Alastair Meeks thinks they’ll select in completely the wrong way
Epigone is an underused word. Originating from the ancient Greek for “offspring”, it means “undistinguished successor”, referring to the sons of the Seven Against Thebes who sought to avenge their fathers.
Politics is littered with epigoni. Margaret Thatcher was followed by John Major, who had imbibed the economics but lacked the lustre. John Major was followed by William Hague, who lacked not just the lustre but also the gravitas. William Hague was followed by Iain Duncan Smith, who lacked not just the gravitas but any concept of strategy. When he was replaced by Michael Howard, the Conservative party was in danger of disappearing up its own fundament.
The same point can be illustrated through Labour. Tony Blair was followed by Gordon Brown, who had spent so long craving the top job that he had forgotten why he wanted it. Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn further demonstrated the law of diminishing returns, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour exploring the concept of a political party without a functioning hierarchy. Labour can be expected to recover at some point but long is the way and hard.
In each case the successor was chosen to address some of the perceived weaknesses of the previous leader (in the case of John Major, the ability to unite the party; in the case of William Hague, the ability to unite the party; and in the case of Iain Duncan Smith, the ability to soothe the party’s soul) and in each case the selection process overlooked some of the previous leader’s compensating virtues.
The Conservative party will shortly be required to select a new leader. They will select in large part on the basis of addressing perceived flaws in the current leader. So where does David Cameron apparently go wrong?
When David Cameron steps down, whether sooner or later, he will leave a divided and unhappy party behind him. Many Conservatives think he is insufficiently reliably Conservative and more think he is insufficiently Eurosceptic. There is no shortage of Conservative MPs who think that he pays insufficient regard to their opinions. So if one is drawing up an identikit of the next Conservative leader, anyone who is perceived to be trustworthy, Eurosceptic, old school Conservative, a unifier and consultative is going to be off to a flying start.
What does that mean for the betting? It means that those who trade off their star quality rather than their ideology or who seem careerist are under a serious handicap. Those who are seen as pivotal in the EU referendum debate on either side (but especially on the Remain side) will find it hard to present themselves as a unity candidate.
None of the front rank candidates clear all these hurdles but some clear more than most. Boris Johnson hits every single one. Yet he is currently the front runner in the betting. He is in with a shout (and a considerably better one than George Osborne, who remains far too short) but he looks less likely than Michael Gove or Theresa May. Jeremy Hunt or Philip Hammond would also meet the required negative attributes better than Boris Johnson if they decide to throw their hats in the ring.
If David Cameron stands down in a couple of years’ time, there will be new contenders to reckon with who will look less sullied than Boris Johnson. If David Cameron has kept him out of the Cabinet (or given him a menial role) and his period as London Mayor has waned in the public memory, he will look like a much longer shot. Boris Johnson’s poor referendum campaign means that he is now a clear lay. I have bet accordingly.
But the Conservatives will go about selecting a leader in completely the wrong way (in fairness, all political parties usually make the same mistake). As stated above, they are likely to pick their next leader on the basis that he or she does not have faults that David Cameron has – in other words, for what they aren’t rather than for what they are. When you look at the political leaders who really stood out, they are remembered for their positive attributes. It would be better to select a leader for those attributes in the first place. Then we would have rather fewer epigoni.
What I find hard is to work out whether this will have any impact in the elections a week today. On the face of it this could damage the red team’s hopes in London though I’ve been impressed by the way Khan has dealt with this.
Alastair Meeks on the importance of the London, Scottish & Welsh surveys
The 2015 general election was a disaster for the polling companies. On the eve of the election, all the pollsters were predicting a hung Parliament with the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck. In the event, the Conservatives were 6% ahead of Labour and got an overall majority.
Since then, the pollsters have flagellated themselves, put on hair shirts and sought to uncover what exactly went wrong. They have conducted investigations, issued reports and held symposia on the subject. They have put in place corrective measures. But we don’t yet know whether the time for remorse is over. There remains a gnawing anxiety that the pollsters might still be getting it wrong.
The general election was not an isolated failure. The Scottish independence referendum polling was fairly uniformly 3% off, the same margin as the standard general election error. This wasn’t much noted at the time but if the error had been 3% the other way from the published polls, Scotland would now be independent. In a close referendum, accuracy to plus or minus 3% is not much use.
The EU referendum betting reflects that. The betting markets are apparently moving independently of any polling. Opinion polls are being treated as having junk status. This seems excessive. We can at least expect them to be giving us a sense of which way opinion is moving, even if their absolute accuracy is suspect.
In any case, we have an upcoming opportunity to calibrate their accuracy. The 5 May round of elections will allow us to see the accuracy of polling in Scotland, Wales and London on those elections. There has been plenty of polling of all three of these elections. So watch them carefully: they will be invaluable in helping us determine how effectively the pollsters have got to grips with their problems.
If the polls perform reasonably well against the actual outcome, take note. So if Mayor Khan has won a comfortable victory, Labour are left running a minority government against a Plaid Cymru opposition and the SNP increase their overall majority, perhaps it’s time to start taking the polls a bit more seriously again when placing your bets. After all, it would be a shame to be completely discounting a potential source of information, wouldn’t it?
This week in the TV studio Keiran Pedley and I were joined by pollster Rob Vance and, via Skype, by the leading Welsh political expert, Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University. (apologies for one or two sound issues)
The latter was particularly interesting given the Tata Steel decision and the proximity of the Welsh Assembly elections on next week on May 5th.
Next week there’ll be no TV studio because of partners in this venture, Tip TV, are moving to a new purpose built studio. There will be a podcast.
The Remain side has started the fight at a furious pace, leaving Leave gasping for air after two blows to its solar plexus. First, it got hit by a Treasury report claiming that by 2030 each British household could be £4,300 worse off if it voted to leave the EU. Then Barack Obama weighed in with his view that if Britain were to vote to leave the EU, it would join the back of the queue for new trade deals.
The Leave response to both has been dazed and confused. In each case a multitude of Leave campaigners came out with a multitude of response lines, good and bad, and in each case the most ill-judged was pounced upon by Remain and pawed at for days on end. As a result, the public could gather the impression that Leave think that £4,300 is a bargain basement price for getting out of the EU and that Barack Obama’s ancestry is pivotal to understanding why he is saying that the USA wouldn’t race to do a trade deal. We are seeing Gresham’s law of political debate, where bad arguments are driving out the good ones.
Leave’s own campaign was mauled by Remain also. Leave’s prospectus for Brexit is being portrayed by Remain as the Albanian option, drawing on an unwise Leave reference to a list of countries with similar deals (in different circumstances). It is unlikely that floating voters’ hearts pulse to a Balkan beat.
Leave need to regroup and they need to get a grip. It was always going to be hard running a tight campaign when so many big egos were at loggerheads as to who should be in charge but the effort has to be made. Perhaps the first week’s failures will chasten some of those big egos. Perhaps.
Leave need to get back to home territory for a while. The public’s number one topic of concern in opinion polls is immigration and Leave need to try to tie getting that under control to a decision to leave the EU. This connection is tautologous in the heads of many Leavers but it is nowhere near as secure in the public’s minds as those Leavers seem to believe. Further work is needed here. So it is no surprise to see Michael Gove take on this subject this week.
Immigration in the public’s mind comprises many different things: economic migrants from the EU; economic migrants from outside the EU; asylum seekers arriving in Britain; illegal immigrants to Britain; and disorderly migration to the EU (of both asylum seekers and economic migrants) from non-EU countries. These in turn tie in with many different concerns: competition for jobs; pressure on public services; sense of community; law and order; and the EU’s response to social challenges. Some of these have nothing to do with the EU, some of these are entirely the product of our membership of the EU and some of these are indirectly affected by our EU membership. But they all get jumbled up together in the Leave campaign’s arguments.
Clearly Leave benefit from this jumbling to some extent. In order to make an argument, however, they need to pick one or two attack lines out of this and run them hard. So, what to pick?
Leave need to avoid anything that could be construed as dogwhistling on race – dragging the US president’s parentage into the debate emphatically does not help in this regard. The voters for whom such arguments are clinching are anyway almost certainly already in the Leave camp. For that reason I would not recommend majoring on the security threats caused by some migrants.
Leave would do far better to focus on the economic impact of immigration, in particular the impact on wages. The last notable contribution to the debate from Stuart Rose, the nominal leader of the Remain campaign, was to note that Brexit would lead to wage rises. It is incomprehensible that Leave have not been exploiting this relentlessly ever since. But they seem more intent on inhaling the fragrant air of freedom than on informing the public about any economic advantages of their position.
The clip at the top of the thread shows the editor of the Independent, from 2:36 to 3:02, fluently explain how immigration is perceived to be good for the rich and bad for the poor. In fact, the evidence is quite nuanced on the point as this Bank of England report shows – “the biggest effect is in the semi/unskilled services sector, where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2 percent reduction in pay”. Nevertheless, no one is going to persuade the public in the next two months that wages aren’t held down by immigration. So Leave should take full advantage.
The Treasury report in support of the government policy of Remain was founded on the assumption that there would be 3 million more migrants in Britain by 2030. Leave should be hammering that home. (Of course, Leave’s own economic projections are also built on the assumption of large numbers of migrants, but that doesn’t need to be mentioned.) By playing on a sense that not only have the Remainers not done anything about immigration, they don’t want to, Leave can hope to lead a peasants’ revolt against the establishment. They can also hope to attract working class Labour supporters without whom there is no plausible route to a victory for the Leave campaign.
Can Leave stick to a single message of this type? That may be their biggest challenge. With so many divas, it will be hard to get them singing in harmony. Or even singing the same song.
On the Democrat side, expect Hillary to add to her total – the question for Sanders will be whether he can keep the damage to under 300 pledged delegates and perhaps scrape out a win in Rhode Island – which looks his best shot. The contest was over long ago anyways.
On the GOP side, the states run through as follows
Delaware A foregone conclusion, the only thing of interest will be whether Trump can beat his score of 60.5% he achieved in New York. Winner takes all, chalk up 16 delegates for Trump.
ConnecticutAll about Trump vs 50% here- both in the state and individual congressional districts. The rules are identical to New York where Trump passed 50% easily – but the polling is on a knife edge here for Trump vs 50%.
Rhode Island Trump will score around 50% again here, but it is proportional so he’ll take 9 – 10 of the delegates. Trump vs 50%, alot less critical here than in Connecticut.
Maryland Winner takes all by congressional district (And State)
Trump will win the state by a YUuuuuuuuuuge margin but watch out for wide geographic variability which may well hand some CDs to Kasich near DC (4, 5, 8) are the ones to watch I think.
Doubt Ted will get any delegates here(His vote is too weak and diluted at that)… and apparently Kasich hasn’t filed full slates in some CDs including 4 and 8… we shall see !
Trump will win by a wide margin, that isn’t in doubt I think. What is more interesting is which unbound delegates are elected to head off to Cleveland.
Here is the full list (Pity the poor voters in CD10 where they will need to vote for up to 3 of those dels).
A lot of people I expect will not bother, and Cruz looked to be more organised on this front. However prominent TV/Radio personality Sean Hannity has made a point of listing all the delegates on his site which might help Trump supporters if they are intelligent enough to help themselves…
Lord knows who you vote for if you want Kasich to be Pres though..
Even though I expect Cruz voters to be more informed and organised than Trump voters, Trump has the numbers and Cruz can’t be as organised as he is in a caucus. Once we know the delegates we can work out expected UNBOUND numbers for the candidates. Unless they Welch on CD winner commitment…