Brexit – hunting for the political big beasts

The British public have taken very little interest to date in Prime Minister Cameron’s renegotiations with Britain’s European Union (EU) partners in advance of a likely Brexit referendum later this year. However, with key European meetings looming soon it is likely that within the next few months Cameron will have got some form of deal and will declare it as a diplomatic victory for Britain.

In my post on events in 2016 I predicted that the British public will vote to leave the EU on the back of the on-going migration crisis and the involvement of influential political and financial figures in the Leave campaign. Opinion polls published suggest a high degree of volatility with public attitudes towards the EU, with a third of voters committed to leaving, a similar percentage committed to staying and the rest open to persuasion.

For the Leave campaign to win in the referendum it needs a clear, consistent strategy to combat the Operation Fear Mark II from the ‘In’ camp which will try and terrify the British people to vote to stay in the Union. To do that, the Leave campaign needs to persuade the public that the risks of staying within the EU are higher than the risks of leaving. A key aspect of this challenge is finding a political ‘big beast’ who can lead the Leave campaign.

Public opinion polls suggest that Boris Johnson has the charisma, political skills and ability to connect with the ordinary voter on this key national matter and would be able to persuade the floating centre of ‘not sure’ voters that leaving the EU will be in Britain’s national interest. The Home Secretary Theresa May, whilst not as charismatic as Boris, has the gravitas to command public respect and lead a Leave campaign on an economic and security agenda.

To summarise, the majority of the British public would like to leave the EU, but are worried about the negative economic consequences of leaving the Union. Only a major political figure with strong communication skills, like Boris Johnson or Theresa May, can fill the political vacuum and lead the Leave campaign. If these political heavyweights don’t take this historic opportunity and lead the Leave campaign, then it is much more likely that a risk-averse public will end up voting to stay in the EU.

 

Brexit – hunting for the political big beasts

The rise of Donald Trump

Donald Trump exploded onto the American political scene in July 2015 with a series of inflammatory and provocative policies which have dominated the media coverage. Initially, the pundocracy considered him a joke candidate destined to disappear after a few months in the limelight. It hasn’t quite worked out like that.

Trump has enjoyed consistent leads in the polls for months and is the established number one candidate with only Senator Cruz left as a real threat. What are the reasons behind his surge in the polls and popularity among the public? I will outline the key factors behind his rise as I see it:

Immigration

The Washington pundocracy, both Democrat and Republican, have ignored the toxic issue of illegal migration by Mexicans into America for years for different reasons. For the republican elite, illegal migration has forced down wages for blue-collar workers which has benefited multinational corporations who are key donors of the party. For the Democrats, the Hispanic voting bloc is an important voting demographic and cracking down hard on illegal immigration would fracture their progressive voting coalition. The biggest losers of mass illegal migration from the south are unskilled blue-collar American workers who have seen their wages flat-line due to competition from Mexican migrants. Trump has ruthlessly moved into this political space vacated by the rest of the political elite and monopolised it with his proposal of a wall to end illegal migration. Trump is the only US candidate actually addressing the issue of illegal migration and blue collar voters love him for it.

War fatigue

An under-estimated factor for the popularity of Trump is his long-established opposition to the post-9/11 military wars led by the Bush and Obama administrations, specifically the Iraq and Libya wars. President Obama’s election victory was in part a reaction by the American public tired of disastrous military interventions in the Middle East and Trumps campaign feeds on that same national mood. Hilary Clinton’s interventionist policies on foreign policy may work well in elite Republican circles but outside the Beltway the majority of ordinary Republicans are fed up with foreign wars in Muslim countries.

Islamic fundamentalism

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Muslim world is a complex phenomenon and I will explore this matter in a separate post soon. It is important to separate Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism as the two are often mistakenly conflated. Islamic fundamentalism is an illiberal, intolerant and extremely restrictive interpretation of Islam which according to respected polls a significant minority of Muslims subscribe to around the world.

Fundamentalist Islam is incompatible with a liberal, democratic society which values freedom of speech and religion and consequently integration into the wider non-Muslim society is impossible. This is why Islamic ghettos dominated by fundamentalists have emerged in Western societies which have seen mass Muslim migration over the past decades. The minority of extremists intimidate the majority of non-fundamentalist Muslims into imposing their strict Islamic practises on the community.

Islamic terrorism derives from fundamentalist Islam but only a tiny proportion of Muslim fundamentalists will ever become terrorists. Islamic terrorists are like fish swimming in a sea of Islamic fundamentalism. All fundamentalists, due to their intolerant and supremacist interpretation of Islam, have the potential to become terrorists even if the majority of them never do.

Ordinary Americans are very concerned about the rise of jihadi terrorism in America. Whilst American Muslims are well-integrated, there are worries about whether the migration of foreign Muslims may lead to the ‘parallel societies’ that you see in major European cities, with the risk of Paris style attacks being launched in the future from disaffected and brainwashed young Muslims. The fundamental problem for the Pundocracy is that they have no affective answer to these challenges because there isn’t one. The challenge of marginalizing Islamic fundamentalism will only come from within the Muslim world.

Donald Trumps proposal of temporarily shutting down Muslim migration from the rest of the world is the equivalent of getting a sledgehammer to crush a rapidly growing nut. The majority of law-abiding, non-extremist Muslims is effectively barred from the United States due to the minority of fundamentalists and the terrorist risks they pose. It is important to note that the Obama administration was already tightening the visa-waver programme for Muslims entering the United States.

In summary, Trumps proposals are a radical escalation of a growing bipartisan consensus to restrict Muslim migration from countries considered a high risk of Islamic extremism. Every jihadi attack launched around the world will lead to a steady rise of popular support for Trumps radical proposal of shutting down Muslim migration. The biggest risk of Trump’s proposal is that by not trying to discriminate between the peaceful majority of Muslims and the minority of extremists that it will only encourage the spread of fundamentalist Islam.

American voters may consider that as a risk worth taking if given the option of effectively quarantining a troubled Muslim world from the American heartland.

The Economy

According to the national polls, likely US voters by a 50% to 38% margin trust Trump more than Clinton to handle the economy and job creation. Trumps background as a successful businessman plays well with voters and the economy is a key issue in this election. Assuming Trump shifts to the political centre after winning the Republican primaries than the economy will be a key theme of his campaign. Trump enjoys a strong lead against Clinton on this key issue.

Overall the polling evidence suggests that Trump is in a strong position to defeat Hilary Clinton in a presidential election.

The rise of Donald Trump

My predictions for 2016

Making predictions is an art rather than a science. The predictions outlined in this post are probabilities which are very likely to happen this year and are based on my analysis of current trends in world affairs as well as an element of ‘gut instinct’. I have tried to make them as specific as possible.

In future posts on this blog I will explore in further detail where I see the world going in the coming years, which will incorporate in part my musings on how the year 2016 may pan out.

1) Donald Trump will become the GOP candidate and will defeat Hilary Clinton in the Presidential election.

I might as well start with a bang! Donald Trump was initially considered by the political and media elites who dominate national discourse (collectively the “pundocracy”) as a joke candidate whose campaign would implode within months. On the contrary the Donald is leading the Republican race by heavy margins in key Republican seats and according to the latest polls, is now virtually tied to Hilary Clinton (the assumed Democratic candidate to be) on who the voters would elect as their next president.

The pundocracy have totally failed to get the Trump phenomenon. The rise of Trump represents in part an anti-Washington backlash from voters sick of the bipartisan status quo as much as it is a scream of economic insecurity of the working and lower-middle classes of America. The majority of Americans have not benefited from the economic recovery which has disproportionately gone to the top 20% of American society.

On the matter of the ‘total shutdown of Muslims to America’, I will explore in a later post this proposal, but polls show significant support for Trumps proposal. I believe that that the trends of rising Islamic fundamentalism and terrorist attacks around the world will drive growing support for Trump’s stance on this issue. Ordinary Americans want to feel safe and Trump’s proposal will make more and more sense. I don’t think Clinton will be able to respond to concerns of Islamic terrorism effectively and assure the American people that she has a credible plan to prevent and contain this threat. Foreign policy and security will be top concerns in this presidential election and Trump is riding on a wave which will likely land him in the White House by this time next year.

2) Britain will vote (just) to leave the EU

According to the opinion polls the Brexit referendum, likely this summer, is going to be very close. Why do I think Britain will vote to leave the EU? Firstly, the Leave campaign will have heavyweight political and City backing as well as major media groups backing it. It will be much harder for the establishment to paint the Leave campaign as a bunch of fringe loonies. The Leave campaigns are fully aware that they need to convince the floating centre of British voters that the risks of staying in the EU are higher than the risks of leaving.

The second reason that I think that the Leave campaign will just swing it their way is that the migration crisis will erupt in a greater storm this year with hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants trying to get into Europe this summer, when the vote will likely take place. Daily news reports of chaos on Europe’s borders will convince floating voters that the Leave campaign has a point and that Britain would be better off outside the EU.

3) Civil unrest in Germany major cities by migrants

Germany accepted a million migrants last year and the vast majority of them are still there. The European Commission has predicted that up to 3 million more migrants will try and enter the European Union this year. Hundreds of thousands of young men, bored, alienated and unable to work in German cities will eventually lead to an explosion of violence.

As what happened in the hot summer of 2011 when Britain experienced riots in its major cities by its urban underclass, thousands of young migrants will riot across Germany’s cities, most likely in the summer months of 2016.

4) An attempt will be made to remove Angela Merkel from office

The German leader has seen her personal popularity fall since she allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany. The bulk of her Christian Democratic Party leadership and grassroots disagree with her ‘open door’ policy on migration and the pressures on Angela Merkel to change course will grow once it becomes obvious how enormous the challenge is of integrating the migrants who have entered Germany in 2015.

The expected flood of migrants to enter the EU in 2016 will drive the conservative factions of the CDU to attempt to force her from power as they fear a collapse in the electoral fortunes of the government.

5) ISIS will launch a multiple urban European terror attack

ISIS has the will and the capability to unleash its sleeper cells of terrorists in major European cities and attack civilians with simultaneous terror attacks. According to various reports, thousands of ISIS terrorists have infiltrated central Europe through the refugee flows and hundreds of battle hardened jihadi fighters have returned to Europe after fighting with ISIS in Syria.

It is likely therefore that major European cities will be targeted by these sleeper cells of terrorists this year, with London, Paris, Brussels as well as key German and Austrian cities the most likely targets.  A simultaneous and co-ordinated terror atrocity across Europe will shake Europe to its knees and will provide a massive boost to Donald Trumps presidential campaign.

My predictions for 2016