Climate Change Policy, A brief history and where we currently stand

Last week came the report of Dr Alan Finkel the Chief Scientist of Australia on how to transition from traditional sources of energy to a more modern renewable source of energy. This week as Parliament has returned the Liberal Party have once again shown signs of division on how to proceed on the issue of Climate Change and future energy security. The Liberal Party has had a number of positions on Climate Change over the last ten years and before discussing the current situation it would be worth re visiting how the Liberal Party has progressed on the issue over the last 10 years.

In 2007 with Kevin Rudd having secured an election winning lead in the polls for a sustained period John Howard released his plan to bring in an Emissions Trading Scheme (1). This policy was aimed at lowering the popularity of Kevin Rudd and Labour on the issue of Climate Change and was a practical measure investing money in incentivising Businesses to use lower emission methods for energy and water use as well as seek to invest in Nuclear Power. Given the announcement of the policy occurred so close to the election and given that Howard did not invest as much money as what the Labor Party proposed the idea was seen as not to go far enough. Indeed the Liberal Party went on to lose the 2007 election which led to his plan becoming redundant.

Post the election loss Brendan Nelson became the Liberal leader (quite the feat given video footage of him addressing a crowd saying he’d never vote Liberal in his life), under his leadership the Liberal approach to climate change appeared to be a wait for America or China to move on Climate Change to take a policy position. This approach was not popular with the Shadow Treasurer at the time Malcolm Turnbull and he would continually make visits to the oppositions office to call Brendan Nelson weak and useless. As a result it was with little surprise that in September of 2008 Malcolm Turnbull challenged for the leadership and won.

Malcolm Turnbull started his leadership well and was able to land some blows on Kevin Rudd for claims of going too far with spending in reaction to the financial crisis that had hit the global society. His leadership took a terminal turn however when a treasury advisor created a fake email that claimed electoral fraud on behalf of Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd that became known as Utegate, the fallout of the matter was that the public believed that Malcolm Turnbull had a tendency to react ferociously to policies without considering the impact of an issue rationally. The final straw on Malcolm Turnbull’s first leadership however was the issue of climate change and in particular his support for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. (2) The CPRS scheme essentially looked to place a cap on how much emissions could be released by businesses and then sets up a trading scheme for businesses to trade greenhouse emissions. How the trading scheme works is that if a business was at their cap for greenhouse polluting then they could pay money to buy more emissions from a company who were below their emissions cap. This effectively penalises companies who emit too many greenhouse gases and reward the companies that emit less greenhouse gases. When the government announced this scheme Malcolm Turnbull announced that he would support the scheme with some amendments which he was able to secure through the shadow minister Ian McFarlane for Agriculture sectors. However by this point the Conservative base of the leadership had grown tired of Turnbull’s leadership and spoke out against the issue. This led to a Coalition cabinet meeting that ended in Turnbull saying the issue had passed the party room despite their being clear opposition to the policy. This led to the famous quote by Peter Slipper saying that Malcolm Turnbull had acted like a Zimbabwe election being set up by Robert Mugabe. Shortly afterwards there was a three way contest between Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull and given Joe Hockey’s non committal view on the issue he lost in the first round of the leadership ballot which led to a shock Tony Abbott win by one vote.

Having taken the leadership and with the recent vote down of the CPRS issue by the Liberal Party conservative members and the Greens for the measure not being strong enough Abbott launched a strong negative campaign on the issue of the CPRS. With Kevin Rudd also not able to secure a global consensus at the Copenhagen climate change summit the Labor party walked away from their policy position that Kevin Rudd had once described as the biggest challenge of our generation. This combined with internal criticism about Kevin Rudd’s leadership style and poor implementation of the Mining Resources Tax led to Julia Gillard challenging for the Prime Ministership and after a night that saw the numbers drift away from the incumbent PM, Kevin Rudd chose to stand down as leader rather than lose comprehensively in the leadership ballot.

During the 2010 election Julia Gillard promised no Carbon Tax under a government I lead while Tony Abbott proposed a Direct Action policy. The Direct Action policy (3) aimed to incentivise businesses who reduced emissions as well as set up a Green army to have young people take part in conservation activities to help improve the environment directly. There was a lot of criticism of this plan for not doing enough to fight climate change and also that the cost to actually reduce emissions to the climate agreement level would be greater than what the level the Liberal Party were claiming. This scrutiny on the policy became less after the 2010 election because as a result of the Greens forming an official coalition with the Labor Party to help give Julia Gillard minority government the Liberal Party and particularly Tony Abbott could run the line that Julia Gillard had lied during the election and that this new tax would make energy prices rise through the roof and hurt several job industries. As with most political attacks there was a large amount of spin however with the Financial Crisis already having hurt Australian’s middle class society, the public were ready to revolt over this promise and Gillard spent the 2010 – 2013 period fighting off poor polling as well as an internal campaign from Kevin Rudd to return to his place as PM. With this is in mind even though the Carbon Tax was passed there was a sense that this would only be temporary as the public and businesses knew that the Liberal Party would win the next election and their first policy move would be to unwind the Carbon Tax. Indeed the Labor Party returned to Kevin Rudd just before the 2013 election but the matter of the leadership spill left him a bruised political figure compared to his first election campaign in 2007 and the Labor Party were comprehensively defeated by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party in the 2013 Election.

On the eve of the 2013 election Tony Abbott made a promise of no cuts to the ABC, Health and Education. In the 2014 Budget Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott made a number of unpopular decisions in order to bring about budget repair and this combined with Tony Abbott already being a divisive figure to the public led to a significant drop in the polls, indeed there were significant concerns amongst Coalition MPS about the Liberal Party being a 1 term government. Before losing his leadership to Malcolm Turnbull Tony Abbott was able to get his Direct Action policy through parliament with the support of Clive Palmer (4) and his Palmer United Party senators. This was despite Clive Palmer earlier coming out to a press conference with Al Gore to present the merits for an Emission Trading Scheme similar to what Kevin Rudd had proposed back at the end of 2009. That press conference with Al Gore was a confusing one for many analysts given Clive Palmer’s history as a mine and Al Gore’s history with the environment!

With Malcolm Turnbull winning the leadership and Prime Ministership back in 2015 many members of the public hoped to see movement on climate policy. However that reaction ignored the practicalities of leading a party, having taken the leadership from Tony Abbott who was criticised for making “Captain’s Calls” and himself being criticised for doing as much in his first leadership tilt, any dramatic movement on issues would have seen a revolt from a large number of Coalition MPs and would have seen him replaced by another leader. This reality was only exaggerated by the 2016 double dissolution election where the Liberal Party suffered a swing against them and were left with a one seat majority. Now the argument should be that the Liberal Party were headed to a large loss under Tony Abbott and that Malcolm Turnbull deserved clear air to improve the electability of the Liberal Party but sections of the Liberal Right have shown that this is not possible and indeed the defection of Corey Bernadi to become an independent senator showed the tough balancing act that Malcolm faces now.

So that’s the 10 year history of Climate Change debate in this country, I think it speaks volumes to the divisiveness of the issue that so many politicians have lost their jobs over the issue and so many policies have been attempted to be implemented and yet we are still in the same place essentially as back in 2007. For this both major parties deserve criticism but for mine the Greens also deserve some criticism that they majorly seem to avoid on this issue. If the Greens had of accepted Kevin Rudd’s position on climate change in 2009 then the CPRS would have passed through the Senate and Kevin Rudd would have most likely won the 2010 election. Having won two elections Kevin Rudd may have then been more likely to smoothly transition to Julia Gillard at some point and given she was a popular politician before the 2010 coup she may have been a much better Prime Minister with the clear air of a united cabinet. Sometimes in order to get to the ultimate destination you need to accept a midway point and it’s then easier to negotiate to your desired position from the middle ground.

The Dr. Finkel review analysed an Emissions Intensity Scheme which is something closer to the Labor Party policy in that it penalises companies that emit too much greenhouse gas and would see coal generators and big greenhouse gas emitting companies close earlier allowing for a higher renewable energy target. This is not feasible for the Coalition Party who are against there being penalties for businesses that continue to emit at higher rates and also there is a concern about the transition from coal to renewable energy too soon. This worry is because something like solar and wind energy provide less reliable voltage and frequency than traditional energy sources then if something extreme happens weather wise power supply may be cut which leads to situation like in South Australia last year where a large amount of people lost power for an extended period of time. The bigger vote impacts of this transition are that if there is a switch to renewable energy sources too quickly then coal workers are suddenly left out of work and in a job market that has been unpredictable since the financial crisis there are worries for whether older workers will ever re find work. Also the price of gas has increased dramatically recently and the transitioning stop gap from coal to renewable energy has been gas and as the price of gas has increased it has led to price rises in electricity for public members. This has led to the government being able to run the attack that Labor State Governments are not supplying enough energy and transitioning to renewable energy too fast has led to increased power prices. With this in mind the Finkel report suggested a Clean Energy Target. This is a market initiative that sets a target on how much energy use should come from clean energy that encourages businesses to invest in cleaner energy resources. What makes this more sellable to the Liberal Party is that it does not favour one method of technology over another which means that as long as coal is used in a cleaner way that can still be used in the near future while eventually more renewable power sources are implemented. The report also ensures that if a Coal Power Plant is to close then there needs to be at three years notice which avoids a sudden gap in energy supply from an unexpected closure such as the Hazlewood and Port Augusta Power Plant. The problem for Malcolm Turnbull is that business will pass on the costs of using lower greenhouse gases to customers which then makes it another price on carbon. Given the legacy of Tony Abbott and his opposition to pricing carbon it has come as little surprise that he and other coalition members of his political persuasion have come out against the CET and Tuesday saw a heated Cabinet debate that saw the policy broadly supported by the party room but with a not insignificant amount of members opposed to the issue. If at the stage the reader is getting a sense of dejavu then that’s not surprising as their are more than a few similarities between this debate and the one that ended Turnbull’s leadership in 2009. The added difficult is that with the polls showing Turnbull behind Bill Shorten in the 2PP vote there is not the political capital to spend on this issue. In order to get this CET through Parliament Malcolm Turnbull will need Labor support and while Bill Shorten has offered some bipartisan support there is a temptation for Labor to play politics on the issue as a divided Coalition will only help Labor electoral position.

Lastly is the issue of Nuclear Power which continues to be the elephant in the room when energy supply is discussed. As I mentioned earlier when John Howard announced he would consider an ETS in 2007 part of his policy included funding towards nuclear power. This has been considered both by states and federal parties over the years however has never been implemented as any move has faced strident opposition. There seems to be general Scientific consensus that Nuclear Power is an important part of energy supply due to being able to supply a large amount of energy that will be required if we completely move away from coal in the future. This is something that is questioned as to whether renewable energy can do, can it be used as the sole energy source for a country. The Scientific argument against nuclear energy is as to how clean uranium mining is and whether there is a significant difference in emission rates for Nuclear Power considering the levels of uranium mining that would be required to provide sufficient energy. The publics concern seems to stem from issues of safety with Nuclear Power. The major concern stems from how nuclear waste will be stored and the nuclear weapon testing by the Brits in the 1950’s has led to medical issues for affected communities that rightly is concerning when any new plans for nuclear waste storage is discussed. The other main safety concern is the impact of a Nuclear Power Plant reactor spill and despite the evidence that suggests that Nuclear Power is indeed safe and that when there has been issues it been man made error, it’s hard to eliminate the images associated with the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters that are used as evidence of the dangers of Nuclear Energy.

 

 

References

(1)  http://australianpolitics.com/2007/07/17/howard-commits-to-emissions-trading-scheme.html

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_Pollution_Reduction_Scheme

(3) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-20/coalition-climate-change-direct-action-policy-explained/5067188

(4) http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/climate/tony-abbott-gets-climate-action-after-palmer-backflip/news-story/5ca32508ce77c10fbf93328e0eeac77c

UK Election Review

Wow! That was my first response to seeing the exit polls from the BBC that predicted a hung parliament. As the night went on as in 2015 it was clear that the exit poll which was widely criticised for overestimating the Conservative vote had this time correctly forecasted a lower Conservative seat amount than what was widely expected. At the time of writing the current seat totals are as followed:

The results below show that the Conservative party have lost 13 seats from the 2015 election which takes them below the threshold of 326 seats to have majority in the 650 seat Parliament. As of writing the Conservative party have formed a deal with the Democratic Union Party in Ireland to return to government in minority form, the DUP being a right of centre party which policy views that see them as a natural ally of the Conservatives, indeed they have worked on policy in some forms since the 2015 General Election. Despite the results not going as well in the United Kingdom as a whole the Conservative party did have a good night in Scotland where they picked up 12 seats that otherwise would have placed them in some danger of Labour forming a left of centre Government with numerous left of centre parties with the SNP being the head of such alliance. While the results in Scotland were seen as being a bad night for the SNP it was unrealistic to expect a repeat of winning 56 of the 59 seats and the Conservatives have been gradually improving their stocks under successive Parliaments having only had one seat in Scotland since 1997 where anti Thatcherism led to an electoral wipeout. The one issue that can be placed at the SNP as being key to their electoral loss is a backlash against a call for a second Scottish Independence vote in the wake of the Brexit leave vote. As the main opposition in the Scotland Parliament the Conservatives were always going to benefit from those who believed it was important for stability in Scotland’s place in the UK currently in the wake of uncertainty in the future of the European Union.

Despite still falling short of being able to form government Jeremy Corbyn was the highlight of the election taking Labour to a far better result than anyone predicted pre Election. Indeed it was interesting watching BBC interview after BBC interview of former shadow ministers and backbench MPs who had called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign now singing his praises of how great he was and how terrible Theresa May was. In picking up a 10 percent swing Labour took their primary vote greater than any Election since the two Tony Blair landslides in 1997 and 2001 and then greater than any vote share by the Labour Party since the Harold Wilson Labour win back in 1974. With this in mind one may have expected a shock Labour win however the Conservatives also picked up over 5 percent of the vote which returned the UK system to more of a two party system which has not been the case for the last 30 to 35 years with the Liberal Democratic Party and UKIP picking up a large share of the vote of disconcerted Conservative or Labour Party voters.

The biggest fall of the night belonged to UKIP who lost as much as 20 percent of their vote in some electorates and 10 percent across the UK. This may have led to only 1 seat being lost but in 2015 there was a lot of talk about this being the election that would set up a voter base for the 2020 election. This involved the party finishing ahead of the Conservative party in safe to moderately safe Labour seats and the hope was then to leapfrog the Labour Party in 2020 by having a non formal agreement where the Conservative member would help ensure some of their vote share would flow to the UKIP member and push them ahead of the Labour vote. However after the surprise vote last year left the UK leaving the EU their was a sense that the work of the UKIP party was finished and combined that with party infighting as to who should replace Nigel Farage as leader left the party without a platform to campaign on, as such their electoral capitulation was not unexpected. The surprise however was where their votes went to, it was expected that the Conservatives would pick up somewhere in the range of 80 to 90 percent of the vote loss, this did not bare out as the Labour Party picked up a third of the displaced UKIP vote. Their are a few reasons for this; Firstly UKIP picked up a lot of protest voters who were not happy with how Westminster operated and Jeremy Corbyn had a much more protest like campaign. Secondly as with the One Nation Party in Australia there is a tendency to label all their voters as homophobic racists who are clueless on policy and therefore have to be conservative in nature, indeed this is not wholly the case and a lot of these voters are lower class workers who would generally vote to the left of centre but have been put off by Left parties move to modern policies on Technology/ Environment and Economic policies that don’t deal with how to transition old economies into a modern one. An example of this is the Current Energy debate in Australia, Left of centre parties want to transition our energy use into modern renewable energy sources. Environmentally this makes a great deal of sense but economically this leaves a lot of people in poorer Economic areas jobless and unskilled to try and transition to a new industry to find jobs in a market where finding employment is difficult, this is what has led to a move away from Left of centre Governments who are embracing a new Economy and will continue to be a conundrum for Politicians in a divided landscape.

Full results (1)

party seats gain loss net votes share (%) change (%)
Conservative 318 20 33 -13 13,667,231 42.45 +5.52
Labour 262 37 5 32 12,874,284 39.99 +9.54
Scottish National Party 35 1 20 -19 977,568 3.04 -1.7
Liberal Democrat 12 8 5 3 2,371,762 7.37 -0.5
Democratic Unionist Party 10 2 0 2 292,316 0.91 +0.31
Sinn Féin 7 3 0 3 238,915 0.74 +0.17
Plaid Cymru 4 1 0 1 164,466 0.51 -0.08
Green 1 0 0 0 525,371 1.63 -2.14
Ind 1 0 4 -4 145,375 0.45 +0.13
Ulster Unionist Party 0 0 2 -2 83,280 0.26 -0.11
Social Democratic and Labour Party 0 0 3 -3 95,419 0.3 -0.03
UK Independence Party 0 0 0 0 593,852 1.84 -10.8
Other 0 0 0 0 166,385 0.52 -0.3

Scotland Results (2)

Party Seats (change) 2017 vote share Share change 2017 votes Vote change
SNP 35 (-21) 36.9% -13.1 977,569 -476,867
Conservatives 13 (+12) 28.6% +13.7 757,949 +323,852
Labour 7 (+6) 27.1% +2.8 717,007 +9,860
Lib Dems 4 (+3) 7.5% -0.8 179,061 -40,614

Above I have already touched on some reasons for the election result however after each UK election YouGov carry out a survey to determine what indicators have influenced the voting patterns of specific demographics.

Outside of the interest in how the Brexit vote would impact the voting patterns across the country the main factor people thought would influence the 2017 election was the age of voter. It has long been thought that in Western Society younger people tend to vote for left of centre parties while the older generation tend to vote for Right of centre governments. This thought was particularly the case going into this election as Jeremy Corbyn promised free tuition for University students as well as a winding back of austerity measures from Theresa May in areas such as Health spending and Public service jobs, these are usually issues that younger people are more supportive of. Older generations tend to have Conservative social views and also have a greater appreciation for fiscal economic policies that look to have a more balance budget so that Governments can then spend money on policies to improve the lives of their constituents. The above graphs (3,4) show that the 2015 election had a fairly balanced vote between the age groups outside of the retired age group that voted Conservatives at a considerably higher amount, however in 2017 there were 40 to 50 percent gaps between the Labour and Conservative vote at the young and older age range of voters. This suggests that the Conservatives may struggle in future elections if they can’t bring in more voters at a younger age demographic to replace voters who die before the next election. The other element that impacts on the age divide is voter turnout. In previous elections older citizens would vote in a higher amount than young people who are often active in election campaigns online but then don’t vote on Election Day, something that is an issue for parties in non compulsory voting elections. This election however there was evidence that young people who were sick of being marginalised in their eyes by governments and by Brexit were ready to vote in larger numbers and give a kick to the ruling government. This was borne out by an increase in registration numbers by younger voters. On Election Day there was still a divide in voting turnout for older votes with 84 percent of retirees voting versus 57 percent for younger voters however that is a large increase from the 40 percent that had come out to vote in 2015, a clear sign that Corbyn energised the youth vote.

As mentioned earlier one of Jeremy Corbyn’s key electoral issues was the removal of tuition fees for University students. Unsurprisingly this bore into the voting patterns for the Conservative versus Labour Party, although it is questionable as to whether the age of voters also shows up in this result due to the increase in education levels of younger people.

 

The Brexit result was always going to have an impact on the 2017 election and despite the Terrorist attacks that placed national security higher on the campaign agenda for the final weeks of the campaign the graph below (5) shows Brexit still impacted the vote. So the graph measures the two party swing from the Labour Party to the Conservatives versus the Labour Party vote in 2015 (percentage wise) multiplied by the Leave percentage vote. The graph clearly shows that where Labour voters remain had a swing towards to the Labour Party as evidence by the large amount of negative y axis results with lower level x axis values whereas where the electorate voted leave Labour voters tended to swing to the Conservative in higher amounts, as evidenced by the large x and y axis values. An indication that voting remain probably helped the Labour vote more than the Conservatives on the night is the greater amount of seats with Labour swings away from the Conservatives.

Brexit vote Impact.png

So all in all a very good night for the Labour Party and Theresa May has now been left in a very vulnerable position going forward. There are a few areas of interest to follow going forward that will determine where UK Politics heads in the foreseeable future. The other influence on the election that has not been discussed widely was National Security. Normally this is discussed as an area of strength for the Conservatives however the revelation of Theresa May overseeing cuts to policing numbers post 2010 election seemed to work against May. Indeed Amber Rudd who is now the incumbent Home Secretary faced a nervous wait as she nearly lost a safe Conservative seat, given that she was regularly seen campaigning with May on the issue of stability post the terrorist attacks it is reasonable to assume that national security played some part in her seat suffering a Labour swing. Leadership of the two major parties is also now part of the narrative going forward. After the 2016 Brexit vote that saw the UK seek to leave the EU David Cameron resigned the following day having come to the determination that he could not lead a country after they had voted against the position he had pushed so hard, a year later Theresa May having also called a vote that many did not see the need for also sees her position undermined having suffered large losses. I think Theresa May is safe for the foreseeable future as she will need to determine the Government doesn’t fallover due to a split post a leadership contest as they could then end up in Opposition because Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party could rightly claim that the new Conservative leader was not embraced at the election. Longer term though the fact that Theresa May ran a presidential campaign that was focussed largely on herself will see her wear a lot of the blame and that could prove terminal to her long term leadership. I also think it’s important to remember that she was not the expected winner of the leadership contest in 2016 and if Michael Gove and Boris Johnson had of combined their similar party base rather than split it by both initially running one of them could well be currently Prime Minister. The Labour Party by outperforming expectation of themselves have given Jeremy Corbyn security in his position that has not existed since he won the leadership and their are some that believe that he can win the next election with a united front and back bench, especially if the Conservatives do split over leadership in the next 12-18 months. My warning to that is have Labour reached their highpoint with this result under Corbyn. Electoral analysis is that the Conservatives had about as bad a campaign as one could imagine and Corbyn outperformed expectations and that if either of these things reverse back to the pre election position then the 20 percentage point lead the Conservatives have may return to something closer to norm. Were this occur then the leadership questions that were asked around Corbyn may return and that would obviously hurt Labours Electoral chances. The last point to consider is if Brexit negotiations become untenable under the new Parliament and May can’t keep her party united then the United Kingdom might go back to the polls sooner than expected!

 

References

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2017/jun/08/live-uk-election-results-in-full-2017

(2) http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40246330

(3) https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/06/13/how-britain-voted-2017-general-election/

(4) https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/06/08/general-election-2015-how-britain-really-voted/

(5) https://www.ft.com/content/dac3a3b2-4ad7-11e7-919a-1e14ce4af89b?mhq5j=e2

Current Australia and US Political Rumblings

The big news from the last fortnight is Donald Trumps announcement to have the US withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This was met with anger from both within the US as well as from the international community who see the move as a continued effort from Trump to undermine action on climate change. Indeed the Paris Climate agreements seeks countries to reduce emissions in order to keep the planet from warming to 2 degrees above pre industrialisation levels as well as funding less developed nations to fight the effects of climate change that they are already facing. It seems to be the financial contribution is the particular reason that Trump has sighted for withdrawing Americas support from the climate agreement as he believes countries are not using their financial assistance to help fight climate change. This is straight from an old playbook politicians use on withdrawing financial aid because they claim that the money is being misused by corrupt governments. However in too many cases this is just a fiscal decision because measures can usually be put in place to ensure money is going to targeted projects. Also on the wider issue of climate change and its effect on the planet there is still some question as to what humans should be doing to fight climate change as it is an expensive project to implement cleaner energy use, this is offset though by the fact that if the rest of the world decide to move to cleaner energy you then lose money from using energy sources that is no longer sustainable. A broader point to be made is around the fact that their is no forces to ensure that countries meet the targets set out in the climate agreement which leaves the agreement potentially being little more than tokenism as if countries don’t change their behaviour their are no tangible penalties.

Elsewhere Donald Trump continues to face potential issues relating to Russian interference in the election last year as well as continued calls from various quarters to impeach Trump due to his many policy and personal missteps since the last election. While there is the potential for the Russian spying issue to become a potential ground for impeachment, for many people just the fact that Trump won the election last year was such an atrocity that he immediately should have been impeached. This ignores the issue that for many people a vote for Trump was not a personal endorsement but more a vote for the ability to be heard again and anyone who had of campaigned on that platform would have been elected. This reasoning is not liked by those who are stridently left aligned who believe to have voted for Trump means you are a homophobic racist bigoted nazi who deserves to be physically assaulted and that even a vote for an independent candidate was a horrible political decision that deserves to have you personally insulted. Now I am by no means a Trump supporter and indeed I would have voted for Hillary Clinton if the election was held, but I could see why Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate and I think it’s a real shame that both Joe Biden or John McCain weren’t five years younger as they would have been admirable candidates who did not carry the baggage that both Clinton and Trump had. I think it’s perfectly ok to oppose and even to dislike Donald Trump, but there are plenty of policy issues to do that for, I think it’s wrong for people to only attack him and supporters on personal grounds and similarly the personal attacks on Clinton and her supporters were also disgusting in the election campaign. All these attacks on either end of the spectrum do is make consensus politics that much harder, indeed that was referenced in a book by Dr Andrew Leigh the other day who laments that politics has now become far more partisan and personal.

From a podcast with Bill Simmons and James Corden, James Corden made a few very good points on the current state of US politics. One is that for all the problems that the Republicans have currently with the poor standing of Donald Trump, there is a real issue of who the top Democratic figure is currently, the worse thing that could happen going into the 2020 US Election would be a divided Democratic Party who can’t work out who they want to take on Donald Trump which would increase the likelihood of him being able to win another term. The other point James Corden made related to the current consumption of Political news by the members of the public. Because of the large amount of Late Night TV shows available there is a need for hosts to be over the top in their presentation of current news to stand out from their competition on air. This means that their political statements are more outlandish than normal and shouldn’t be taken as considered factual accounts of the current political landscape, however the current landscape seems to suggest that the likes of John Oliver are political experts who should be the basis for reasoned political debate and that just isn’t what these show hosts are aiming for.

In Australia the biggest news in the last fortnight is the announcement of Indigenous leaders wanting more than just Constitutional recognition and something more in the form of a treaty. These terms are often used interchangeably however there is a important difference. Constitutional recognition is a recognition in the laws of the land that Indigenous people lived in Australia post European Settlement whereas a treaty would recognise this as well as then offer some compensation for the fact that Indigenous people have not been recognised in the constitution until this point. This compensation could be both in the form of monetary and land compensation and the amount of compensation that should be given is probably the main sticking point for progress on having a treaty over many years.

The concept of Constitutional recognition seems to have broad political support now, however it would need a referendum to pass into law and the concern has been that due to referendums tending to not pass in Australia it would be a bad look on our society if it was not overwhelmingly passed. With that in mind the extra step of wanting some form of compensation while being reasonable by most pundits opinion may have extra trouble in being passed in a referendum. This means that this important issue is probably still in a discussion stage and it may be even longer for tangible progress to be made. There is also more stronger opposition from more conservative figures like Barnaby Joyce and the Monarchy association who have an issue with the crossover of the constitution being a royal agreement and this being a seperate entity to that.

UK Election Preview

Today voters in the UK head to the polls for their third significant vote in three years. Following a surprising majority vote for David Cameron in 2015 and then the vote last year for the UK to leave the European Union Theresa May surprised many pundits by declaring the UK would have another General Election this year 3 years out from the original date.

Theresa May claimed this decision was due to the struggle of Brexit negotiations to get through the Parliament due to the legacy of David Cameron being heavily opposed to the leave campaign and May herself originally seeking for the UK to stay in the EU. Despite this opinion being offered as the reason for the early election many commentators believed that the early poll was called due to the large polling lead for the Conservatives over the Labour Party going into the election and in particular the dismal performance of Jeremy Corbyn who had faced many leadership challenges throughout the two years of leadership as well as the resignations of 31 shadow ministers.

In the face of this the first poll after the Election being called gave the Conservatives a 20 percentage point lead over the Labour Party which would have given the Conservatives a 200 plus seat lead over the Labour Party in the new Parliament. Historically this would compare with the 1997 and 2001 wins by Tony Blair and the 1983 win by Margaret Thatcher. However as the campaign has progressed the polls have significantly tightened with some polls being as close as 4 percent between the major parties although the majority of polls are still pointing towards a 10 percent gap between the major parties. This disparity has led to people questioning the accuracy of polls again particularly in the wake of the Trump win, Brexit and the 2015 Election however there are some important points as to why this is flawed. Firstly in both America and the UK voting is non compulsory and so any polling that is taken needs to recognise that not all of the people polled will end up voting, this seems particularly prevalent amongst younger voters who are highly engaged in the campaign itself but then stay home on Election Day leading to an upward skew on parties of the left polling. Also as with the current trend in news reporting people are more interested in when things are wrong and so not enough attention was paid to the recent French Election which accurately predicted both the first and second round results. Lastly, particularly in the US Election because of the large contempt for Trump people almost did not want to consider a win for him possible and so ignored the polls that pointed a close result which when added with margin of errors suggested a Trump victory was possible. Indeed Hilary Clinton won the popular vote as predicted by the polls but this was offset by Trump winning important battleground states.

The UK election itself has been fought by both major parties on familiar grounds with Labour focussing on Health, Education and social security while the Conservatives have fought the election on Economy, Brexit and National security which has become particularly important due to the recent tragic terrorist attacks. On health and social security particularly Labour has found voter support as voters tend to associate these areas with Labour strength while marking any spending reductions by the Tories down.

It is important to have a strong public system however the main difference between left and right governments in general stem from how much funding and support is given to private sector health/ education. An economists view is that the best way to have a strong public system is to have a strong private sector that can be used by some of the more well of people so that the public system is then cleared up for those less well off. The problem with this approach is that the public system will always be used in such amounts that their will be a strain on resources and so any spending reductions will place a burden on these important services. The other debate is to the role of government in running important public infrastructure and Labour in their manifesto have pledged to increase funding to public services by increased taxes for higher earners. Again this is a popular measure with general voters who don’t want to see income inequality however there is often the risk that these tax increases then get passed back down the chain. For example a tax increase on a big business might then lead to them letting go some lower end staff members which then hurts the lower end of the economy. It is this economical debate that generally leads to parties of the left spending more which has led to a generalisation that parties of the right are better Economic managers and this again seems to be a strength of the Tory party heading into the election.

On National security the terrorist attacks throughout the campaign have catapulted the issue to the top of election issues. This would normally be a strength of Conservative parties who generally spend more money on defence and indeed the reluctance of Jeremy Corbyn to favour the use of nuclear weapons in the event of an attack has led to a large drop in the Labour vote in historically strong areas, indeed the Labour Party lost the by election of Copeland in 2017 on the Trident Nuclear issue. This loss was the first electoral loss by an opposition since 1982 and the first win by the Tories in the seat since 1935. However the national security issue has become a less strong one for Theresa May in particular due to her cuts to Policing numbers in the 2010 budget when she was secretary of Home Security. These cuts were in the guise of budget repair after the Labour Party raked up a large deficit during the Financial Crisis however the words of a former police commissioner suggesting that these cuts led to a drop in the ability to pick up local activity in its planning stage has been devastating to the Conservatives claims of being strong in National Security.

Lastly Brexit continues to be an issue that divides the UK and so it has played a part in the election albeit smaller than May probably hoped when the election was first called. The division on this issue stems from the Conservative party wanting a hard exit with no conditions placed on their exit while the Labour Party want to ensure that low income workers are better off as a result of the leave and they still want to have a EU specific trade deal so that they can still play a role in the EU while being out. Meanwhile both the LDP and Scottish National Party want a second vote on being in the EU now that they believe the benefits of leaving the EU have not been realised. This has led to some uptake in LDP vote in remain areas and also some split of the Labour vote from people who aren’t happy with the Labours part in part out approach to the issue.

 

Result Prediction

With the polls having now tightened the Conservatives will now be more nervous on election night but I still predict they will increase their current majority in the House of Commons, if by a smaller amount than what looked probable at the Election outset. This is due to the starting point of the Tories in Scotland where the current makeup is 56 SNP and 1 Tory, 1 Labour and 1 LDP member. Due to the issue of Brexit and also a possible second Scottish Independent vote people who are against those issues have a natural landing spot in the Conservative party and there is an expectation that the SNP will lose around 10 seats with 8 or 9 going to the Conservatives and 1 to the LDP. There is also a large expectation that the rural England areas will follow their large Brexit leave results with a large swing to the Conservatives in this election which will see a large amount of seats in play there. The closer to the major cities will probably swing to the Labour Party however the interest here will be is there a vote split between the Labour Party and the LDP who are coming off an electoral low in 2015 where they were punished for voters for doing a formal alliance with the Tory Party in 2010; The other interesting thing to watch will be how much of the UKIP vote the Tory can pick up as in a first past the post electoral system this may push their raw numbers above the Labour Party in some more marginal seats where the Labour and LDP vote will be split.

The other interesting outcome from this result will be the future of the two major parties post election. For the Conservative party the campaign has taken a chink from Theresa May’s armour and some of here Thatcheresque hardness will be tested post election as the party look to determine how they have lost 10 to 15 percent points in an election campaign. For the Labour Party the general consensus seemed to be if the Labour Party went backwards from their 30.3% vote share under Ed Miliband in 2015 then he would be in trouble, however the recent polls have shown Jeremy Corbyn will probably lead to a higher vote share than that which will make him harder to remove. This is particularly the case given his large public support in the far left of the population which has backed him overwhelmingly in leadership contests. This then leads to the question of what do you do with a leader who is more socialist than any leader the Labour Party have had since the Michael Foot years and who openly backed branch stacking to try and rid the party of more moderate candidates who opposed his leadership style. My prediction is that both leaders survive for the time being however in both cases I have legitimate questions as to whether they are strong enough leaders to be able to win the next election in 2022.