William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

British Elections Open Thread. The Return of Nationalism?

Farage antebellum.

Farage antebellum.

We haven’t discussed much the elections of our English-speaking cousins, but it’s worth doing because of how this one played out. Particularly in its nationalistic aspects.

Ed Miliband, Labour, a man who looks like Jerry Seinfeld’s bepaunched (you heard me) sad sack cousin, and whom we met in This Week in Doom, was the big loser. Late in the election, he took to promising to make “Islamaphobia”, a fearful condition which only the government can secretly discern, an “aggravated crime”, i.e. jail-worthy (make that gaol-worthy). Quite obviously Miliband did this to suck up to immigrants and those ardent lefties who could not bring themselves to say British Western culture is superior to Islamism. But, as he already had those morally superior (as they never tire of telling us) voters, his desperation only hurt him among the normals.

Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s weakly Tea-Party-like UKIP lost. That party only held two seats and was only supposed to keep them. It lost one; Farage’s seat. So, no matter what, UKIP was never going to be more than a blip. Yet the progressives in England, whenever they heard Farage’s name, reacted like irked maniac apes, gibbering incoherently and throwing their poop at whomever was in sight. Howling Social Justice Warriors stalked poor Farage and his family, chased him from pubs, even, and now from public life. Farage resigned.

David Cameron remains as Prime Minister. His one big idea seems to have been, “I’m not Ed Miliband.” I’m no expert in Parliamentary politics, but that looked to be the same idea he’s had since 2010. “I’m not Labour.” Which means, except for trivial differences—don’t forget it was he who pushed through same-sex marriage in England at just the time nobody was calling for it, and that he’s an Official Brussels Buddy—he’s pretty much Labour. Yet those voters who still thought themselves English and perhaps had items like Rotherham on their mind, had nowhere else to go but to him. Rank leftism was rejected.

You have to love—I do—how the cessation of accelerating profligate spending is called in Europe “austerity”. Here the slow-down-in-speeding-up-yet-still-increases-in-spending are called “budget cuts”. It’s a wonder that politicians who utter these outrageously disingenuous phrases aren’t struck down dead. That they aren’t is sure proof of the Devil.

This is relevant because, as we recall, Scotland a short while ago had a national referendum about disuniting themselves from (what’s left of) the United Kingdom. They barely decided to stick it out with Merrie England. Well, yesterday Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Nationalist Party stomped all competitors into the dust, guaranteeing a hefty presence in Parliament. This was an effective second referendum, and this time in favor of breaking free at some time, nobody knows when, in the future.

So you think to yourself: nationalism good, subsidiarity in action and all that. But. Nicola Sturgeon’s first act was to call for an “end” to austerity, which is to say, a return to the bad old days of wild spending. Since Scotland doesn’t have the money, what she means is that she wants England to pay.

Here my imagination runs dry. Perhaps those more familiar with Island politics can help us guess the future. Will the Northern money flow cause England to say “Good riddance” or will Scotland grow so dependent on its keeper that she rolls over lest she lose her free lunches? And wouldn’t Scotland have to vacate Parliament?

The nationalistic flavor to this election is what’s most interesting. Can we look forward to some of that here? Would we be better off with a Queen Hillary rather than a President Clinton II? There are many points in favor of the first situation. It would certainly stop Her Majesty’s populist pandering.

I saved the best news for the last. The Spectator opines that the election’s “biggest loser” was Russell Brand. Let’s pray this is true. Brand is the intellectual giant—a cerebral state certified by elite celebrities—of that influential monograph My Bookie Wook, a man whose voice is so grating that listening to The Beatles at full volume is to be preferred, and a man who would have been overwhelmingly voted Person I’d Like Most To Never Of Again had there been such an award. Buh-bye, Rusty.

Your thoughts?

Update Of statistical interest: “How did the pollsters get it so WRONG? Experts claim voters ‘said one thing and did another’ after polls failed to predict Tory victory.”

If that’s true, and there’s some evidence for it, it means many people tell pollsters what they think the pollsters want to hear. And what these citizens think public figures want to hear are lefty thoughts.

Update Another discussion showing polls the world over are underestimating “conservative” results. Some stranger calls you on the phone and says, “Sir, do you support marriage equality?” What fraction of people will hang up or lie?

29 Comments

  1. The most interesting thing about the result is how the “expert” statisticians got their predictions so completely wrong. There is a consortium of UK academics @BESResearch who predicted, yesterday, 274 Conservative and 278 Labour seats.
    The result now, with a few seats still to go, is 327 Con, 232 Labour.
    In fact there was a 97% consensus among the experts that the Conservatives wouldn’t get more than 296 seats.

    Of course there is absolutely no analogy with climate science whatsoever here, either in terms of over-confidence in statistical predictions, importance of expert consensus, or the influence of left-wing bias of university academics.

  2. Your final two sentences in the update remind me of Sylvain’s soldier poll.

  3. David in Cal

    May 8, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Wait a minute, Paul. Consider what we have learned from climate scientists.

    Yes, the expert statisticians got it completely wrong on a short-term basis. However, their methods are utterly reliable when applied to longer time frames. Although they couldn’t predict the 2015 election, they can tell us right now who will win the 2100 election.

  4. “gaol-worthy” — made my day

  5. I read the news today, oh boy,
    About a lucky man who made the grade
    And though the news was rather sad,
    Well I just had to laugh.
    I saw the photograph.
    He blew his mind out in a car.
    He didn’t notice that the lights had changed.
    A crowd of people stood and stared.
    They’d seen his face before.
    Nobody was really sure
    If he was from the House of Lords.

  6. David, thanks, fair point. Also of course, after suitable adjustments have been applied to the data, the results are in line with the expert predictions.

  7. Ah, but weep a tear for UKIP… a voice of sanity rejected.

  8. The GWPF seems to have liked that last one.
    http://www.thegwpf.com/scientists-adjust-uk-elections-results/

    Meanwhile, someone else has pointed out on twitter that the missing Labour voters may be hiding at the bottom of the oceans.

  9. Kind of like Republicans who run as “We aren’t Democrats” or “We hate Obama”. Worked twice here.

    Scotland will roll over. The current mood on the planet is “Steal from those who earn, borrow if you can’t steal, and spend like there’s tomorrow” which at some point may become literally true.

    I often think pollsters get it wrong because they approach a certain type of person–smiling, open and willing to answer, those who do not hang up when phoned. It may be that said personality type often votes in a certain way, thus assuring the pollsters miss the scowling, angry folks who showed up in mass to make sure the smiling guy’s candidate loses.

  10. Return of sanity.

  11. Nate Silver’s outfit (538) also had some predictions:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/interactives/uk-general-election-predictions/

    to which they appropriately admit defeat and try to figure out why they (and everyone else) were so wrong:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/what-we-got-wrong-in-our-2015-uk-general-election-model/

    Side thought: The whole ‘95% confidence’ intervals bother me, because if they got a result just inside that interval they would be claiming all kinds of success. However, the probability (since they probably assumed Gaussian) of getting a point that far out is really low. 95% intervals can be so wide that they are almost meaningless (context dependent, of course).

    I’m going to go ahead and say that I had a 100% confidence interval that the number of seats won by any party was between 0 and 632, inclusive.

  12. Sheri: I often think pollsters get it wrong because they approach a certain type of person

    People who are nice

  13. “those who do not hang up when phoned.” Nah. We now have this thing called Caller ID. If it’s not mom, the spouse or the son or his wife I don’t pick it up. Leave a message if you want me to maybe call back. Talk to pollsters – hee hee. AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN. And that’s the landline home phone. Don’t even try and call the cell phone. It’s turned off. All the time. Unless of course I suddenly have the urge to call someone. Happens about once a month. Maybe.

  14. UKIP wasn’t rejected. 12% of the vote in a proportional system would have gotten them 80 seats.

  15. Briggs,

    “If that’s true, and there’s some evidence for it, it means many people tell pollsters what they think the pollsters want to hear. And what these citizens think public figures want to hear are lefty thoughts.”

    How did republican pollster got it so wrong in 2012. Obama’s win was much greater than any prediction by pollster.

  16. Briggs

    May 8, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Sylvain,

    Not so. Nate Silver did a fine job. And so did most other pollsters—except the partisan Republican ones. Why they fibbed and flubbed is only too well known.

  17. Briggs

    Sylvain did say Republican in the first sentence. “How did republican pollster got it so wrong in 2012.” Perhaps the next sentence was meant to be predicated on that first sentence. “Obama’s win was much greater than any prediction by pollster.”

    Of course, Sylvain is pointing out exactly what skeptics say about how climate models are so wrong and how Alarmists fib and flub about them.

  18. Mr. Briggs,

    I must protest that you are unfair to Russel Brand. In a 2012 survey of 213,015 Star Wars fans, Mr. Brand lost by 17 votes to Jarjar Binks in the category of “Who I Would Most Like To Never Hear Of Again.”

  19. Scottish national party got 1,454,436 votes, 56 seats.
    UKIP got 3,881,129 votes, 1 seat.

    12% of the total is a pretty good showing. Of course, since each constituency is winner-take-all….

  20. Briggs,

    I did mean republican.

    Yes Silver got it right but no else gave Obama over 300 grand elector or over 51% of the vote.

  21. As Bruce said, UKIP was hardly a loser – they advanced to being the third biggest party in the UK by popular vote. But because their support is spread out they only have one seat, whereas the SNP with less than half the votes, got 56. Labour lost its support in Scotland, which is a traditional heartland. The LibDems crashed and burned, probably because English voters were worried that a minority Labour government propped up by SNP would have to make a lot of concessions that would be bad for everyone else, so they switched to voting Conservative.
    Scotland already has a devolved parliament, and it is likely that more powers will be devolved, possibly to the extent of full fiscal responsibility. For a lot of Scots, that was what they wanted and why they voted against secession: many would rather be within the UK umbrella but fiscally independent.

  22. Noblesse Oblige

    May 8, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    The party of Eden, MacMillan, and Thatcher would hardly recognize Cameron’s gig as “conservative.”

  23. Just to correct you: UKIP’s two MPs before the election were Douglas Carswell representing Clacton, and Mark Reckless representing Rochester. Both defected from the Conservatives about 6 months ago, and were re-elected in a by election. Carswell kept his seat with a reduced majority; Reckless lost his to the new conservative candidate. Carswell is the first UKIP MP to be elected at a general election.

    Farage is a member of the European parliment, which runs on a more proportional system, so UKIP tends to do much better with its spread out vote not concentrated in any one constituency. It has more MEPs than any other British party. He wanted to be elected to the Westminster parliment. Farage was obviously hoping that the 15% popular vote would translate into 20 or 30 seats, in which case the leader of the party ought to be a member of the Westminster parliment rather than the Strasbourg one, so he felt that he would have to resign his leadership if he wasn’t one of those 20 to 30. As it happens, that didn’t work out. UKIP improved dramatically in this election, but not by as much as they were hoping.

    The election result could have been a lot worse. Imagine a cross between Trotsky and Obama. Multiply the bad points by about a factor of 10 and divide any good points by a similar factor. That’s Milliband and his team for you, and the SNP are even worse (it’s not just their nationalism, but their rabid socialism and corresponding complete rejection of any reality). Cameroon is not good, but he is only moderately bad in comparison, and the conservatives do still have a number of good people among their MPs (just not in the party leadership), and even one or two in their cabinet. The country might possibly survive 5 years of Cameroon without passing the point of no return. Things will continue to get worse, but not so quickly that we would be looking at an utter and irreparable disaster. Labour/SNP would have reached that disaster in about 2 years.

  24. What I really miss is a conservative political leader who can outline the reasons for being a conservative in a way that catches the public imagination. All the parties talk about going to meet the public where the public stands. None of them want to persuade the public to come to them.

    As such, the left wing consensus in the media/education system pretty much wins by default. You just get soundbites in opposition, and you can’t build a reasoned argument through soundbites. Which is a pity, since, as our host so frequently points out, that consensus has foundations of sand.

  25. Cameron is not going to be able to achieve his “one nation” with a “devolution revolution.” He’s playing to the worst divisions in Britain. Hopefully the British people will tire of it soon enough.

    JMJ

  26. I’m a little put-out that the British people decided on a graceful descent into the coffin under wax’n’shine Cameron rather than total implosion under Miliband. My hope was an SNP coalition that would dismantle the nation’s Trident nuclear missile deterrent.

    The fewer Modern Western nations with red buttons the better.

  27. But, Mark, you are presumably quite happy for the likes of Iran and North Korea to have them? (And no, they will not give them up just because we do. North Korean society, for example, is built on the propaganda that the US is the source of all evil in the world, that it is occupying South Korea against the wishes of her people as the Japanese did, and that the South Koreans are crying out to be united under the true Korean Juche, and that every good person in the world, of which their race are the purest examples, would like to see the US disolved into a sea of fire and utterly wiped off the map. And they have no regard whatsoever for human life, except for their own and their close family and friends and supporters. `Love your friends; hate/be apathetic towards/massacre your enemies’ is a near universal concept outside Christian and post-Christian culture. They don’t just say it (continually), they mean it. The only things stopping them from doing it are a) they don’t quite have the technological capability — but they will do in a few years; and b) they know if they tried they would get pulverised themselves. a) they are doing a good job of solving themselves, and you are advocating that we remove our capacity for b). Iran is just the same, only with Israel as the primary enemy and target for annihilation, the Saudis second, and the US only third.)

    Yes, a world with no nukes is in principle best. But that isn’t a possible option practically. The choice we have is do we want a world where both the moderately bad guys and the really bad guys (there are, of course, no good guys in government anywhere in the world, nor are their likely to be) have nukes, or only the really bad guys who might happily use them unprovoked if there were no fear of retaliation?

    Another huge reason to be grateful for the Cameroon victory. Not even Milliband is that stupid/ignorant, but the SNP, Greens and Plyd Cyrmru are.

  28. The polls got it wrong, but when people put their money where their mouths were, they got it really right: Prediction markets were apparently spot on: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/05/markets_polls_g.html

    Then again, I don’t know the results of markets that _weren’t_ referenced, and make no claims about how long this primacy will last. After all, last US election, it was the polls that were scarily accurate.

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