In January the BPC inquiry team announced their initial findings on what went wrong in the general election polls. Today they have published their full final report. The overall conclusions haven’t changed, we’ve just got a lot more detail. For a report about polling methodology written by a bunch of academics it’s very readable, so I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but if you’re not in the mood for a 120 page document about polling methods then my summary is below:

Polls getting it wrong isn’t new

The error in the polls last year was worse than in many previous years, but wasn’t unprecedented. In 2005 and 2010 the polls performed comparatively well, but going back further there has often been an error in Labour’s favour, particularly since 1983. Last year’s error was the largest since 1992, but was not that different from the error in 1997 or 2001. The reason it was seen as so much worse was twofold – first, it meant the story was wrong (the polls suggested Labour would be the largest party, when actually there was a Tory majority, in 1997 and 2001 the only question was scale of the Labour landslide), second in 2015 all the main polls were wrong – in years like 1997 and 2001 there was a substantial average error in the polls, but some companies managed to get the result right, so it looked like a failure of particular pollsters rather than the industry as a whole.

Not everything was wrong: small parties were right, but Scotland wasn’t

There’s a difference between getting a poll right, and being seen to get a poll right. All the pre-election polls were actually pretty accurate for the Lib Dems, Greens and UKIP (and UKIP was seen as the big challenge!) it was seen as a disaster because they got the big two parties wrong, and therefore they got the story wrong. It’s the latter bit that’s important – in Scotland there was also a polling error (the SNP were understated, Labour overstated) but it was largely unremarked because it was a landslide. As the report says, “underestimating the size of a landslide is considerably less problematic than getting the result of an election wrong”

There was minimal late swing, if any

Obviously it is possible for people to change their minds in those 24 hours between the final poll fieldwork and the actual vote. People really can tell a pollster they’ll vote party A on Wednesday, but chicken out and vote party B on Thursday. The Scottish referendum was probably an example of genuine late swing – YouGov recontacted the same people they interviewed in their final pre-referendum poll on polling day itself, and found a small net swing towards NO. However, when pollsters get it wrong and blame late swing it does always sound a bit like a lame excuse “Oh, it was right when we did it, people must have changed their minds”.

To conclude there was late swing I’d want to see some pretty conclusive evidence. The inquiry team looked, but didn’t find any. Changes from the penultimate to final polls suggested any ongoing movement was towards Labour, not the Conservatives. A weighted average of re-contact surveys found change of only 0.6% from Lab to Con (and that was including some re-contacts from late campaign surveys, rather than final call surveys. Including only re-contact of final call surveys the average movement was towards Labour)

There probably weren’t any Shy Tories

“Shy Tories” is the theory that people who were not natural Tories were reluctant to admit to interviewers (or perhaps even to themselves!) that they were going to vote Conservative. If people had lied during the election campaign but admitted it afterwards, this would have shown up as late swing and it did not. This leaves the possibility that people lied before the election and consistently lied afterwards as well. This is obviously very difficult to test conclusively, but the inquiry team don’t believe the circumstantial evidence supports it. Not least, if there was a problem with shy Tories we could reasonably have expected polls conducted online without a human interviewer to have shown a higher Tory vote – they did not.

Turnout models weren’t that good, but it didn’t cause the error

Most pollsters modelled turnout using a simple method of asking people how likely they were to vote on a 0-10 scale. The inquiry team tested this by looking at whether people in re-contact surveys reported actually voting. For most pollsters this didn’t work out that well, however, it it was not the cause of the error – the inquiry team re-ran the data replacing pre-election likelihood to vote estimates with whether people reported actually voting after the election and they were just as wrong. As the inquiry team put it – if pollsters had known in advance which respondents would and would not vote, they would not have been any more accurate.

Differential turnout – that Labour voters were more likely to say they were going to vote and then fail to do so – was also dismissed as a factor. Voter validation tests (checking poll respondents against the actual marked register) did not suggest Labour voters were any more likely to lie about voting than Tory voters.

Note that in this sense turnout is about the difference between people *saying* they’ll vote (and pollsters estimates of if they’ll vote) and whether they actually do. That didn’t cause the polling error. However, the polling error could still have been caused by samples containing people who are too likely to vote, something that is an issue of turnout but which comes under the heading of sampling. It’s the difference between having young non-voters in your samples and them claiming they’ll vote when they won’t, and not having them in your sample to begin with.

Lots of other things that people have suggested were factors, weren’t factors

The inquiry put to bed various other theories too – postal votes were not the problem (samples contained the correct proportion of them), excluding overseas voters was not the problem (there are only 0.2% of the electorate), voter registration was not the problem (in the way it showed up it would have been functionally identical to misreporting of turnout – people who told pollsters they were going to vote, but did not – for the narrow purpose of polling error it doesn’t matter why they didn’t vote).

The main cause of the error was unrepresentative samples

The reason the polls got it wrong in 2015 was the sampling. The BPC inquiry team reached this conclusion to begin with by using the Sherlock Holmes method – eliminating all the other possibilities, leaving just one which must be true. However they also had positive evidence to back up the conclusion – the first is the comparison with the random probability surveys conducted by the BES and BSA later in the year, where past recall more closely resembled the actual election result, the second are some observable shortcomings within the samples. The age distribution within bands was off, the geographical distribution of the vote was wrong (polls underestimated Tory support more in the South East and East). Most importantly in my view, polling samples contained far too many people who vote, particularly among younger people – presumably because they contain people too engaged and interested in politics. Note that these aren’t necessarily the specific sample errors that caused the error: the BPC team cited them as evidence that sampling was off, not as the direct causes.

In the final polls there was no difference between telephone and online surveys

Looking at the final polls there was no difference at all between telephone and online surveys. The average Labour lead in the final polls was 0.2% in phone polls, and 0.2% in online polls. The average error compared to the final result was 1.6% for phone polls and 1.6% for online polls.

However, at points during the 2010-2015 Parliament there were differences between the modes. In the early part of the Parliament online polls were more favourable towards the Conservatives, for a large middle part of the Parliament phone polls were more favourable, during 2014 the gap disappeared entirely, phone polls started being more favourable towards the Tories during the election campaign, but came bang into line for the final polls. The inquiry suggest that could be herding, but that there is no strong reason to expect mode effects to be stable over time anyway – “mode effects arise from the interaction of the political environment with the various errors to which polling methods are prone. The magnitude and direction of these mode effects in the middle of the election cycle may be quite different to those that are evident in the final days of the campaign.”

The inquiry couldn’t rule out herding, but it doesn’t seem to have caused the error

That brings us to herding – the final polls were close to each other. To some observers they looked suspiciously close. Some degree of convergence is to be expected in the run to the election, many pollsters increased their sample sizes for their final polls so the variance between figures should be expected to fall. However, even allowing for that polls were still closer than would have been expected. Several pollsters made changes to their methods during the campaign and these did explain some of the convergence. It’s worth noting that all the changes increased the Conservative lead – that is, they made the polls *more* accurate, not less accurate.

The inquiry team also tested to see what the result would have been if every pollster had used the same method. That is, if you think pollsters had deliberately chosen methodological adjustments that made their polls closer to each other, what if you strip out all those individual adjustments? Using the same method across the board the results would have ranged from a four point Labour lead to a two point Tory lead. Polls would have been more variable… but every bit as wrong.

How the pollsters should improve their methods

Dealing with the main crux of the problem, unrepresentative samples, the inquiry have recommended that pollsters take action to improve how representative their samples are within their current criteria, and to investigate potential new quotas and weights that correlate with the sort of people who are under-represented in polls, and with voting intention. They are not prescriptive as to what the changes might be – on the first point they float possibilities about longer fieldwork and more callbacks in phone polls, and more incentives for under-represented groups in online polls. For potential new weighting variables they don’t suggest much at all, worrying that if such variables existed pollsters would already be using them, but we shall see what changes pollsters end up making to their sampling to address these recommendations.

The inquiry also makes some recommendations about turnout, don’t knows and asking if people have voted by post already. These seem perfectly sensible recommendations in themselves (especially asking if people have already voted by post, which several pollsters already do anyway), but given none of these things contributed to the error in 2015 they are more improvements for the future than addressing the failures of 2015.

And how the BPC should improve transparency

If the recommendations for the pollsters are pretty vague, the recommendations to the BPC are more specific, and mostly to do with transparency. Pollsters who are members of the BPC are already supposed to be open about methods, but the inquiry suggest they change the rules to make this more explicit – pollsters should give the exact variables and targets they weight to, and flag up any changes they make to their methods (the BPC are adopting these changes forthwith). They also make recommendations about registering polls and providing microdata to help any future inquiries, and for changes in how confidence margins are reported in polls. The BPC are looking at exactly how to do that in due course, but I think I’m rather less optimistic than the inquiry team about the difference it will make. The report says “Responsible media commentators would be much less inclined, however, to report a change in party support on the basis of one poll which shows no evidence of statistically significant change.” Personally I think *responsible* media commentators are already quite careful about how they report polls, the problem is that not all media commentators are responsible…

There’s no silver bullet

The inquiry team don’t make recommendations for specific changes that would have corrected the problems and don’t pretend there is an easy solution. Indeed, they point out that even the hugely expensive “gold standard” BES random probability surveys still managed to get the Conservatives and UKIP shares of the vote outside of the margin of error. They do think there are improvements that can be made though – and hopefully there are (hopefully the changes that some pollsters have already introduced are improving matters already). They also say it would be good if stakeholders were more realistic about the limits of polling, of how accurately it is really possible to measure people’s opinions.

Polling accuracy shouldn’t be black and white. It shouldn’t be a choice between “polls are the gospel truth” and “polls are worthless, ignore them all”. Polls are a tool, with advantages and limitations. There are limits on how well we can model and measure the views of a complex and mobile society, but that should be a reason for caveats and caution, not a reason to give up. As I wrote last year despite the many difficulties there are in getting a representative sample of the British public, I still think those difficulties are surmountable, and that ultimately, it’s still worth trying to find out and quantify what the public think.


151 Responses to “What the BPC inquiry’s final report says”

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  1. “There is one obvious error though. Isle of Man is the correct spelling, not with two ‘n’s.”

    ———-

    I think it’s possible there might be bigger issues with it than that, Alister!!

  2. But you can get some more out of it if you imagine for a moment that it’s not an April Fool…

  3. @louiswalshvotesgreen (and anyone else for that matter). I’d recommend not wasting any time on polls and internet chat forums like this one. Polls are self-evidently total and utter garbage, as consequently is any and all commentary thereon. And sample deficiency is very much at the root of the problem (this was a key finding of the BPC “enquiry”). GIGO most certainly has not changed in the last 30 years: it is same as it ever was (not that I am a Talking Heads fan…). Now I will heed my own advice / recommendation!

  4. {i}GIGO most certainly has not changed in the last 30 years: it is same as it ever was (not that I am a Talking Heads fan…). Now I will heed my own advice / recommendation!{/i}

    Facts are useful in an emergency…

  5. Hello all from om a fine day in Bournemouth East..

    MARK PERRETT.
    How do you account for the exaggerated figures for the Liberal Democrats?

  6. @ChrisLane – you win the Internet :)

    @Mark Perrett – Don’t worry – this site isn’t really for discussing polling, I see it more as a resource for gardening tips and next generation nuclear reactors (and storage). But thanks for the concern anyhow.

  7. Mark Perrett
    The polls may not have predicted the election result very well, but they’re not designed to be predictors anyway. What they do show is movement in support for various parties. Even if the total figure is not very accurate, movement over time can be quite illuminating.

    Usually we’re all a bit surprised when some momentous ‘Westminster bubble’ event has no discernible effect on polling results. Instead support seems to vary by voters picking up the zeitgeist. If pollsters could only design questions to do the same!

  8. MARK PERRETT:
    “Now I will heed my own advice / recommendation!”

    Do.

  9. LOUISWALSHVOTESGREEN

    900 page polling crossbreak reports make excellent plant pot liners.

  10. “@Mark Perrett – Don’t worry – this site isn’t really for discussing polling, I see it more as a resource for gardening tips and next generation nuclear reactors (and storage). But thanks for the concern anyhow.”

    ———

    Oh it’s so much more than that. Limoncello recipes, road numbering conventions, offers at Lidl, we got it all…

    (Although interest in flutes was once considered a bit of a let down…)

  11. Why is a flute player called a flautist and not a flutist?

  12. “Why is a flute player called a flautist and not a flutist?”

    For the same reason that a rap artist is called a rapper and not a rapist?

  13. “Why is a flute player called a flautist and not a flutist?”

    For the same reason that a rap artist is called a rapper and not a rapist?

    Lol, must admit, this made me chuckle. Anyway, I thought polls were never intended as a predictor, just a snapshot? And unless you have a poll that ‘snapshots’ every single eligible voter (or those who intend to vote, so guessing there as well), how could they ever be more than just a best guess?

    I kind of don’t see the point of them, apart from the companies that sell them to the press, etc, who obviously have a vested interest.

    Are they anything more than an expensive method of reading tea leaves?

  14. And what precisely is wrong with being a flute playing allotment holder may I ask ? … I’m feeling a little got at now :-)

  15. @ Hawthorn

    “In 1959, Labour lost with a “modernising” leader and in 1945 won on a manifesto much further to the left on economic policy than the current Labour Party. Some of the Labour 1983 manifesto is now Conservative Party policy.”

    What conclusions would you draw for the present, then?

    Is nationalisation once again going to become the vote winner it was in 1945?

    Since the Tories now support, for example, gay rights, is this reason to expect that they’ll adopt other parts of Labour’s 1983 manifesto in time?

  16. @Alec

    “Both Sanders and Trump have shown the benefits of campaigning against unfettered free trade…”

    ———-

    Oh that we were seeing free trade!! What peeps are concerned about, is not free trade, but stuff that screws with free trade. Monopoly or oligopoly actions to distort markets in their favour, states acting to favour their own interests.

    The people in politics and the media arguing to preserve the status quo as if they are inevitably preserving “free trade” have completely lost the plot. The deck is routinely being stacked against us in non-free trade ways, that’s what peeps are exercised about.

    (Similar to the concerns following the crunch. People objecting were portrayed as capitalism-hating radicals. Well, they may exist, but for many the objection was simply to the rigged game. They weren’t campaigning for an end to capital. Capitalism does not inevitably reward the most deserving or ensure free markets. Left unchecked, capital tends to do e opposite and stack the deck in s favour. Depends on the sector, how easy to corner the market etc.)

  17. Rewrite!!

    “…capital tends to do the opposite and stack the deck in its favour…”

  18. @Bigfatron

    “One of the main themes is the ten year delusion suffered by most Labour activists (including the author) that if they only offered the British electorate a truly socialist solution Labour would romp home; it only took four consecutive defeats to finally convince enough Labour members that this was simply rubbish and get Blair elected.

    Even as a non-Labour supporter I fear for this country if Labour goes down the same route again – talk about the definition of insanity…”

    ———-

    When it comes to delusion, there’s quite a bit concerning the appeal or otherwise of Labour policies.

    Are policies like renationalisation really so unpopular these days? Look at the polling on the matter?

    Or is it more the case that since the seventies the left vote has been split, and the media are more likely to demonise Labour if it pursues old Labour policies.

    (Equally, people like welfare in lots of instances, but if the press is filled with stories giving the impression everyone on welfare has a Rolls in the driveway, then that can affect polling a bit…)

    Similarly, Tories took a lot of heat – Omnishambles etc. – when not happinating the media over Levinson. With predictable impact on polling.

    (Maybe government copping a bit now actually because pro EU?)

  19. @Bigfatron

    Or to put it another way, is it the case that there’s been a massive shift rightwards with Tories getting elected on around a quarter of the electorate?

    When policies like renationalisation have plenty support. Look at the polling. Is everyone suddenly clamouring for bedroom taxes and free schools?

    Or is it that the press started going on and on about immigration till polling showed it became the most salient thing and trumped Labour’s policy strengths? With more scare stories about welfare and Scotties for good measure?

  20. There is a story on Sky about China:

    “China has said it will levy 46% duties on a type of high tech steel produced by Tata Steel in Wales, Sky News has learned.

    The Chinese Government argues that European Union exports of “grain oriented electrical steel” are causing “substantial damage” and “material injury” to China’s industry.”

    http://news.sky.com/story/1671109/china-hits-steel-made-in-uk-with-46-percent-levy

    I’ve haven’t seen confirmation, so it could be a bad April’s Fool, but if true it shows the frankly silly things that happen once countries start imposing protectionist tariffs. It’s a lose – lose situation.

  21. @Carfrew – would agree regarding ‘free trade’.

    Fascinatingly, on the day that Tory ministers are arguing that their opposition to higher EU tariffs on Chinese steel was done to help UK industry, we learn that China has imposed an import tariff of 46% on a type of specialist steel manufactured by a division of Tata in South Wales. Ouch!

    Osborne is being delusional about the Chinese being nice people to work with.

  22. @CMJ – I think you need to separate out ‘protectionist’ tariffs and tariffs designed to rectify market distortions,such as massive state subsidies.

    Indeed, I think there is a decent chance that China has deliberately engineered the situation as a means to capture market share, in a similar vein to the Saudi’s and oil production.

    It’s odd though, that the UK government has ruled out nationalising the steel industry, when it is happy to nationalise the nuclear power sector. Perhaps it doesn’t count as nationalising if it’s the French and Chinese governments? I’ve never quite got the hang of this.

  23. @Alec

    There is much to say on this but I’ve had a little vino.

    Maybe it’s possible Osborne needs to do another U turn as this all plays great for the Brexit press.

    Meanwhile in the Times yesterday it highlighted some of Labour’s contribution to the current mess.

    Myself, I’m marvelling at how letting go of one strategic industry, nuclear, then results in hamnering another, Steel. ‘Cos like that’d be a real surprise, one strategic industry affecting another!!

    Strangely, in the case of banking, they seem to get it though. No one knows why…

  24. “@CMJ – I think you need to separate out ‘protectionist’ tariffs and tariffs designed to rectify market distortions,such as massive state subsidies.”

    ————-

    Exactly. If a distortion is introduced we are no longer in a free trade situation, where we can just do sweet FA and leave it to the market.

    Sure, to react in kind might be suboptimal compared with the free trade ideal.

    But compared to the reality of losing a strategic industry…

  25. We didn’t leave it to the market in response to the Seventies oil crisis either, another big market distortion that hammered us.

    Nope, we did the sensible thing and got all strategic and reduced our oil dependence so the next time prices went up it didn’t hit us as bad.

    Be nice to live in a free market utopia, like it’d be nice to live in a world free from crime (and storage taxes) but until we do…

  26. JamesE

    I don’t know. The point I am making is that 1983 is a very long time ago and too many people are still living in that year.

    There is solid evidence that nationalising steel and the railways at least would be popular. Whether doing so is a good idea is not the remit of this forum.

    One lesson to draw from the last 35 years is that in the areas where the left has pushed hard (social policy) against the Daily Mail tendency, they have been very successful. Where they have gone with the flow (economic policy) they have failed.

  27. It is a fact of political life that saving industrial jobs, even in the situation where they can never really be viable, is always a vote winner. People always seem to value job retention over job creation, it’s just human nature.

    In France, the government are running into deep trouble because they want to relax employment laws to give businesses more flexibility and hopefully reduce stubbornly high unemployment. People who are already in jobs hate the idea and they of course are the majority.

    It does no good to point out that protectionism, in any of its forms, leads to uncompetitiveness, higher unemployment in the longer term and increased poverty. People only see the now.

  28. I don’t really understand this explanation. It seems obvious that polls which overestimated the labour vote had too many Labour voters in their sample. But what does that tell us That isn’t a tautolgy? This is not meant as a criticism but as a request for clarification.

  29. @RMJ1

    I have thought about this issue quite a bit, and the conclusions I have come to are different to the vast majority of my side of the political argument.

    ‘Basic’ steel is a commodity, and not that hard to make. I can’t see an advanced economy in the medium term being competitive as developing nations have such inherent advantages.

    Specialist manufacturing and processing is something advanced economies can do really well, so perhaps the future is a small, very specialist industry.

    The transition for areas that rely on steel making will be painful, and needs support from the Government to avoid the devastation that occurred to mining communities, ship-building etc. However, I think this needs to be the focus over trying to maintain the status quo. I think defying economic gravity will be very expensive and ultimately futile.

    I say this with a heavy heart. My own families has ties with South Yorkshire, and mining runs through my families veins. Time caught up with UK mining, and there can be no going back, no matter how much nostalgia exists.

    I now live in part of West Yorkshire that was build on textiles. That went too disappeared.

    Hopefully an answer can be found that gives the steel industry the space to transform into something sustainable on it’s own feet, and the gets the help to diversify the areas impacted with business support and training.

  30. Correction

    @RMJ1

    I have thought about this issue quite a bit, and the conclusions I have come to are different to the vast majority of my side of the political argument.

    ‘Basic’ steel is a commodity, and not that hard to make. I can’t see an advanced economy in the medium term being competitive as developing nations have such inherent advantages.

    Specialist manufacturing and processing is something advanced economies can do really well, so perhaps the future is a small, very specialist industry.

    The transition for areas that rely on steel making will be painful, and needs support from the Government to avoid the devastation that occurred to mining communities, ship-building etc. However, I think this needs to be the focus over trying to maintain the status quo. I think defying economic gravity will be very expensive and ultimately futile.

    I say this with a heavy heart. My own family has ties with South Yorkshire, and mining runs through my family’s veins. Time caught up with UK mining, and there can be no going back, no matter how much nostalgia exists.

    I now live in part of West Yorkshire that was built on textiles. That too disappeared.

    Hopefully an answer can be found that gives the steel industry the space to transform into something sustainable on it’s own feet, and the areas impacted gets the help to diversify with business support and training.

  31. RMJ1

    “It does no good to point out that protectionism, in any of its forms, leads to uncompetitiveness, higher unemployment in the longer term and increased poverty. People only see the now”

    ——–

    That’s the party line. Peeps are pointing out the problems with it. There are issues with protectionism, rigging the market, but businesses and states do really quite well out of it.

    Peeps have done very well out of it gaining and keeping market share. We ran a big chunk of the world with protected markets during empire. Our competitors currently may seize a lot of market share in steel.

    Conversely, allowing ourselves to lose a strategic nuclear industry is proving expensive, in terms of both higher energy costs but also now the impact on steel.

    Meanwhile I don’t think the Americans are regretting saving their car industry.

    If we were to stack the deck with a big state investment in Thorium that worked, that would be a massive competitive advantage that in the long run would lower costs for everyone. Just as states have interfered with the market before and given us the internet.

    We acted to save the banks too, when the markets failed. Leaving the banking system to collapse and take down everything else would not have been very “efficient”.

  32. @Catman

    The neoliberal takein things can be very simplistic and thus compelling.

    A fuller analysis of the kind Krugman did to win his Nobel shows that because people like choice, because of transport costs, and developing nations unable to build enough big, efficient factories to cater to the choice, developing nations can’t so easily hoover up.

    That’s how the Germans can continue competing in a mature industry like cars.

    Also, according to Alec, tariffs are now being levied by others on our more advanced steel anyway.

    I don’t see why we have to sacrifice our defence mechanisms while others are taking the Mick. That’s not efficient, that’s just crazy.

  33. @RMJ1

    “It is a fact of political life that saving industrial jobs, even in the situation where they can never really be viable, is always a vote winner. People always seem to value job retention over job creation, it’s just human nature.”

    ————

    It’s the needless loss of jobs peeps worry about the most. You have to sustain jobs during a big economic shock, especially those listed upon us deliberately by rivals. The knock on and long term cost otherwise can be huge.

    And it’s especially an issue when our own governments make decisions that cost jobs and try and pretend the jobs would have been lost anyway.

    A classic example was the oil crisis. We initially saved a lot of jobs. Which you have to do while industry is under a market assault. But later we ramped up interest rates even more and stuck up VAT, not necessarily a great idea for businesses already struggling to survive external shocks.

    Currently, according to the Times, it seems as though actions by government including Labour have had a negative impact on steel. Of course they may want to say it’s just inevitable market consequences…

    We don’t tend to do as much to save industrial jobs anyway, compared to banking.

  34. All this against a background of an unprecedented trade deficit (which nobody seems to care about – don’t tell poor old Harold Wilson who was regularly crucified for a much lesser deficit)
    In the eighties we were told we had no chance of being competitive in cars so BL went to the wall. Renault and Fiat were just as much basket cases as BL but Renault is going strong (and owns Nissan) and Fiat is going strong (and owns Chrysler). I presume we had no chance of being competitive in aeroplanes either so our industry is a rump owned by that legendary hyper-efficient, neoliberal darling, France (all suggestions that France is a worker-pampering, inflexible, cheese-eating, flabby economy are hereby cancelled).

  35. @ Carfrew
    it may surprise you, but I agree; there are situations aplenty where a market solution simply doesn’t lead to an optimal, or even good, outcome – transport, energy, education, health being four obvious examples.

    There is a real opportunity to revitalise the concept of community engagement, but the difficulty is that it is a complex message when there is a simpler alternative explanation being offered; it is in the interests of the owners of capital to blame something other than market forces for the failings that arise – hence the Daily Express/Mail fixation with immigrants, scroungers and assorted ‘not us’ people who can be scape-goated.

    Structurally the world economy currently allows those with capital to siphon off the majority, if not all, of GDP gains (the US and Russia being the worst examples here) – and thereby increasing inequality. A combination of propaganda and (in Russia) the threat of force have been enough to keep ordinary people onside despite stagnant living standards, but this is now breaking down in the US and Europe.

    It will be interesting to see how the capital-rich react – do they stick with the attempt to deflect blame and hope they can control Trump, Farage, etc, try to imitate Russia and scare people, try to fix the problem (whilst accepting their ability to make money will be compromised) or stick their heads in the sand and hope the problem will go away?

    My betting is on the last of the four… hence IMHO the opportunity to push communitarianism (if that is a real word!)

  36. Maybe if the British steel industry could have learnt from Pohang Steelworks, we wouldn’t have all these fallacious narratives …

    But the crisis of the steel industry will affect the government’s polling (negatively), and it could easily last till the local elections.

  37. Alec – “Indeed, I think there is a decent chance that China has deliberately engineered the situation as a means to capture market share, in a similar vein to the Saudi’s and oil production.”

    Or it could be that the Chinese tend to do everything in excess. I read somewhere that Chinese steel production ramped up when they were building all those ghost cities – apparently they thought the building would continue indefinitely because the govt had decreed it! It’s because of the absence of true market forces in China that we have this problem.

    Another area where the Chinese overdo things is fishing. According to the UN, the root cause of the Somali pirate problem is because in the 90’s when the Somali govt collapsed, no-one was defending their waters, and Chinese trawlers moved in and picked the sea clean. The marine eco-system there is now completely destroyed and there are no fish to be had. Which was devastating for the Somali fishermen. But they still had their boats and turned instead to piracy of ships trying to move Chinese goods up the Red Sea.

    Argentina is also experiencing an influx of Chinese trawlers in their waters. They refuse to leave too – the Argentinians sank a boat last month in exasperation and as a warning to the others. The Chinese trawlers seem to be preying on weak countries that have weak defences.

    Which brings us back to the steel industry. I think we need to slap retaliatory tariffs on the Chinese in order to press home that dumping won’t be tolerated.

  38. Was chatting to a friend last night about the budget.
    We were wondering which budget had the most u turns, anyone know?

  39. Sky News had a poll last night where 66% of respondents favoured nationalising the steel industry.

    By the way Barack Obama’s home town of Chicago has had a 72% increase in the murder rate in 2016.

  40. This is excellently timed for my dissertation, Anthony!

  41. @Wolf

    I think the issues with Tata Steel will be a very large political football.

    This is sad, as what is required is a serious long term solution, and this becomes exceedingly difficult when so much politics is played around it.

  42. My candidate for the next U-turn from the budget is the enforced academies plan.

    When the chairman of the 1922 committee adds his voice to the stiff resistance from lots of Tory councillors, the U-turn can’t be far off.

    With transitional costs being reported as £1.3Bn, it comes with quite a hefty price tag, and very little evidence offered up for the supposed benefits.

  43. So now we know.

    On Thursday night, according to Downing Street briefings, Cameron ‘confronted’ the Chinese premier at the Nuclear Security Summit regarding the dumping of steel and job losses in the UK. On Friday, China announces 46% tariffs on a type of steel made by Tata.

    Genius!

    One point worth making regarding protectionism is that people seem to be forgetting that the Chinese have been engaged i rampant protectionism for many years. They set their own currency rate, which removes the ability of markets to provide adjustable mechanism for valuing cross border trade, and more directly concerned with steel, there are massive subsidies pumped into Chinese producers, which is a protectionist measure in itself.

  44. I know China haven’t played ball for years, but who has the might to challenge them?

    The US?

    The WTO?

  45. I’m tickled by an idea I came across in Denmark to reduce the deficit – put a tax on opinion polls…..

  46. @CMJ – the BBC were reporting that China is getting ready to lay off five million (!!) workers from their steel sector. This will cause them big problems, and they aren’t as powerful as some imagine, with domestic unrest a real possibility.

  47. @Alec

    Of course, if China have domestic unrest, and the Chinese economy is affected, the knock on effect on the world economy would be decidedly chilling.

    I did hear the Radio 4 report talking about a serious pull back in the steel making area. The reporter also noted it the time scale will not be of any help to Tata Steel.

  48. Good Evening all from Bournemouth East.

    JAMES E: Hello to you.
    The 1945 Manifesto was where the voters were, politically; at least enough of them to win. The Labour leaders were established as patriotic, tough on defence matters, competent, and also united, largely. Beveridge and Keynes were Liberals. A lot of the programme was coming in the War anyway.

    In 1959 Labour was deeply divided over defence, Bevan and tax. The far left led by Mikardo was causing trouble and during the GE campaign Gaitskell lost credibility when denying taxes would rise.
    Labour faced a new Tory leader after Eden went over Suez. Nye’s speech attacking The Suez War went down well with activists but not with soldiers’ families and the Press.
    Benn, then right wing Labour worked for Gaitskell but he admitted the campaign was weak on the ground.
    Finally the 1959 GE campaign confirmed trends of 1951 and 1955 where the tories were doing very well in the new suburb seats.
    Wilson and then Blair took the Labour Party to the centre and won.

  49. Chrislane
    Bevan was not an issue in 1959 – unlike 1955. He had made peace with Gaitskell and become Deputy Leader and had made his ‘sending a British Foreign Secretary naked into the Conference Chamber’ speech a year or two earlier.

  50. Re: nationalisation of steel and comparison with banks etc. I agree Quite an effective line and polls well. Worth remembering that The big 4 uk banks have lost about 200,000 jobs since the financial crisis. RBS alone has lost more than 60,000.

    Also they are no longer doing the unprofitable activities that led to those losses. eg buying up crappy US mortgage bonds etc.

    As CMJ points out above. There’s probably not a massive future for basic steel products.

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