congress as they do not take control until January however I am confident the Senate will not vote by the 2/3 majority needed to remove him from office. An impeachment in itself would typically be enough to force a resignation but I don’t believe Donald Trump would be one to acquiesce to political norms.
No Northern Ireland Assembly
I am beginning to think the era of the Northern Ireland Assembly has passed. There are too many immovable barriers to getting it back in session. I also now think that the DUP sees its home at Westminster while Sinn Fein believes its future lies in Dublin. It is simply the next step in the ever-growing political polarization of Northern Ireland. Peace but division…
Arlene Foster to be replaced as DUP Leader
Arlene Foster has had a pretty miserable year between the ongoing RHI investigation leading to further embarrassment as well as the Conservative government backtracking on several commitments regarding the Irish backstop.
Ultimately, there will be a Brexit deal and it will probably have to involve some slight compromise from the DUP. I envisage Arlene Foster being the scapegoat for this and being replaced by one the 10 DUP MPs, with Nigel Dodds the most likely next leader.
Far-right gains to be disappointing in EU Parliamentary Elections
They may win a few more seats but it won’t be some massive breakthrough. With the exception perhaps of Italy, the EU countries where the far-right is strongest already did quite well in the last EU Parliamentary elections in 2014. I expect the media to whip up a frenzy beforehand and Matteo Salvini to get an awful lot of front-page interviews and Op-eds but when all the votes are counted the bigger surprise may be the success of the Greens and even the Left…
Social Democrats to win the Most Seats in Danish General Election
This is the first of my two predictions in national level EU elections next year. I predicted the Social Democrats to win the most seats in last September’s Swedish Election and called it successfully but it is still unclear whether I was also correct to predict their leader, Stefan Lofven, would be the next Prime Minister given the complicated coalition structure and ongoing negotiations.
This structure is also similar in Denmark so while the Social Democrats led in almost every poll in 2018, they may not lead the next government. However, I am confident they’ll win the most seats.
Socialist Party to win the Most Seats in Portuguese General Election
Ireland aside, the performance of the Portuguese economy has been one of the so-called post financial crash success stories. The Socialist Party is flying high in the polls and have drawn the attention of socialist leaders from around the UK with Jeremy Corbyn praising their governmental performance recently at the Congress of European Socialists in Lisbon in December.
The election is not until October though and their biggest risk is that an economic downturn has already started to impact the perception of the Portuguese electorate though as I mentioned at the start, I think the election will come too early for this to transpire.
That’s all from me on next year. I would love to hear any predictions you have in the comments section below. Thank for you reading throughout the year and I wish you all a healthy and happy 2019…
2018 has been a turbulent year with many political shocks. However, I think we may still look back at in in years to come as the calm before the storm. A year of political stagnation across most of the West, where poor leadership and decision-making was masked slightly by a still buoyant global economy, enjoying the final flourish of the recovery from the last financial crisis in 2008
While tomorrow I will make my predictions for 2019, this article will reflect on what I had written this time last year and how it held up. Having had a quick review already, my first thoughts are that I was a little vague in my predictions which makes it a little difficult to full assess how successful I was.
Some of them were quite thematic and general, as opposed to specific, quantifiable predictions. I will try and alter this slightly for next year but for now it’s time to assess how each prediction turned out.
Trump to continue his Erratic Foreign Policy but No War:
It seems very obvious now that there wouldn’t be a “war” in 2018 but this can also be a case of selective memory bias. In 2017, Trump was involved in some very public threats and spats with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. In September, at Trump’s first address to the United Nations, he threatened “to totally destroy North Korea”. At this stage he had only been President for 9 months and we were still at the anything is possible phase. Since then, he has shocked the world by actually meeting Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June but most of 2018 his focus was on domestic issues including the US Midterm elections and the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation.
The Global Bull Market Run to Continue, Just About...:
Last year, I did caveat this with “just about”. However, nearly every global index has finished down in 2018 according to this excellent summary page from the Wall Street Journal so ultimately I got this wrong. I do think I was slightly correct in the sense that the ramifications of this haven’t filtered through to political discourse yet. I have a lot more thoughts on the global economic outlook, though I will save that for tomorrow’s predictions…
China to Continue its Steady, Low-Key Ascent to Global Hegemony:
This is an example of one of those predictions that are hard to quantify. Nothing has happened this year in China to contradict this assertion. Furthermore, continued stagnation by many of its closest Western rivals has also probably helped. It will be interesting to see if China can handle another economic downturn as aptly as they did in 2008, when their massive Chinese Economic Stimulus Plan not only helped to stabilize the Chinese economy but possibly helped to mitigate the global economic damage.
Tories to Survive and Brexit is Happening:
As of today, both aspects of this prediction are correct. The Conservatives will almost certainly finish 2018 still in government. They have had some challenging moments but ultimately, party loyalty and the threat of losing their seat in a snap election, helped keep Theresa May in power. Her prestige has been severely dented and since the Conservative’s annual conference we have started to see the potential next leaders jockey for position.
“Brexit is Happening” looks a lot less certain now than it did in the summer. There seems to be no clear parliamentary majority for any deal and the chances of a second referendum have certainly risen. I am going to carefully consider what I predict in 2019 though I genuinely believe anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s in British politics currently.
Fine Gael to increase seats lead over Fianna Fail in any Irish General Election:
There was no election in 2018 so I suppose this prediction has to be rendered null and void. However, Fine Gael has polled very strong throughout most of 2018 and I think it’s pretty evident they “would have” increased their seats lead over Fianna Fail in any Irish General Election. That said, the last poll of 2018 only gave Fine Gael a 2% lead over Fianna Fail so it will be interesting to see if they do continue to enjoy strong leads, particularly if Brexit turns out to be particularly damaging for the Irish economy.
The Irish Abortion Referendum Campaign to be Brutal:
It was brutal but there wasn’t quite the level of vitriol as I had envisaged here previously. It did not become our Trump or Brexit moment and the massive margin of victory for the Yes side has helped the country to heal quickly and move forward. It must be a sign of Ireland’s democratic and social maturity that the result has been respected by all sides. The Citizen’s Assembly process has rightly been given a lot of credit as it really helped the Irish electorate to understand the implications of their vote.
Iran to get even closer to Russia/China and avoid a Revolution:
The revolution was indeed avoided. The renewal of the sanctions against Iran will certainly lead to further future unrest. I am also concerned that either Benjamin Netanyahu or Donald Trump will try and use Iran as a distraction from their own domestic challenges in 2019. To be honest, I think I will need some further time to read up and decide if Iran did move closer to Russia and China in 2018 as it isn’t always evident in the media sources I mostly follow….
In summary, I think I did OK overall. Upon reviewing this I do get the further feel that 2018 was a bit of a “holding year”. When I write my 2019 predictions tomorrow, one major dilemma I will have to contend with is whether I believe this will be the same next year or whether we really are about to enter a period of even greater instability and chaos…
If the Pollsters are Correct, what will the impact be of the Democrats taking the House and the Republicans holding the Senate?
For almost all of 2018, the polls have consistently shown that the Democrats are on course to reclaim the House of Representatives but will not be able to take control of the Senate as they are mostly in a defensive position in the 35 out of the 100 seats that will be voted on.
I won’t really write a preview for this election as it is very complex with three different “types” of elections and a massive variation of electoral battles.
For detailed analysis on polling and predictions, I recommend 538, CrossTab and the Economist sites.
I am going to assume for now they are correct and that this is the result we are faced with on Wednesday morning.
I will be watching the results and come in and looking at reactions and quotes from the Democratic side. What will be the narrative be in the immediate aftermath of their House of Representatives victory?
Will it purely be about “stopping Trump” or will a theme emerge that the party agree on as to why they won and how they can win in 2020?
Will many new Democratic Congressmen come out in support of Nancy Pelosi or call for a new Leader in the House?
I don’t have any of the answers yet but will keep a close eye on events and articles in the days following the results.
I will then write a “fuller” preview of the direction and strategy the Democratic Party will go in for 2020. Furthermore, what this means for the potential candidates, of whom the bookies currently place Kamala Harris as favourite, closely followed by Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders...
Of course, the pollsters were spectacularly wrong in 2016 and it is possible there will be a shock again and either the Democrats take the Senate or Republicans fend off the challenge in the House of representatives…
If President Trump manages to hold on to the House, it would be both a vindication of his policies and a crushing blow to the Democrats and the in party fall out could get very vicious.
Even without one of the two major shocks above, with over 500 individual races there will be plenty of upsets on the night and I will be watching all of it...
Brazilian’s go to the polls on Sunday in the second run-off against Fernando Haddad. He has a massive lead in this two-horse race and it seems almost impossible for Haddad to now catch him.
I punted on Fernando Haddad to win as I believed Jair Bolsonaro’s first round performance would be much lower (46%) and the gap between him and Fernando Haddad (29%) would be much closer.
I called it completely wrong and realised I don’t really know enough about Brazilian politics or Brazil to really contribute anything to the debate. Therefore, I won’t really write much here except express my sadness and concern for the direction Brazil is moving in.
It would be a massive political shock if Haddad wins and it could lead to civil unrest in Brazil. However, this seems very unlikely given all the recent polling.
I will follow next Monday though I really can’t see anything other then a Bolsonaro win now. The question is how much of what Bolsonaro has said up until today is bluster and bravado and how much of it does he intend to follow through on.
If the latter is the case, Brazil is in for a very, very challenging few years…
A lot has happened since I last wrote about Brexit in July but very little has changed. There have been numerous occasions where I thought; “this is it” regarding either a major breakthrough or the end of Theresa May’s premiership.
However, each the expectations of a Brexit breakthrough rose, they have quickly dissipated as further sources pour scorn on earlier reports. Equally, whenever the threats to Theresa May or the calls for her to stand aside reach fever pitch, a compromise is reached, or a belligerent political actor backs down.
On a Brexit deal, it does seem that there has been slight progress made since July though the Irish border remains a stumbling block. I’ve previously written about a buildup of ill-will and energy that will lead to a political earthquake and heads rolling. I still believe this may have to be the case as the compromises needed can not be reached without major climbdowns from either Theresa May, Leo Varadkar or Arlene Foster.
I It does appear the Irish border can be solved through a compromise that protects the all-island economy and avoids a hard border through a combination of transition extensions, full UK-wide participation in a customs union and the threats of an early British General Election…
At this stage in the negotiations, I finally believe Teresa May and Olly Robbins know the rough parameters of what a deal entails and where the Britain ends up post-Brexit. Despite May’s strong rhetoric, it is likely she privately acknowledges further East/West checks are necessary though I do believe her when she says she would never sign up to a full economic Irish Sea border.
Her challenges in securing this deal are obvious to most followers of British politics. She will either need the support of the great majority of the Conservative Party MPs and the ten votes of the Democratic Unionist Party or she will need considerable support from Labour MPs.
It will be almost impossible for her not to have some rebel hard Brexiteers if she continues down the current line of negotiations and ends up with a deal roughly along her “Chequers+” plan.
There are currently 50 MPs who are publicly part of a “Stand Up 4 Brexit” campaign that explicitly rejects Theresa May’s “Chequers+” plan. What is not clear is whether this simply a political lobbying group or if the majority will vote down a deal when the Meaningful Vote comes back to parliament.
It does look more likely that full customs participation will be included, and this has raised considerable dissent from with the cabinet and wider parliamentary party. Equally though, it does make it more likely that Labour MPs could support it, especially those who would like to further undermine the authority of Jeremy Corbyn. They would have legitimate reasons for doing so as while Labour have been very, very vague on their alternative Brexit plan, they have consistently said they want a customs union with the EU.
I want to predict that we are at the point where Theresa May shows decisive leadership and decision making and stands up to the brexiteers and the DUP and we get clarity of her direction and strategy. This then either leads to a deal or her toppling, hence the title of the article.
However, I think the uncertainty will continue for a few more weeks as the gargantuan, emotionless python that is the realities of Brexit continues to slowly crush and asphyxiate the demands for a Canada+ Deal or the threats of DUP bringing down the government.
I also can’t see Labour being having the unity to topple the government by voting down the deal and forcing an early general election. They are too divided and weak on Brexit.
Finally, to predictions, I do believe a deal will be reached by mid-December at the latest that will keep the Irish border open. I believe May will survive to somehow get it voted through parliament with some cross-party amendments that solidify the UK’s position in a customs union.
It is harder to predict when her premiership will end but I believe she will still be the UK Prime Minister on January 1st, 2019, at least. It will be in her interests to keep some negotiations necessary for January and February next year so that she can fend off any leadership bids until post Brexit date and hope the public thank her in the polls afterwards.
The question will be whether the DUP can spin this as a political win. So far, they have railed against every single mooted potential divergence between Norther Ireland and Britain. This is foolish and risky. They are still the biggest wild card in my predictions as they could force that early election that I don’t believe will happen. However, I think it is more likely the MPs will turn on Arlene Foster and replace her sooner rather than later as a symbolic aggressive backlash against their ultimate political impotence.
Of course, nothing has gone to plan for the UK so far in negotiations and Brexit predictions are a mug’s game. I just don’t think Labour or the Conservatives want a no deal Brexit or the next general election to be fought on Brexit either. Therefore, realpolitik will eventually dictate that a deal is done and chaos doesn’t ensue…
On Sunday, Brazilians go to the polls to vote for their next President. Brazil has been struggling economically for quite some time and there is a lot of anger, disillusionment and hunger for change on the streets.
I have been following the election build up quite closely in recent months. It is a very interesting campaign with a former great, angry new voices and relative unknowns trying to emerge as the future leader. However, the intricacies of the Brazilian politics will be left to others with more knowledge to write about and I will focus mostly on the polling and data aspects with reference to events where it is relevant.
The far right, populist candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, has led every poll in 2018 that didn’t include Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula, the former President who is not allowed to run but who PT (his party) had hoped would be able to find a way around the Supreme Court ruling. He is the favourite ahead of Sunday’s election and is still slowly creeping upwards to reach 32% in two of the most recent polls.
His main rival appears to be Fernando Haddad of the PT party, who was initially meant to be Lula’s running mate but in the last two months has become the party’s official candidate. He is a former mayor of Sao Paulo.
When Lula officially withdrew from the race on September 12th, Haddad was languishing on around 10% in the polls in third place, also behind Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labour Party. Since then, he has climbed consistently in the polls and is now floating between 20% and 24%. This puts the gap at approximately 10%.
However, the crucial point is that if no candidate gets 50%+1 of the votes in the first round, there will be a second round run off on October 28th. While, Bolsonaro is slowly climbing, it is still highly unlikely that he will experience a large enough late surge to claim a majority.
The polls also conduct potential second round run-offs and these have been very close, either placing both candidates on the same percentage of giving a 1-2% lead to Bolsonaro.
It looks very likely that Bolsonaro will creep up a further point or two between now and voting on Sunday, while the same may be the case for Haddad.
I am quite confident that Bolsonaro will come first but will not win a majority, I am more concerned about Bolsonaro’s total and the gap between him and Haddad. As mentioned earlier, Haddad is still quote close in the second round run offs, but this can change very quickly if the Brazilian public perceive Bolsonaro to be the President in waiting.
Therefore, I think Haddad needs to finish within 10% points of Bolsonaro, while also keeping Bolsonaro’s total below 35%. In this scenario there would still be 40% of the electorate to fight for with Haddad needing to win two thirds of these to finish ahead.
I backed the incumbent but controversial Milos Zeman to win the Czech Presidential election in January earlier this year after he finished the first round on 38.6% to Jiri Drahos’ 26.6%. The next 4 candidates all supported Drahos but Zeman had enough of a lead to narrowly win the second round. The situation is slightly different here as Bolsonaro is not an incumbent and the other candidates will not all support Haddad but it is very difficult to win a second round run off if your opponent is close to 40% and you are 10% behind.
Another crucial factor will be who, if anyone, receives the endorsement of Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party. He is currently polling at around 7-10%. His economic policies would be much closer to those of Bolsonaro’s but it may be hard to endorse the man given his long list of controversial statements.
So, in summary, I will be keeping an eye out on three things next Monday; Bolsonaro’s total %, his lead over Haddad and the comments of the other then eliminated candidates. I will write a follow up closer to the second round run off as well (provided there is one).
The New Boundaries are a stark Reminder that the path to a Unity Referendum probably passes through the Assembly...
The New Boundary Commission Report yesterday for Northern Ireland mostly made for bleak reading for nationalists.
Already, there has been some detailed analysis on each constituency and how it impacts the future composition of Northern Ireland's Westminster seats.
It almost certainly ensures that the Democratic Unionists will win the most seats in the next General Election, with the exception of a black swan event occurring that no one can forecast today.
I now think that most paths to a Unity Referendum will have to go through the Northern Ireland Assembly. There are several reasons for this.
The New Boundaries, if passed, will almost cetainly act as a nationalist vote suppressant. There will be almost no competitive seats outside of Belfast and the first past the post system (FPTP) renders many votes meaningless.
However, in this tempest of constitutional turmoil, every single election result will be judged on the basis of a referendum on Northern Ireland.
Currently, the only way to secure a Unity Referendum is for the NI Secretary of State to indicate that he/she believes a majority would vote for a United Ireland in the North as set out in the Good Friday Agreement below;
“the Secretary of State shall exercise the power under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”
The consensus around this definition seems to be that it would require nationalist parties to receive 50%+1 of the first preference votes in a Northern Assembly Election or 50%+1 of the total votes in a Westminster Election.
Unfortunately, and despite the current impasse over the Irish Language, it is hard to see how pro-Unity advocates will be able to get to 50%+1 without a Northern Ireland Assembly.
Recent polls have shown us that any future Unity Referendum will be decided by small nationalist and union voters, Alliance and Green Party voters and nonvoters at recent elections.
Naturally, it is illogical to assume that Alliance or Green party voters will switch to nationalist parties. However, the “small n” nationalist and the non-voters who would come from a nationalist background will need to be motivated and energized to vote.
The Northern Ireland Assembly elections in February 2017 proved to be a very strong result for nationalists and indicated for the first time that an energized nationalist electorate could over take the unionist vote.
There are a number of widely discussed impediments to getting the Assembly back up and running and both the DUP and Sinn Fein believe they have legitimate reasons for meaning their current stance. However, if Sinn Fein are serious about forcing a Unity Referendum they must realise that nearly ass paths to it pass through both votes for and votes in the Assembly…
Next Sunday, Swedes go to the polls of the first time since 2014. I see it as one of the most important elections in the European Union in 2018. The far-right Swedish Democrats have risen significantly since 2014 and may be able to derail, if not replace, the centre-left minority government led by Stefan Lofven and the Social Democrats.
It is impossible not to look at the election through the prism of immigration as it has been at the forefront of political discourse in Sweden since the Swedish government decided to loosen its immigration policy in 2014, in the face of a major refugee crisis.
Four years later and the impact of that decision is still sending shockwaves across European politics and Sweden in particular. Despite a buoyant economy (growth was 2.3% in 2017 and is set for 2.4% in 2018), there is a sense among a proportion of the electorate that Sweden has done too much and needs to pushback and further reform.
Crime rates have risen and many Swedish commentators have attributed this upsurge to immigrants. The data to back this up is very difficult to ascertain and there have been many accusations of “fake news” by both sides in relation to crime reporting.
This feeling and political train of thought has been seized upon by Jimmie Akesson and the Sweden Democrats. They have a enjoyed a prolific surge in popularity since the 2014 election, when they received 12.9% of the vote, today they are polling at approximately 20%.
The party combines elements of nativism and anti-immigration in their platform that is often disguised in “cute” Swedish outfits and a very innocent looking party logo.
The incumbent Prime Minister, Stefen Lofven also faces a significant challenge from the centre-right Moderate Party, led by Ulf Kristersson.
The Moderates had previously been in government from 2006 to 2014 as part of the Alliance for Sweden, which also contained the Centre, Liberal and Christian Democrats. In most polls today, this coalition is polling behind the potential centre-left coalition of the Social Democrats, Green and Left parties.
The Left Party is not currently part of the minority coalition but they have been polling at approximately 10% and have made it clear they would like to be part of the next government. Prior to 2010, the Left party were also part of the centre-left coalition though it is not yet clear if they will be included in talks after the election. It seems highly unlikely that the Social Democrats can choose to exclude them and remain in power.
However, both coalitions regularly fail to reach 40% in polls and at best can hope to lead a minority government. The current polling numbers look chaotic and as mentioned, it is very difficult to see a majority government if any hue without the Sweden Democrats being included.
One further point when looking at the polling numbers above is that parties need to gain at least 4% of the votes to be included in parliament. This could have a big impact on the two coalitions if any of the smaller parties slip below this threshold.
So far, the notion of working with the Seden Democrats has been rejected by all the major parties but there are voices in the Moderates who would prefer dialogue with Sweden Democrats than to simply accept a further premiership led by the Social Democrats.
On that note, I do predict the Social Democrats to be returned as the largest party, despite their challenges mentioned previously. They have consistently led in the polls, with only an occasional poll giving the Sweden Democrats the lead while the last poll that showed the Moderates returning the most seats was on the 21st June 2016.
Perhaps the best thing for Social Democrats would be if the Swedish Democrats actually finished with more seats than the Moderates. There is no way the Moderates could support a government led by Jimmie Akesson. A lead of more than 5% points for the Social Democrats over the Moderates may also increase public pressure on Ulf Kristersson to back, or at least accept, a Social Democrat led government.
However, even if the Social Democrats claim the most seats, there is little chance they will equal their 2014 performance of 31% and Stefan Lofven may come under intense pressure to resign if the Swedish Democrats and Moderates both vote down the left coalition.
The final week of campaigning will be crucial in Sweden as one or two % points away from the left to right or from the Moderates to the Sweden Democrats or vice versa may drastically change the final composition of the next Riksdag and the political arithmetic.
I will write a follow up review of the election on the Friday after, when results are known and the first political overtures have been made…
The last special election before the November 6th Congressional Election takes places tonight. I’ve covered a number of these special elections this year and while each has its own unique narrative and characteristics, the overall direction has been positive for the Democratic Party.
They have managed to win several Republican seats and some of these victories point towards them potentially re-taking the House in November.
The seat has been held by a Republican since 1983. According to The Crosstab, it leans fourteen points to the right of the nation and would be a major gain for the Democrats.
What must be very worrying for the Republican Party is that they currently hold 72 seats that are less Republican leaning than Ohio 12th.
The Democrats need to take 23 seats to reclaim the House, so a win today would illustrate just how possible this is with a strong turnout of their base.
The polls have it very close with a point advantage to either side in the last two polls while the betting markets also have it going down to the wire with the Republican candidate Troy Balderson the slight favourite.
The Democrats’ candidate, Danny O’Connor, is a moderate who will try and reclaim the middle political ground from the Republicans.
In his views, he is quite similar to Conor Lamb, who took the Pennsylvania 18th from a Republican in a March special election that I covered here.
He doesn’t support Nancy Peloisi as the Democratic Leader of the House and he is not been backed by (or endorsed) a specific 2020 Presidential hopeful.
If O’Connor can win today, and take another strong Republican seat running on a moderate, centrist ticket, I will be closely following what type of Presidential candidate he Is drawn towards.
A victory in November for the Democrats may contain a number of seat wins in the rust belt states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 2020, the Democrats will need to field a candidate that can potentially beat Trump in all three.
If O’ Connor wins today I am confident the Democrats will win in November and, for reasons I will elaborate on further later, I am very close to predicting the Democrats will go with a male candidate in 2020…
On Brexit, so much has happened in the last two weeks but very little has changed. Time has passed, and May has survived without really presenting a credible plan for the Irish border.
I had believed that a Customs Union amendment would be passed by the Tory rebels in the Trade and Customs Bills that would have, at worst, safeguarded against a Hard Brexit or even tied the United Kingdom to the Customs Union after March 2019.
This would have not fully alleviated the challenged that Brexit posed to Ireland, but it would have been concrete, tangible progress.
Instead the European Research Group Conservative MPs were able to add clauses that made it illegal for Northern Ireland to have a separate customs structure to that of Britain, as well as another clause that only allows the UK to collect VAT on behalf of EU nations if they do the same for the UK.
The former makes the Irish backstop, agreed in December and formalized in March, almost impossible to implement in the case of No Deal and ups the ante on the Irish government to concede further on what constitutes a hard border.
The latter makes Theresa May’s Facilitated Customs Arrangement, one of the central tenets of here Chequer’s Plan, very likely to be rejected by the European Commission.
It’s a very worrying state of affairs and the lack of certainty continues to damage all parties involved.
I always thought that a soft Brexit would ultimately prevail but would probably take Theresa May down with it.
The Irish government have lobbied hard within Brussels and have take a very firm stance. This has played well with the Irish electorate and has garnered the support of all the major political parties.
However, as it becomes less certain that a soft Brexit that retains the status quo at the Irish border will emerge, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have begun to challenge Leo Varadkar’s affirmation that there will be no change.
Sinn Fein are a bit of a disadvantage here as their seven seats at Westminster could have been enough to swing some of the key votes mentioned above.
I believe Fianna Fail will now go on the offensive on Brexit and seek to criticize the Fine Gael position as naïve and out of touch with the political realities in Brussels and London.
There is still a small chance that a final agreement can be built from the basis of the Chequer’s proposal, though this is unlikely.
If the proposal does indeed collapse, the Irish government must hope that this becomes the moment the UK parliament finally asserts its will and decides that economics trumps party politics.
Otherwise, Leo Varadkar could fall from grace almost as fast has Theresa May has…
I am keeping a keen eye on the November US midterms. I wrote a few blog posts on the last few “by-elections” that took place to try and get an indication of where the American electorate are ahead of the voting on November 6th.
We are now into the Primaries phase where incumbents are often challenged by more than one candidate from their own party, ahead of facing off against their counterpart candidate in November.
Like in the UK first past the post electoral system, many races are very uncompetitive in the United States Congress. This can often lead to the primary contest being much more dramatic and exciting.
This was not meant to be the case in the 14th Congressional District in New York where the incumbent Joe Crowley was a 10 term Congressmen who had not even faced a challenger since 2004.
However, he faced a challenge from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York native, of Puerto Rican descent and a self-confessed socialist and member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
She had previously volunteered for Bernie Sanders campaigns and is in the far left of the Democratic Party.
Nobody saw this win coming and, in the end, it was a convincing margin of victory 57.5% to 42.5%. She campaigned on a progressive platform with Medicare, gun control and the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
The results so far have been too mixed so far to create a narrative of whether the Democratic campaign will have an establishment or more leftwing feel.
Ocasio-Cortez ran a great campaign and stayed close to the ground. Even her campaign video is inspiring for the more sentimental among us.
I’ll continue to post sporadically on the build up to the elections. It still seems quite likely that the Republicans will retain the Senate but that the Democrats are slight favourites to retake the House.
If this is the case, it is also crucial to observe what type of Democratic Congress emerges. Will it be one that wants to push the progressive side of the party and potentially support another Presidential bid by Bernie Sanders or will the establishment be emboldened and believe a more mainstream Democratic candidate will still be able to take on and defeat Donald Trump…
I haven’t written about Brexit in almost four months. It’s a frustrating topic that produces daily coverage but often little in terms of tangible progress or moments that truly move the Brexit needle.
There is a constant expectation of drama and a desire for decisive political moments but so often they fail to transpire.
That said, it is clear we have now reached a point where “fudging” becomes a lot less viable as an option for Theresa May and her government if she wants to avoid a No – Deal scenario.
She will face a crucial test this week when the Withdrawal Bill comes back to Westminster with 15 amendments from the Lords.
When these amendments were tabled a month ago, it looked like there was an appetite for inflicting defeats on the Government from some of the Tory rebels.
The chaos last week over the British proposal for the backstop agreement (which contained another round of David Davis will he /won’t he resign) has rattled many in the party as the consensus seems to be his resignation would have led to others and this could really have threatened the stability of the government.
This may convince the some of the Tory rebels that this isn’t the time or the appropriate forum for firing from both barrels.
Amber Rudd alluded to this in an article in the Telegraph yesterday where she wrote;
"a technical measure which is essential to getting Brexit right".
This leads me to believe that she won’t be supporting the amendments or rallying other moderates to the cause either.
It would be in line with so many other seminal Brexit moments so far where almost every analyst predicted major drama and the potential rolling of political heads but “fudge” won out…
However, even if the amendments aren’t passed tomorrow there could still be some massive blows to Theresa May and Brexit this month.
The Irish border has not been resolved at all and I stand by my analysis from the time of the December summit that a political earthquake was probably only delayed.
She will also have to face down an amendment to the Trade Bill that has come from her own party and now has the backing of the Labour Party.
It is hard to see how she avoids this defeat. The only question is whether it will return to parliament before the summer recess or even before the EU Summit at the end of the month.
There may also be challenges to the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill and further amendments tabled.
In summary Theresa and the Conservatives may overturn all 15 amendments this week but if she does it is likely more a tactical retreat from her political opponents (in both Labour and her own party) rather than a major political coup.
If she can’t overturn the 15 amendments then her position may become untenable very shortly thereafter as the challenges pile up and her authority diminishes.
Theresa May has successfully managed to balance the scales since losing her majority in last June’s election, but this June may turn out to be even more damaging to her premiership…