On Friday the BPC/MRS inquiry into the polls at the 2015 started rolling. The inquiry team had their first formal meeting in the morning and in the afternoon there was a public meeting, addressed by representatives of most of the main polling companies. It wasn’t a meeting intended to produce answers yet – it was all still very much work in progress, and the inquiry itself isn’t due to report until next March (Patrick Sturgis explained what some see as a very long time scale with reference to the need to wait for some useful data sources like the BES face to face data and the data that has been validated against marked electoral registers, neither of which will be available until later in the year). There will however be another public meeting sometimes before Christmas when the inquiry team will present some of their initial findings. Friday’s meeting was for the pollsters to present their initial thoughts.

Seven pollsters spoke at the meeting: ICM, Opinium, ComRes, Survation, Ipsos MORI, YouGov and Populus. There was considerable variation between how much they said – some companies offered some early changes they were making, some only went through possibilities they were looking at rather than offering any conclusions. As you’d expect there was a fair amount of crossover. Further down I’ve summarised what each individual company said, but there were several things that came up time and again:

  • Most companies thought there was little evidence of late swing being a cause. Most of the companies had done re-contact surveys, reinterviewing people surveyed before the election and comparing their answers before and afterwards to see if they actually did change their minds after the final polls, and most found little change that cancelled itself out, or produced negligible movement to the Tories. Only one of the companies who spoke thought it was a major factor.
  • Most of the pollsters seemed to be looking at turnout as being a major factor in the error, but this covered more than one root cause. One was people saying they will vote but not doing so, and this not being adequately dealt with by the existing 0-10 models of weighting and filtering by likelihood to vote. If that is the problem the solution may lie in more complicated turnout modelling, or using alternative questions to try and identify those who really will vote.
  • However several pollsters also talked about turnout problems coming not from respondents inaccurately reporting if they vote, but from pollsters simply interviewing the sort of people who are more likely to vote, and this impacting some groups more than others. If that’s the cause, then it is more of problem of improving samples, or doing something to address getting too many engaged people in samples.
  • One size doesn’t necessarily fit all, the problems affecting phone pollsters may end up being different to online pollsters, and that the solutions that work for one company may not work for another.
  • Everyone was very wary of the danger of just artificially fitting the data to the last election result, rather than properly identifying and solving the cause(s) of the error.
  • No one claimed they had solved the issue, everyone spoke very much about it being a work in progress. In many cases I think the factors they presented were not necessarily the ones they will finally end up identifying… but those where they had some evidence to show so far. Even those like ComRes who have already made some initial conclusions and changes in one area were very clear that their investigations were continuing, they were still open minded about possible reasons and conclusions and there were likely more changes to come.

Martin Boon of ICM suggested that ICM’s final poll showing a one point Labour lead was probably a bit of an outlier and in that limited sense was hence a bit of bad luck – ICM’s other polls during the campaign had shown small Conservative leads. He suggested this could possibly have been connected to doing the fieldwork for the final poll during the week, ICM’s fieldwork normally straddles the weekend and the political make up of C1/C2s in his final sample was significantly different from their usual polls (they broke for Labour, when ICM’s other campaign polls had them breaking for the Tories) (Martin has already published some of the same details here.) However, bad luck aside he was clear about there being a much deeper problem in that the fundamental error that had affected polls for decades – a tendency to overestimate Labour – has re-emerged.

ICM did a telephone recall poll of 3000 people who they had interviewed during the campaign. They found no significant evidence of a late swing, with 90% of people reporting they voted how they said they would. The recall survey also found that don’t knows split in favour of the Conservatives and that Conservative voters were more likely to actually vote… ICM’s existing reallocation of don’t knows and 0-10 weighting by likelihood to vote dealt well with this, but ICM’s weighting down of people who didn’t vote in 2010 was not, in the event, a good predictor (it didn’t help at all, though it didn’t hurt either).

Martin’s conclusion was that “shy Tories” and “lazy Labour” were NOT enough to explain the error, and there was probably some deeper problem with sampling that probably faced the whole industry. Typically ICM has to ring 20,000 phone numbers in order to get 1,000 responses – a response rate of 5% (though that will presumably include numbers that don’t exist, etc) and he worried again about whether our tools could get a representative sample.

Adam Drummond of Opinium also provided data from their recontact survey on the day of the election. They too found no evidence of any significant late swing, with 91% of people voting how they said they would. Opinium identified a couple of specific issues with their methodology that went wrong. One was their age weighting was too crude – they used to weight age using three big groups, with the oldest being 55+. They found that within that group there were too many people who were in their 50s and 60s and not enough in their 70s and beyond, and that the much older group were more Tory. Opinium will be correcting that by using more detailed age weights, with over 75s weighted separately. They also identified failings in their political weightings that weighted the Greens too high, and will be correcting that now they have the 2015 results to calibrate it by.

These were side issues though, Opinium thought the main issue was one of turnout, or more specifically, interviewing people who are too likely to vote. If they weighted the different age and social class groups to the turnout proportions suggested in MORI’s post-election election it would have produced figures of CON 37%, LAB 32%…. but of course, you can’t weight to post-election turnout data before an election, and comparing MORI’s data at past elections the level of turnout in different groups changes from election to election.

Looking forwards Opinium are going to correct their age and political weightings as described, and are considering whether or not to weight different age/social groups differently for turnout, or perhaps trying priming questions before the main voting intention. They are also considering how they reach more unengaged people – they already have a group in their political weighting for people who don’t identify with any of the main parties… but that isn’t necessarily the same thing.

Tom Mludzinski and Andy White of ComRes offered an initial conclusions were that there was a problem with turnout. Between the 2010 and 2015 elections actual turnout rose by 1%, but the proportion of people who said they were 10/10 certain to vote rose by 8%.

Rather than looking at self-reported levels of turnout in post-election surveys ComRes did regressions on actual levels of turnouts in constituencies by their demographic profiles, finding the usual patterns of higher turnout in seats with more middle class people and older people, lower turnout in seats with more C2DE voters and younger voters. As an initial measure they have introduced a new turnout model that weights people’s turnout based largely upon their demographics.

ComRes have already discussed this in more detail than I have space for on their own website, including many of the details and graphs they used in Friday’s presentation.

Damian Lyons Lowe of Survation discussed their late telephone poll on May 6th that had produced results close to the election, either through timing or through the different approach to telephone sampling they used. Survation suggested a large chunk of the error was probably down to late swing – their recontact survey had found around 85% of people saying they voted the way they had said they would, but those who did change their minds produced a movement to the Tories that would account for some of the error (it would have moved the figures to a 3 point Conservative lead).

Damian estimated late swing made up 40% of the difference between the final polls and the result, with another 25% made up from errors in weighting. The leftover error he speculated could be caused by “tactical Tories” – people who didn’t actually support the Conservatives, but voted for them out of fear about a hung Parliament and SNP influence and wouldn’t admit this to pollsters either before or after the election, pointing to the proportion of people who refused to say how they voted in their re-contact survey.

Tantalisingly, Damian also revealed that they were going to be able to release some of the private constituency polling they did during the campaign for academic analysis.

Gideon Skinner of Ipsos MORI‘s thinking was still largely along the lines of Ben Page’s presentation in May that was (perhaps a little crudely!) summarised as lazy Labour. MORI’s thinking is that their problem was not understating Tory support, but overstating Labour support. Like ComRes, they noted how the past relationship between stated likelihood to vote and actual turnout had got worse since the last election. At previous elections they noted how actual turnout had been about 10 points lower than the proportion of people who said they would definitely vote; at this election the gap had been 16 points.

Looking at the difference between people’s stated likelihood to vote in 2010 and their answers this time round the big change was amongst Labour voters. Other parties’ voters had stayed much the same, but the proportion of Labour voters saying they were certain to vote had risen from 74% to 86%. Gideon said how this had been noticed at the time (and that MORI had written about it as an interesting finding!), but it had seemed perfectly plausible that now the Labour party were in opposition their supporters would become more enthusiastic about voting to kick out a Conservative government than they had been at the end of a third-term Labour government. Perhaps in hindsight it was a sign of a deeper problem.

MORI are currently experimenting with including how regularly people have voted in the past as an additional variable in their turnout model, as we discussed in their midweek poll.

Joe Twyman of YouGov didn’t present any conclusions yet, just went through the data they are using and the things they were looking at. YouGov did the fieldwork for two academic election surveys (the British Election Study and the SCMS) as well as their daily polling, and all three used different question ordering (daily polling asked voting intention first, SCMS after a couple of questions, the BES after a bank of questions on important issues, which party is more trusted and party leaders) so will allow testing of the effect of “priming questions”. YouGov are looking at the potential of errors like “shy Tories”, geographical spread of respondents (are there the correct proportion of respondents in Labour and Conservative seats, safe and marginal seats), are respondents to surveys too engaged, is there panel effect and dealing with turnout (including used the validated data from the British Election Study respondents).

Andrew Cooper and Rick Nye of Populus also found no evidence of significant late swing. Populus did their final poll as two distinct halves and found no difference between the fieldwork done on the Tuesday and the fieldwork done on the Wednesday. Their recontact survey a fortnight after the election still found support at Con 33%, Lab 33%

On the issue of turnout Populus had experimented with more complicated turnout models during the campaign itself – using some of the methods that other companies are now suggesting. Populus had weighted different demographic groups differently by turnout using the Ipsos MORI 2010 data as a guide, and they also had tried using how often over 25s said they had voted in the past as a variable in modelling turnout. None of it had stopped them getting it wrong, though they are going to try and build upon it further.

Instead Populus have been looking for shortcomings in the sampling itself, looking at other measures that have not generally been used in sampling or weighting but may be politically relevant. Their interim approach so far is to include more complex turnout modelling and to add in disability, public/private sector employment and level of education into the measures they weight by to try and get more representative samples. Using those factors would have given them figures of CON 35%, LAB 31% at the last election… better, but still not quite there.


170 Responses to “The Polling Inquiry public meeting”

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  1. More broadly though I think Kendall’s problems are that:

    1) She’s not a particularly fluent media performer, even in the company of Cooper who is good at the despatch box but tends to give robotic interviews and struggles to articulate a positive vision, and Burnham who is good at seeming like a normal person and communicating passion but who is an inconsistent debater. Neither of them are great communicators, and she is noticeably worse than either of them. For someone whose pitch to the party is “You may disagree with me but I’m someone the country will want as Prime Minister”, this is a big problem.

    2) It’s not obvious that she is solving the problems Labour actually has. To take a simple policy example, “Introduce more competition into public services” was a sensible answer to eighteen month NHS waiting lists in 1997; it’s not clear how it fixes a system gummed up with elderly patients who can’t be sent home. And her whole campaign is like that- except for the early years stuff (and how will this new educational provision be funded by fiscally conservative Kendall Labour? It is a mystery) it’s this weird 1994 Blair revival act that seems as disengaged from the current reality as Corbyn’s 1981 Benn revival act.

    I don’t think her problem is that she’s too rightwing for the party, it’s that she’s rightwing in a way that’s not convincing people it will propel Labour into power. Her failure to secure Jamie Reed’s nomination was very telling, I thought.

    I suspect Umunna would have given Cooper and Burnham much more of a contest, even though ideologically he and Kendall aren’t that far apart.

  2. @Spearmint

    “Well, presumably you’d hope for some degree of price competition. Which seems to be working well enough for food but not so well when the market is run by a cartel (energy) or there’s a crisis of supply (housing).”

    —————-

    Yep, because some markets are easier to corner than others. Harder to get a monopoly on enough land to control food production, except in cases where the food is sensitive to a particular region, although government policy can encourage constriction of supply and the hovering of land banks if they keep pursuing policies to up house prices.

    High barriers to entry also make it harder for some upstart to come in with lower prices and spoil the party.

  3. @Spearmint

    Should add there are other measures beyond price controls or forcing competition. E.g. commodity buffers…

  4. @catman

    “Given the general public know very little about renewable energy and climate science, isn’t it like asking the public their view on particle physics?”

    ———-

    Having discussed both renewables and the nuclear thing, I would say the latter goes down rather less well.

    People are even less interested in the storage thing however. Bet none of the Labour candidates have even mentioned it. Or Thorium for that matter. Prolly haven’t even mentioned barrages or hydraulic gradients…

  5. “E.g. commodity buffers…”

    ‘Train collides with butter mountain.’

  6. ‘Train collides with butter mountain.’

    —————

    Another reason to leave the EU!!…

  7. I’ll be voting for Tom Watson for Deputy with Stella Creasy second.

    Haven’t made up my mind on leader STILL, but not Corbyn or Kendall. Would sort of accept the arguments for Kendall if they chimed with reality. Blair’s broad appeal she ain’t got.

  8. @ Phil Haines

    Elections BC online registration:

    https://eregister.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/ovr/welcome.aspx

    Our Canadian Constitution is very clear:

    “Democratic rights of citizens

    3. Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.”

    In BC, beyond being a Canadian Citizen, you have to be 18 years of age and a resident of BC for 6 months.

    So far the BC and Canadian courts have accepted those two additional caveats as per:

    “Rights and freedoms in Canada

    1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

    Beyond individual online registration anyone filing an income tax return in Canada can tick a box that will automatically register them with Elections Canada, who in turn automatically pass that information on to Elections, BC.

    In addition once a writ is dropped I can show up at any constituency returning office and register to vote and then vote.

    I can register and vote at the three days of Advance polls prior to E-Day.

    I can register to vote and vote in my poll on E-Day.

    I can register to vote and vote out of poll in my constituency on E-Day.

    Finally I can register to vote and vote out of constituency on E-Day.

  9. Re: Labour leadership contests

    1. GB
    Are these four the best they could come up with? Really? And is there any polling evidence to show that the general public is (a) following what is happening in this leadership contest and/or (b) changing its mind either about any of the candidates or about Labour in general? Or is it too early to tell?

    2. Scottish Labour leadership contest is at least beginning to look like an honest assessment of the situation…… though others may disagree……

  10. @John B

    It’s far too early to evaluate anything about about how Labour sees itself, how voters see Labour, and how the public view the leadership candidates.

    It’s way too early, and broadly the public will ignore Labour for six to twelve months.

    The Government have a head of steam and a clear run. Only the SNP are providing any opposition, but are not considered well enough in England for that to mean anything.

    For non-Conservatives, it’s going to be a tough few years.

  11. Danny Finkelstein has an interesting piece in today’s Times entitled ” We’ll never know why the Polls were wrong”.

    In a series of interesting anecdotes & thoughts he writes :-
    ” A couple of weeks ago I chaired a meeting organised by the Royal Statistical Society with the title ” Polegate:where did the opinion polls go wrong?”.On the panel were many of the leading authorities in polling & statistics and we had an excellent discussion. And at the end of it ?. I realised that we didn’t know why the polls were wrong. And worse than that , we will never know”.

    and concludes :
    “Yet we do have one piece of good fortune. We may not be able to be certain of the result of an election before it happens. We may wish desperately to be certain. But we don’t actually have to be certain. We can always , you know, just wait for the result”

    :-)

  12. @Andy Shadrack

    Thanks for your response.

    “In addition once a writ is dropped I can show up at any constituency returning office and register to vote and then vote.”

    That’s the key difference with the UK system I think, and as such makes the Canadian system of individual registration into one that facilitates participation, in contrast to ours.

    Presumably those “on the day” registrations need to be validated so have the potential to delay a declaration in a very close contest, but that is a very small price to pay.

  13. COLIN

    Certainly a sound conclusion!

    :-)

  14. @ John B,

    Are these four the best they could come up with? Really?

    Self-evidently.

    Blair and Brown have a lot to answer for in terms of not training up halfway decent successors. It’s not like removing the Milibands and Balls from the competition took away a lot of political talent, either.

    @ Mr. Nameless,

    I really want a mixed ticket. If Burnham wins it can’t be Watson and it should probably be Creasy, and if Kendall wins it absolutely needs to be Watson. It’s a nuisance that there is no way to actually vote for this.

    We’ll probably end up with Cooper and Watson, because the Brownites have done such a good job of winning elections in the last Parliament…

  15. TOH

    Indeed.

    If he is correct-we will have no other option!

  16. There is a very interesting article in Prospect about how the country will become like London.

    Currently London is 40per cent non white ,gb is 14percent.By 2025 gb will be as diverse as america is now and by 2040 both will be around 40percent non white as london is now.And by 2050 it will be one third.

    Whilst it might be thought this will help labour the prediction is that ethnic factors in thinking about national identity will decline.Libertarianism is growing with live and let live the prevailing mood.

    Urban areas are growing fast -2004-13 London grew 12.6 per cent and is now as big as it has ever been.Milton keynes grew 16.5 per cent ,peterborough 15.2,swindon14.8 luton 13.3,cambridge 12.7.

    These urban areas are increasingly dominated by the political attitudes of the graduates who dominate their economies.Socially liberal,into the quality of life.

    But also more individualistic on economic matters-not as keen on the welfare state,the nhs-they think individuals should cover some of these costs.

    Predictions -third generation polish brit will be PM,nigerian families will run pubs,half of schoolkids will be non white.The anglican church will have disappeared.Uk population will be 77million,largest in western europe (germany will have shrunk so free movement will have to be managed tho no doubt the EU will fudge it ).Afc bournemouth will win the champions league.

  17. Greece is looming again. The deal seems to be unachievable today, after the creditors rejected the latest Greek concessions.

    Not really sure where this is going to go now. The Greek electors seemed to be angry at their government’s latest concessions, which have now been roundly trashed by their creditors, who have gone so far as to leak their ‘track changes’ version of the document, helpfully allowing the Greek people to see exactly what the creditors are demanding of them.

    I doubt this will go down well.

    It’s a mess, with Greece bearing some responsibility, but a situation that has pretty much tested the austerity mantra to destruction.

    Much is made of Greek pension costs, which are apparently huge and unsustainable. 16% of GDP spent on pensions, etc, etc. In fact, only state expenditure is only 10% of GDP, which while higher than the 6% or so in the UK (which has far higher private pension provision than Greece) it has fallen by 40% since 2009 (from 13% of GDP) and is in fact lower than in Italy, France and Austria and very close to Germany.

    Greece doesn’t blow vast amounts of money on state pensions, compared to it’s EU stablemates, and has already savaged pensions as part of austerity. Yet the troika insist on more.

    I’m firmly of the view (as I have been for a long time) that the approach taken to Greece is not governed by a desire to find the best and most workable solution for the crisis, but much more to ensure that national governments conform, that the discipline of the centre is maintained, and that nothing must happen that endangers the dream of the Euro, and by extension ‘ever closer union’.

    Not only are the Greek people suffering from the austerity fetishism, but from a second, and possibly more damaging fetish for a single Europe.

  18. “summarised as lazy Labour”

    If some of it is that and some of it is a response to Labour people using discriminating against the native working class as a way of signalling how non-racist they are – with the biggest example being their response to the grooming gangs – then there should be a consistent pattern of low immigration areas with the same SES having fewer “lazy” labour voters than high immigration areas.

  19. Alec

    Another thoughtful post.

    Everyone assumes that the Yes campaign will prevail at the EU Referendum, and I would agree with that. I will probably vote Yes.

    But, goodness me, the No campaign are being handed a lot of ammunition.

    It seems to me that 25% of the population seriously hate the EU and will vote to come out, but there are a lot more people who might use the vote to register their contempt for the political establishment, and big business. And concerns over immigration, etc.,etc.

    It is not a good idea to make comparisons with the Scottish independence vote, so I won’t. But there may well be a tendency for these referenda to drift towards a close outcome, and I can see it happening this time.

    Almost a form of ‘swingback’…

  20. Blue Labour launches english labour -wonder whether any leadership candidate will endorse cruddas move .

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/24/labour-split-plan-english-wing-john-cruddas

  21. At least Cruddas seems to be trying to understand why Labour lost-before rushing to elect yet another leader who doesn’t.

  22. @Hannah
    “All of this is very interesting, but the question it raises is why now? Apart from the slight overestimate of the Lib Dem vote in 2010 election polling has been, by and large, accurate for the past twenty years.”

    Yes, Hannah, just the point I was making earlier in this thread. I suspect it maybe that a cohort of voters, untapped or undiscovered by the polling companies over decades, have suddenly swung heavily in one direction as they did similarly in 1992. They have always been below the radar, but while splitting near to the average of those who ARE polled, it hasn’t shown up for years. There has been much made of the “Shy Tories” phenomenon, but I think that is a myth – these undiscoved, discreet and private voters are actally “Shy Swing Voters” – perhaps?

  23. Thought flinty did really well on daily politics today -made my mind up who I will be voting for deputy-experienced , caring common sense -and she clearly doesnt eat curry like fat tom.

    Anyway she used to be the gmbs political officer so up the workers.

  24. The concept of an English Labour party (or any other party) sounds a very good idea to me, but it is putting the horse before the cart.

    Such a structure makes perfect sense in a federal UK, but not under the current system. What would happen if Labour won in 2020, with Scottish and English Labour MPs, if they have separate policies on a subject? Who wins out?

    If they pre-agreed before hand, there is no point in being separate parties.

    Do any of the Labour Leadership candidates support the constitutional convention?

  25. After patrick wintours insight into labours election campaign -a new article from wintour and watt about nick and the resignation that never happened.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/jun/24/the-nick-clegg-catastrophe

  26. Tony Dean

    An interesting idea these undiscovered, discreet and private voters are actually “Shy Swing Voters”

    I can see the logic. While demographically indistinguishable from those who do respond to polls, they are presumably voters who will happily switch their votes between Tory and Labour [1] based on a perception of competence(?) or perhaps least disruption to their status quo (?)

    [1] Their non-appearance in Scotland, where the polls seem to have got things right, would ring true under that scenario. Con/Lab switchers haven’t been prevalent here for 40 years or so, and if they appear now are likely to be based on a different perception.

  27. CMJ

    “Such a structure makes perfect sense in a federal UK, but not under the current system. What would happen if Labour won in 2020, with Scottish and English Labour MPs, if they have separate policies on a subject? Who wins out?”

    The Lib-Dems have a federal structure – but the “English” bit seems more cosmetic than real.

    http://www.libdems.org.uk/england

    The “Who wins out?” question would seem to be adequately answered by the numbers. :-)

  28. AW why in moderation please?

  29. The ‘shy swing voter’ idea is interesting.

    All I can report in a totally unrepresentative way is what happened in my local polling station.

    I thought I knew pretty much everyone in my home town, and especially in my ward, until I went to vote at 8am.

    Walking in around me were 75+ years pensioner men in blazers and ties, plus permed women in beige, who I had never seen before in my life.

    And none of them appeared to know each other.

    I went home and told my wife that the Conservatives had probably won.

  30. Millie

    It could also be that they were clones of the 1992 cohort of aliens sent in to ensure the destruction of humanity.

    Damn clever these Betelguesians

  31. @Oldnat

    You eloquently state why a federal party structure in a non-federal parliament is a non starter.

    My question who would win was rhetorical. The different Scottish Labour identity would be crushed by English Labour, if any differences were real.

  32. @Oldnat

    Have you seen the Lib Dem MPs on that page?

    Clearly no-one has told them of the 7th May Massacre.

  33. How about a Mancunian, Scouse, Hallam and Geordie Labour party. They are about the only people left who will vote for you.

  34. @Leighton Vaughan Williams

    …Interestingly, those who invested their own money in forecasting the outcome performed a lot better in predicting what would happen than did the pollsters. The betting markets had the Conservatives well ahead in the number of seats they would win right through the campaign and were unmoved in this belief throughout…The Tories, they were convinced, were going to win significantly more seats than Labour…I have interrogated huge data sets of polls and betting markets over many, many elections stretching back years and this is part of a well-established pattern….”

    Mr V-W, I read your article with some interest. May I ask which “huge data sets of polls and betting markets” you are referring to please?

  35. Roland old bean you never done the lambeth walk cock -have some jellied eels ,bit of pie and mash .

    London ,labour thru and thru -its coming to england(see above) -ditch the torygaph try reading prospect , some tory strategist you turned out to be.

  36. Fascinating article in the grauniad -how clegg survived -partly cos the chinese took vince cables phone off him.

    Cant see another tory-libdem coalition for 100 years and a coalition with anyone for a generation.

  37. @Alec

    “…Greece doesn’t blow vast amounts of money on state pensions…”

    It blows vast amounts of money on something.

    It spent ten years lying thru its teeth and spending EU development grants on fairy rings and mooncow dreams, whilst building up a navy that’s bigger than ours and armed forces that are twice as large. When it was finally forced to reveal the black hole in its accounts it was given a 100billion loan, then two years later another 160billion loan…which it refuses to pay back whilst calling its lenders Nazis. It’s been given loan extensions (30 years, then more?), loan writeoffs (20% in 2012) and smaller interest rates (0.7% I last heard) which, for a debt of 170%GDP, is five years longer and 4%pa less than I am paying on my mortgage of 250% of my salary.

    The Eurozone has 330 million people. Greece owes it (along with the IMF and ECB) 360billion Euros – that’s about eleven hundred euros each. It owes so much it could actually bring down the IMF.

    The question is not why the Eurozone want to keep the Greeks in the Eurozone. The question is why aren’t the Eurozone actually bombing Athens at this stage.

  38. @Martyn – I think your last contribution regarding Greece is nonsense, in the main.

    Greece had huge problems with deception in government and fraud, for sure. That is why it is in such a mess now, by and large. There is a responsibility on the new Greek government and the Greek people, but lenders also bear responsibilities. The Greeks have endured years of austerity (40% cut in pensions – just think on that for a moment) and seen their economy crumple by 25%.

    Your points about the Greek army are wayward – they have a conscription based army, so numbers of boots tends to be high, but military spending is 1.68% GDP compared to the UK’s 2.1% – modest enough. It’s navy has more vessels than the UK’s, but as you would expect for such a country, they are much smaller – a total displacement of 150,000 tonnes compared to the UK fleets 650,000 tonnes.

    If the EU gave Greece grants for mooncows and fairy rings, then maybe the EU should look to it’s own fiscal control systems? Oh that’s right – the EU hasn’t had it’s own auditors sign off its accounts for a decade and a half because they are fiscally incontinent, and when EU officials point this out, they get sacked.

    Lets put aside the ding dong and focus on what really matters. We’re way beyond the discussion of moral hazard and who did what now – that’s the schoolboy stuff. What matters is how the mess gets fixed, and how best ordinary people are offered some measure of protection and hope. If the IMF loses a shed load of Euro’s, do I really care? To be perfectly honest, no. If European citizens are driven into poverty and despair, then I’ll get bothered.

    An answer needs to be found that minimizes the collateral damage, with people, not institutions placed at the head of the queue, and for my money that means better terms on the debts with repayments linked to growth (as the German’s had) and ideally a managed exit from the daft Euro.

  39. Yes very true old nat -but come to London a real Labour town,young idealistic activists who will stick it to the tories ,maybe only five realistic target seats left to take in 2020,won new councils like redbridge(never won before) in 2014,pushing east ,south ,north and west -havering next .

    Zak stands no chance whoever the labour candidate is.

  40. @ Spearmint

    While I would like the leader and the deputy from different genders, there is no such a rule in the Labour Party as HH’s 2011 proposition was not carried.

  41. @ Martyn’s and @ Alec

    The only relevant question is about the future, but its roots are in the past (not last in Basel III – the ECB essentially bailed out the commercial banks that lent to Greece (and other countries), instead of bailing out Greece).

    There is no technocratic solution to Greece, because none of the measures would deliver sustainable financial flows (including the IMF’s thousand time repeated silly model that has never worked).

    So, it is a political question. So the little box of Pandora is open, and I’m neither in the position nor having the information to make an informed view.

    Either a huge chunk (in the tune of Greece’s GDP – leaving about 40% of the debt) would have to be written off (highly unlikely, and would have massive ramifications), or Greece will have to go (the hidden cost of this are just surreal).

    So I expect a compromise between the fire and the fire engine.

  42. Reports -osborne to cut top rate to 40percent

  43. @Alec

    “…There is a responsibility on the new Greek government and the Greek people…”

    Yes, they do, and they should discharge it.

    “…but lenders also bear responsibilities…”

    No, they don’t. The responsibility for taking loans freely entered into between informed legal adults lies solely with the borrower.

    “…Your points about the Greek army are wayward – they have a conscription based army, so numbers of boots tends to be high…military spending is 1.68% GDP compared to the UK’s 2.1% – modest enough…”

    Comparisons are not relevant. Absolute amounts are relevant.They can’t afford the army they have. So they should make it smaller, fast.

    “…It’s navy has more vessels than the UK’s, but as you would expect for such a country, they are much smaller – a total displacement of 150,000 tonnes compared to the UK fleets 650,000 tonnes…”

    Comparisons are not relevant. Absolute amounts are relevant. They can’t afford the navy they have. So they should make it smaller, fast.

    “…the EU hasn’t had it’s own auditors sign off its accounts for a decade and a half because they are fiscally incontinent, and when EU officials point this out, they get sacked…”

    If the EU is fiscally incontinent then it should be fixed and forced to spend within its budget. If Greece is fiscally incontinent then it should be fixed and forced to spend within its budget. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    “…What matters is how the mess gets fixed, and how best ordinary people are offered some measure of protection and hope…”

    I agree. We should be working on ensuring that the 320 million hardworking taxpayers of the Eurozone should get back the 360 billion euros that the Greek state borrowed.

    “…If the IMF loses a shed load of Euro’s, do I really care?…”

    The UK is exposed to Greece via the IMF. If the IMF lose money, than some of the losses must be made up by the UK. Some of the money Greece refuses to pay belongs to us.

    “…If European citizens are driven into poverty and despair…”

    Greece already is poor, and has been for some time. Its economy is entirely dependent on grants from the EU, loans from the Eurozone and IMF and “overdrafts” from the ECB. Its industry varies from nominal to fictional, its accounts (both senses) are gibberish. If you want to make Greece unpoor then that is a noble aspiration but the question then arises who is to pay for it.

    “…for my money that means better terms on the debts with repayments linked to growth…”

    You are dictating terms on how other people retrieve their money from debtors. You may consider them immoral but they are within their rights to demand repayment on previously agreed terms.

    “…and ideally a managed exit from the daft Euro…”

    I have lost track of the number of times I have said this, but the Greek state is in the Euro voluntarily and refuse to leave it. They are not held in it without their consent, they are refusing to leave. Greece is not locked in with the Eurozone. The Eurozone are locked in with Greece.

  44. @Laszlo

    I’m not sure there is a mutually acceptable solution. Greece owes more money than it wants to repay, the troika is owed more money than it wants to lose. Unless Greece pays in something other than money, or somebody else gives Greece a gift, somebody has to lose.

    Every day, there are conflicts in points of view that cannot be resolved. When this happens, somebody has to lose. We have elections, and somebody loses. We have trials, and somebody loses. We have wars, and somebody loses. So the question arises: who will lose? The Eurozone are morally, legally, and factually in the right. Greece, is morally, legally and factually in the wrong, so of the two, Greece should lose.

    Of course, what *will* happen will probably be something different: oddly enuf, the world doesn’t listen to me before it acts….:-)

  45. @AnthonyWells

    My reply to Alec above is far too lengthy: please feel free to snip

  46. @CatManJeff – “The concept of an English Labour party (or any other party) sounds a very good idea to me, but it is putting the horse before the cart. Such a structure makes perfect sense in a federal UK, but not under the current system. What would happen if Labour won in 2020, with Scottish and English Labour MPs, if they have separate policies on a subject? Who wins out?”

    They are obviously writing off Scotland and assuming they won’t win any seats there.

    Given that, an English Labour party allows them to signal to English voters that English needs are paramount – whereas a National Labour party would/could still be accused of prioritising Scottish interests even though in reality it won’t get seats there.

    In other words, if they go for a distinct English Labour party with different policies to the Scottish one, it nullifies the “Vote Labour get Scottish/SNP influence” (especially as the public is now conflating the Scots and the SNP).

    I don’t know how the money works within the Labour party, but I saw an article which said that Scotland didn’t have many Labour members and the national Labour party had to subsidize them. Splitting the party means they no longer have to waste any precious resources on Scotland.

    I think Cruddas may be onto something here – cut Scotland loose and let them enjoy their one-party state for the moment, and concentrate on England. Revisit in about ten to fifteen years if the Scots are more receptive at that point (by then the perils of one-party representation should be biting hard).

  47. @Oldnat

    It seems a strange strategy to target the areas that turned against them the most (Glasgow). Once again they seem to be focussing on the ball when the whistle has blown.

  48. Martyn

    “I’m not sure there is a mutually acceptable solution. Greece owes more money than it wants to repay, the troika is owed more money than it wants to lose.”

    Greece owes more money than it could ever possibly repay and so it will end in default and everyone knows it.

    The current pantomime of keeping Greece on life support but not fixing anything is so everything that isn’t nailed down can be asset-stripped before the default.

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