Tough Day for the Boris-Hating Punditocracy

Today is a tough day for journalists and columnists who will never be as successful as Boris, particularly the ones that wrote him off.

And what happened to Gove?


Of course it’s not just the pundits who wrote Boris off:

As Brexiteers celebrate tonight, spare a thought for the principled haters and even the mere detesters of Boris, Rafael Behr, Matthew d’Ancona, Philip Collins‏, Polly Toynbee, Owen Jones and not forgetting, of course, Mathew Parris. It can’t be easy for them…

Australian Labor Won 54 Polls in a Row, Including Exit Poll, Lost Actual Election

As a shocked Australian Labour Party licks its wounds at the unexpected loss of the election, the governing Liberal Party will be giving thanks to Lynton Crosby’s campaign management and polling. Three months ago every “expert” pundit down under expected and predicted Labor to win the general election. Some exit polls today even showed a clear Labour majority. Even as the counts came in Labor refused to concede. CNN eventually reported that “Labor May Have Lost Unlosable Election”.

The messaging was classic Crosby, repeated continually, Australians were posed a simple choice, “Do you want more jobs or more taxes?” Crosby confounded the pollsters when he delivered a majority Conservative government for Cameron in 2015. He’s done it again against the odds for Morrison in Australia. Tory MPs will be wondering as they mull over their future leadership contenders, whether the combo that delivered London for them in 2008 and 2012 can deliver victory for them again in 2022…

Matthew’s Myth Making


Most left-of-centre broadsheets like to have a tame, ‘nice’ Tory, who understands the party and can translate the Tory tribes for readers who have never kissed a Tory and think they all go to their country estates for fox hunting on the weekends. Mark Wallace does an excellent job of explaining, not campaigning, in his columns. Guido usually checks out Matthew d’Ancona’s Guardian column to see how he explains the exotic Conservative carnivores to the quinoa-eating classes. The former editor of the Spectator is a better read than most Guardianista keyboard culture warriors…

His column this morning concludes:

“Brexit was designed by its most passionate supporters to fail: its purpose was to be betrayed, to enable a new movement to rise up, animated by fury and fear. Such a movement has now been born. It is already tearing the Conservative party to pieces. That, sad to say, is only the beginning of its plan.”

That is a failure of analysis amounting to myth making of his own. After the referendum, Vote Leave wound up, Dominic Cummings went to ground, Nigel Farage was happily cashing in on a media career, Matthew Elliott was off to the corporate world. No one was planning a new movement. They were demob happy and disengaging from frontline politics.

Kidding Guardian readers that Brexiteers would fight for decades as a means to build a movement when the promised Brexitland failed to be delivered just does not make any sense. If he had argued that the failure to deliver would spark a backlash movement, that would be unarguable, to claim that Brexit was designed as a means to build a movement is tosh. It is because this Parliament of Remainers has screwed up that only now a movement is rising. If Parliament even at this late hour somehow voted for a meaningful Brexit, the backlash movement would be stillborn…

EU Negotiating Intransigence Always Precedes a Flip-Flop

The British commentariat has for the past three years delighted in reporting EU negotiating position as if it is an immovable object, the revealed gospel itself. That’s not what their track record in major negotiations suggests…

In 2010 it was almost universally received wisdom in the media and markets that there would be no Greek bailout. All the top figures vigorously denied it was even a possibility, as the Maastricht Treaty specifically precluded such a rescue package. As the EU kept reminding us…

  • The European Central Bank’s chief economist Jurgen Stark said that Greece does not meet the terms for a bailout, and that “The Treaties set out a ‘no bail-out’ clause, and the rules will be respected. This is crucial for guaranteeing the future of a monetary union.”
  • European Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia insisted there was “no special EU plan for Greece”
  • Angela Merkel said “We have a Treaty under which there is no possibility of paying to bail out states.”

Of course, later in 2010, Greece received €310 billion in bailout money, despite that being illegal under treaty…

Guido would gently suggest to political pundits that negotiations are negotiations, and portraying the word of one side as if it is the word of the almighty, especially in the context of a contradictory track record, is beyond daft. The EU claims that the backstop is unlikely to come into play, so a time limit on something that is unlikely to happen is not a reason for the EU to force a disorderly Brexit. The EU consistently bends the rules when they come under pressure…

Profundity of the Punditry: Amber Rudd Edition

Some absolute classics from Fleet Street’s finest over the weekend. The usually sagacious John Rentoul’s Saturday column for the Indy declared Amber Rudd to be in a “surprisingly strong position”:

Dan Hodges at 5:13pm yesterday evening was almost onto something with his view that the latest Guardian story “supports Rudd”:

Top prize however goes to Paul Mason, who confidently tweeted at 9.56pm: “It’s become easier to imagine the end of the world than a Tory minister resigning for probably lying.”

News of Rudd’s departure broke just minutes later. Mason immediately fired off another 20 tweets to bury the take and cover his modesty. Peak neoliberalism? Peak punditry…

Brexit Bill £35-39 Billion: What the Papers Said

The Brexit bill of £35-39 billion (as is being reported) is way less than the newspapers have been telling us it would be over the last few months. The Sunday Times reckoned May would agree to a £50 billion bill, the Telegraph said she had been handed a £50 billion bill by Brussels, most other papers ended up at a figure of €60 billion, the Express feared it could rise as high as €90 billion, and who can forget the FT taking copy from the Commission: “EU raises UK Brexit bill to €100 billion as Paris and Berlin harden stance”. In the end the profundity of the Remain punditry has ended up providing some handy expectations management for Downing Street, who can call this a significant win. A price well worth paying for Brexit…

UPDATE: Special mentions to Matt Holehouse who called it at £40 billion and Harry Cole who called it at £38 billion.

Profundity of the Punditry: Florence Quadruple Whammy

Robert Peston caused a bit of a stir yesterday afternoon reporting that Theresa May was about to “do a Canada”:

“Her aspiration for after those two or perhaps three years of transition is for our future trading relationship to be what is known – in the ghastly jargon – as CETA plus… What this means is we want a trade deal modelled on Canada’s new one (CETA) with the EU, that has just become operative in interim mode, and not the more intimate integration with the EU of Norway or Switzerland. The reason we are doing a Canada is there has been no resiling from the position taken by the PM in her landmark Lancaster House speech… all of that is broadly May’s position, to be expressed tomorrow.”

May actually ruled Canada out:

“One way of approaching this question is to put forward a stark and unimaginative choice between two models: either something based on European Economic Area membership; or a traditional Free Trade Agreement, such as that the EU has recently negotiated with Canada. I don’t believe either of these options would be best for the UK or for the European Union.”

Doh!

Over at the Telegraph they has this top pre-speech scoop:

Except it didn’t come true, there was no mention of this in the speech. Boris seemed happy too, rather than on the verge of resigning. Doh!

What about all those Remain pundits who said again and again that May had dropped her view that “no deal is better than a bad deal”? Asked by Laura K, May confirmed this was still her position. Doh!

Then there was Sky’s Faisal Islam, who after the speech claimed May was “65% towards the Norway model”. Nope, you can read May’s damning verdict of Norway here. Doh!

Brexit reporting not particularly enlightening at the moment…

Brexit and The Economist’s Lack of Intelligence Unit

It is now pretty much established consensus that humbled pollsters are having great difficulty calling votes. The pundits – particularly those at the FT and The Economist – are still ever so keen to sound authoritative on Brexit when it is their house editorial line, rather than the objective study of all factors, that is so clearly what determines their analyses. The Economist has a research and analysis division which claims to be a world leader in global business intelligence – the grandly named Economist Intelligence Unit or the “EIU”. As well as offering subscribers research updates it also does consultancy for corporations who want to know what is going on in the world. The EIU says “our knowledge of economics, politics and socio-demographics is second to none. If you need to see into the future, we can help.” Using “bespoke modelling and scenario analysis” the EIU “can provide country, industry or market scenarios based on expert judgement, modelling” so, “if you need to understand how a country or industry will respond to an event… we can model that too.”  Corporations pay good money for the research and expect it to be reality-based rather than just journalists’ wishful thinking…

Guido has got hold of the EIU report for Britain dated June 28, 2016, five days after the referendum result. On politics it forecast:

  • Our baseline forecast is that Boris Johnson—the former mayor of London and one of the leaders of the “leave” campaign—will succeed David Cameron as the Conservative Party leader and prime minister… Theresa May won.
  • This process will commence with the triggering of Article 50 of the EU treaties to begin the exit process; we expect this to happen by the end of 2016. It was triggered in March 2017.
  • The Labour Party is mired in an acrimonious leadership crisis. We expect that the party’s hard-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will be ousted, and/or that there will be a formal split. Jezza’s not going anywhere. Labour isn’t splitting.
  • They also predict a second referendum will lead to a “jump in support for UKIP.” That remains to be seen.

On the economy EIU forecast:

  • They expected a contraction of 1% in 2017 (compared with 1.8% growth previously) as a slump in domestic demand pulls the economy into recession. UK GDP is on course to grow 1.9% in 2017. No contraction. No recession.
  • They forecast the number of those in work to fall by hundreds of thousands. More people are in work than ever…
  • They gloomily forecast a rapid deterioration in the fiscal position, falling tax revenues, increasing unemployment. None of which happened…
  • They predicted the US Federal Reserve would have to hold interest rates. The Fed raised rates.
  • The EIU predicted anxiety-driven declines in world stock markets, “When an event promises to strip 6% of GDP from the fifth-biggest economy in the world, it is harder for the rest of the global economy to grow as quickly.” Brexit “will ensure that the global economy continues to underperform its potential for at least another two years”World stock markets have rallied strongly post-Brexit.

The EIU predicted that by next year unemployment will rise by 380,000 and GDP will fall by 6% compared to the pre-June 23 baseline. The authors of these EIU reports are what the brilliant Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls “IYIs”, “Intellectual Yet Idiot” academic no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalist-insiders. That class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy League, Oxford-Cambridge education who enjoy telling us what to do. Academico-bureaucrats who are self-described members of the “intelligentsia” who can’t find a coconut on Coconut Island. A year after the Brexit vote the Economist Intelligence Unit has proven that it doesn’t know the right end of a stick.

Profundity of the Punditry: Boris Takes Centre Stage

Yesterday’s papers and broadcasters reported that Boris was to be sidelined during the election – Sky News said definitively that he “won’t take centre stage”, the Times said the same though added a source quote informing readers their story was “b*llocks”. Today’s Times says “Johnson to be Tory TV poster boy”, he gave a major speech last night, has an article in The Sun this morning, has just been on Good Morning Britain, LBC and the Today programme and is about to tour the TV studios. Boris is obviously one of the Tories’ main electoral assets, he reaches the places other Tories cannot and will be key to converting Labour Leave voters. You have to read anti-Boris stories through the jealous eyes of his former colleagues in journalism…

Cheer Up Joyless Columnists, You Have Given Us Much Laughs

Can’t help feeling today that Rafael isn’t going to the same parties as Guido. Must be pretty tough for Rafael at the moment. He’s a centrist, liberal metropolitan political commentator. Broadsheets have an excess inventory of those type of columnists nowadays don’t they? “They write authoritatively, shame it is all bollocks” was a country-dwelling, right-of-centre columnist’s description of his rivals to Guido at a jolly Christmas drinks party. Unfortunately the lumpen liberal wordsmiths don’t go to dinner parties with Corbyn, May or Trump. Worse still they don’t even know people who go to dinner parties with Corbyn, May or Trump…

At some point they must fear that editors are going to realise that this type of columnist is a little surplus to reader requirements and not in the main game any more. Why else might Rafael, and other columnists of his ilk, be joyless?

  • He’s Blairite or whatever they call themselves nowadays. Their host party has been taken over by Corbynista loo-las.
  • He didn’t expect Brexit. Now all the wrong people are enjoying themselves and partying.
  • He was looking forward to President Hillary. She’s their kinda gal. They got Trump.
  • He’s a Guardian journalist. The paper had a billion dollar endowment to last them in perpetuity. They are now losing so much money it won’t last them a decade. Look at what happened to the Indy.

Today is the darkest day of the year, tomorrow it gets lighter. So cheer up Rafael and a hearty Merry Christmas to all the columnists who have had a very difficult and traumatic year: Zoe, Janan, Hugo, Matthew, Matthew, Phil, Philip, John, Gaby, Polly, Jonathan and Marina. You have given the rest of us unintended laughs all year long… 

Boris 2020

owen-boris-2020

The Commentariat that told you the Tories couldn’t win a majority and Corbyn was a no-hoper now tell us that George Osborne is a shoo-in to succeed Cameron in 2019 before becoming PM in 2020. Unfortunately Boris hasn’t got the memo…

Last night at a drinks reception (excellent cheese and cracker canapes sourced by the host’s favourite artisan cheesemonger) for his 2020 think-tank, Owen Paterson announced that he would be drawing up a set of robust Tory policies for whoever wants to stand as leader to adopt. The room was a who’s who of right-wingers, from Norman Tebbit to Charles Moore, though no likely leadership candidates showed their face at the actual event. Timely then to mention that the night before Guido spied Owen Paterson and Boris Johnson deep in a conspiratorial conversation in parliament…

Dan Hodges’ Labour Leadership Journey in Full

Dan Hodges has had more flip flops in the Labour leadership race than an Ibiza beach rave:

June 9: “Will Labour choose a Tony Blair or a Neil Kinnock? Liz Kendall is Toni Blair. Young. Tough. Single-minded. Kendall has already set out the most challenging critique of why her party lost in May. She represents the best chance of unleashing the slingshot that downs the Tory Goliath… Yvette Cooper is Toni Kinnock… Keep a close eye for whether it’s Neil Kinnock or Tony Blair who tops the ballot.”

July 2: “The Labour Party should elect Yvette Cooper as its next leader. And – more importantly – it should be the Blairite, modernising faction within the Labour Party that delivers her victory and is seen to deliver her victory.”

July 27: The only way Labour can win the next election is to elect Corbyn now… I’ve signed up again precisely so I can be part of that wave of support for Jeremy Corbyn myself. It’s 23 months since I left Labour because it opposed the bombing of Syria. Now I’ve rejoined so I can vote for a man who helps lead the Stop The War coalition. Which I suppose indicates I’ve been on a bit of a journey.”

August 13: 

With four weeks to go he still has time to change his mind at least another couple of times…

While Guido is at it, how many days is it since Hodges promised to streak naked down Whitehall? 97 days have passed since the election and we still haven’t seen Dan in his birthday suit…

Lobby Boris Bubble Deflates Embarrassingly Quickly in Newark

Astoundingly incompetent analysis from much of the political media this evening speculating on Boris standing in Newark. Only one problem – the local Tories have already selected their candidate back in November. CCHQ have been on a by-election footing for weeks as Guido reported in The Sun two weeks ago.

Michael Crick on Channel 4 News and the BBC’s Nick Robinson as well as Norman Smith have both been speculating that Boris might stand in Newark.  A little bit of investigative Googling would have revealed Robert Jenrick’s web page on conservatives.com.robert-jenrick

And his Twitter feed:

robert-jenrick

Or the press release

Cllr Stuart Wallace, Chairman of Newark Conservative Association, said:

“The Association wish to express our thanks for the work Patrick has done for Newark and for many of his constituents individually, over the last 13 years, both as a Conservative and as an Independent MP.

“Following Patrick’s earlier decision not to stand again, we selected a superb candidate, Robert Jenrick, who has already been very active locally.

“The Association are united in support for Robert and will be campaigning to ensure that he will be elected as Newark’s next MP.”

Doh!

Pundit’s “Budget for the Old” Wins Youth Vote Weird Ed Has Lost Younger Voters Since Budget

If you read the pundits, for example  and , the budget was aimed at older voters to counteract UKIP’s attraction to older more traditional small ‘c’ conservative voters. This is the pundit’s explanation for the poll lead collapse by Labour – now down to just 1%. Pundits claim Osborne has cunningly found granny’s political g-spot.

Has he really? Here is the move post budget in Tory support:

tory-budget-poll

Younger voters up 5%, middle years up 3%, grey-haired support unchanged for the Tories. Whereas for Ed Miliband:

lab-budget-poll

Labour has actually gained older voters perhaps nostalgic for the Kinnock type socialism now offered by Miliband. Weird Ed has lost 6% support from young voters, slightly less from middle age voters and gained 2% more support from aging lefties. Don’t think this is a random poll error – the YouGov results above are based on combining 8 polls to give some good sample sizes. Pundits will no doubt mull this over and recalibrate their musings. Guido has a working hypothesis, backed up by some data: Ed just isn’t cool. He’s an uncool weirdo that younger voters don’t want to be associated with, he has loser written all over him. 51 per cent of 18-24 year olds describe Ed Miliband as weird, the percentage of the Shadow Cabinet that agrees is even higher…

Today's Newspaper Health Advice in Full

Guido’s off to lunch…

Data Shows Cost-of-Living Crisis About to End

The consensus of broadsheet pundits is that Ed has, with his cost-of-living crisis line that prices are rising faster than wages, nimbly and cleverly switched from a losing argument on the economy to a winning “retail offer”. Guido thinks this successfully plays into the British national psyche; grumbling about both the weather and the cost of things rising. However as the economy rises unemployment falls and earnings will caeteris paribus begin to outstrip inflation as sure as the sun rises. The ONS data shows this is about to happen…

cpi-v-median-earnings

Guido is beginning to worry that Miliband, like his former mentor Gordon Brown, hasn’t really got a strategy. The whole “too far, too fast” thing was bound to end in tears unless there was a permanent recession. As it happened the predictions by Ed Balls of a triple-dip turned out to be über-pessimistic, statisticians say there wasn’t even a double-dip. The only recession the UK suffered originated under Gordon Brown.

The energy cost argument still generates headlines, however international comparisons show that UK energy costs are middle of the league table for Europe – though US fracking and shale gas means their energy costs are way below ours. Fracking however is opposed by Ed Miliband.

What then? Having lost the argument on debt and the economy, followed – food banks notwithstanding – by the cost-of-living crisis evaporating, Labour will have to change tack again. Labour can’t fight on economic competence, because so contaminated is Ed Balls that he even loses to George Osborne. Labour are blamed for the economic mess and are suspected by the voters of still being untrustworthy on dealing with the deficit and debts. They would be unwise to fight on leadership; “weak and weird” Ed versus “posh and out of touch” Dave is not a great prospect for Labour.

Guido’s guess is they will try to have it both ways, partially accept the coalition’s spending envelope and pretend they can tax their way to prosperity. A policy Miliband’s socialist frère Hollande has now abandoned. All the chatter (spun by his adviser Stewart Wood) about Ed’s plans for “big changes in our economy” – a strategy based on East Coast academic theories from Harvard professors on new “Varieties of Capitalism” – will have Lynton Crosby crying with laughter into his (Australian) Chardonnay. Doesn’t mean Miliband isn’t going to try it…

UPDATE: The FT has surveyed economists and they mostly think households will start to feel better off – this is after consumer confidence surged 20% in 2013. Well spotted economists…

ft-survey-economists

Another Underw-Helm-ing Week at the Observer

Another stunning scoop from Westminster’s finest political editor. Fresh from his “someone was mean to me on the internet” splash a few months back this journalist of unrivalled political acumen has revealed in the Observer that leaders of rival political parties are not welcome in the secure zones of their rival’s conferences. So Farage will not be allowed to speak at Tory conference, nor presumably will Ed Miliband. This narrative smashing revelation is surely worthy of some sort of prize? Lets all give Toby Helm a big round of applause…

Guido will have another struggling Sunday pundit getting desperate later…

Andrew Wrongsley

Super-connected and popular sage Andrew Rawnsley told his dwindling Observer readers on Sunday that “the ministers who are resisting the chancellor most fiercely are nearly all concentrated on the bluest end of the Conservative party”. He highlighted Eric Pickles and Chris Grayling as some of the fiercest fighters refusing to give in to the Treasury. This morning the Chancellor announced that both Pickles and Grayling had “agreed to significant savings”. Cringe…

Where Grayling was concerned “quite radical reforms” will lead to further savings in in prisons and  court service, sources familiar with Eric Pickles’ thinking say he always believes that more savings can be found, especially in Whitehall. They point to his pushing of the transparency agenda to highlight government overspending. A Treasury insider was scathing: “Mr Rawnsley should check his so called facts. As today’s news shows the Spending Round process is making good progress and what he wrote on Sunday was well wide of the mark.” Another must read column…

Guardian Accuses Jew of Not Being “Good Christian Person”

The Guardian’s Zoe Williams writes this morning:

“By its own terms, [marriage] must be lifelong. It is, in other words, beyond them. It is beyond Boris Johnson, it is beyond divorcee Nadine Dorries, just as going back to basics was beyond John Major, and being that kind of “good Christian person” was beyond Edwina Currie.”

Williams singles Currie out for not being a ‘good Christian person’ in her rant about Tories and gay marriage. Quite apart from the fact that Currie is a long-standing supporter of gay rights, who was behind attempts to equalise the age of consent, she is also Jewish. Awkward…

Smart Money is on Matthew Goodwin to Get it Wrong

On Sky just now was a talking head “expert” who claimed “I was like every other analyst and everyone in the Westminster village”. Lorna Dunkley saw straight through him:

Whereas Guido will be enjoying a glass or two this evening after comfortably winning his bet – as tipped to blog readers – on UKIP to win more than 50 seats. […] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Boris as Hulk…

‘Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them. Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.’

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