The Resurrection of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

archduke-franz-ferdinand-of-austria-P

CDN.history.com

 

“A few weeks from now, it will likely be possible to drive all the way from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean without ever leaving what we might call the “populist belt””

Yascha Mounk (The Czech Trump)

 

“Thus it’s not too hard to look at the rising spiral of stresses in the European Union just now and foresee the eventual descent of the continent into a mix of domestic insurgency and authoritarian nationalism, with the oncoming tide of mass migration from Africa and the Middle East adding further pressure to an already explosive mix.” 

John Michael Greer (An Affirming Flame)

 

The Austrian elections held on Sunday have seen a surge in support for the anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic forces within the Austrian political establishment. The “centre-right” People’s Party (“OVP”), led by the youthful Sebastian Kurz, won 31% of the national vote, according to the exit polls. Kurz campaigned on a platform of hard-line policies on borders, immigration and regaining sovereignty from the European Union (“EU”) which appealed to the Austrian electorate.

The “far-right” Freedom Party (“FPO”), which has its roots in the post-war National Socialist movement, appears to be in second place, with 26% of the national vote. The FPO is even more hard-line then the OVP on the question of the refugee crisis and has warned of the “Islamification” of Austria.

The stunning victory for the political Right in Austria comes after the surge in support for the Alternative for Germany party in the German elections, which I discussed recently. These election results will have spooked European leaders who had hoped that the populist wave had peaked earlier in the year, when Marine Le Pen of the National Front failed to break through in the French presidential elections.

Before I explore this issue further, I would like to briefly discuss the terminology used by the mainstream media when discussing Continental politics. Whilst the policies of the OVP and the FPO overlap considerably, to the point of convergence, the media refer to the OVP as conservative or “centre-right” whilst the FPO are usually referred to as “far-right”.

Whilst it is true that the OVP roots are in the far right, in terms of policies, it should be classified as a conservative/nationalist party, not as a neo-Nazi/ extremist party. The OVP do not advocate race laws, the imposition of a dictatorship or the destruction of democracy which would be expected of a genuinely neo-Nazi party. For these reason, I will refer to the FPO as a nationalist right or hard-right party and the OVP as centre-right going forward.

The crushing victory of the Right in Austria has ramifications beyond Vienna in a post-Brexit Europe. A Kurz-led Austrian government will likely align itself with the so-called Visegrad countries of central and eastern Europe, who are sceptical of further EU integration, opposed to settling refugees and hostile to the multi-cultural ideology prevalent among the liberal elites of western Europe.

As the Telegraph notes, “the governments of Viktor Orban in Hungary, Beata Szydlo in Poland and Robert Fico in Slovakia all share a deep opposition to letting in more migrants and to what they see as Brussels “meddling” in their domestic affairs.” The likely victory of a populist, Eurosceptic and anti-refugee real estate billionaire Andrej Babiš in the looming Czech elections is further evidence of the nationalist winds transforming the political map of Europe.

It therefore looks increasingly likely that under the leadership of Austria, a new regional bloc is emerging within the heart of Europe, capable of challenging the dominance of the Franco-German axis. Looking at the modern map, the new bloc looks remarkably similar to the late Austro-Hungarian Empire that spanned Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland in the early 20th century.

main-qimg-1052c147eca103054ed7b77a445c2bdc

https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net

 

With hindsight I over-estimated the electoral appeal of the populist and radical right parties at the beginning of the year. However, the bigger picture is the shift in continental politics towards the populist end of the spectrum on internal borders, shutting down the refugee flows and enforcing the integration of Muslim communities, something I analysed earlier this year.

The writer John Michael Greer, who has been remarkably prescient in his political forecasts over the years, has warned that nationalist parties could sweep to power across Western Europe in the event of another major refugee crisis or economic depression. That nationalist tsunami has reached Vienna and the chancelleries of Europe will be wondering if Italy is next, with elections next year amid a surge in support for populist and Eurosceptic parties like the Five Star Movement.

Beyond the frontiers of the EU, trouble is brewing in the frontier zones of North Africa, the Middle East and the Ukraine. The emerging warlords in the growing arc of failed states, whether they are Libyian militia, jihadi extremists or Ukrainian nationalist gunmen are growing stronger every year.

This growing wave of chaos surrounding a troubled European core is driven by structural factors, including worsening climate change, water, energy and food scarcity and the explosion of population. Should the crisis around the River Nile worsen, to give just one example, a further wave of refugees from predominately Muslim cultures will try and enter Europe. This could trigger unrest, a further surge in support for nationalist politicians and in the worst case scenario a slide into authoritarianism.

On a personal level, when visiting Verona this summer, I saw numerous illegal African immigrants around the train station, a key smuggling hub within Italy. These overwhelmingly young men are physically fit, resourceful and utterly ruthless in their determination to fulfill their dream of prosperity within the crumbling core of our industrial civilization.

They are the advance guard of a far greater mass of external proletarians ready to make the same journey from across the failing North Africa and Middle East arc of crisis.

I will be covering this and other issues in future posts soon so I encourage existing and new readers to sign up and follow my blog at the bottom of the page.

The Resurrection of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Make Germany Great Again

nazi-themendenhall-650_022416122700

http://media2.intoday.in

 

“If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars.”

Alexander Gauland – Alternative for Germany leader

“At some point between now and 2030 or so we can expect another round of serious crisis, comparable to the mess that overwhelmed Europe and its empires between 1914 and 1954 — you know, two world wars, the Great Depression, the end of European global domination.”

John Michael Greer

 

The Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman commented at the beginning of the year that it was unlikely that any German party would ever be successful with a slogan “Make Germany Great Again”. The stunning electoral success of the hard right Alternative for Germany party in the federal elections has shattered that assumption among the European chattering classes.

The nationalist right-wing Alternative for Germany (“AfD”) party surged to 12.6% of the vote and will send almost 100 MPs to the German Bundestag on the back of widespread anger about Angela Merkel’s decision to open the borders to over a million predominately Muslim refugees in 2015/2016.

In contrast, the traditional establishment parties gained the smallest share of the vote since the war. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic led coalition gaining only 33% of the vote and the Social Democrats did even worse, only 20%, one of their worst ever performances in their history.

The same liberal commentariat who were crowing only a few months ago that the populist threat had peaked on the Continent after the crushing victory of Emmanuel Macron in the French elections have gone very quiet now. Populism has arrived in the most powerful country in the EU with a dark history of genocide, totalitarianism and imperialism.

Although the German economy has grown a strong argument can be made that the German economic model is rotting from within. Ambrose Evans Pritchard, writing in the Telegraph, notes that net public investment has been negative for most of the last fifteen years and economic growth and productivity has been dismal since 2000. For ordinary German workers, real incomes have stagnated and the wealth gap is rising between the rich and poor.

One of the drivers for the surge of support for the AfD, apart from the migration crisis, was the growing number of economic “losers” within Germany. Many of these relatively poor workers live in the former East Germany which suffered massive economic and social changes after reunification. It is no coincidence that the AfD performed particularly well in the industrial Rust Belt areas like the Ruhr and eastern Germany.

Of course, the eruption of the nationalist right should be placed in perspective. The majority of the German electorate voted for other parties and polls indicate that many of those voting for the AfD saw it as a means to register their hostility towards the Merkel’s refugee policies. These voters are certainly not neo-Nazi’s nor do they approve of those elements within the AfD which flirt with the far-right.

The election of the dynamic President Macron appeared to herald a promising new dawn in the eurozone. The eurozone is a botched half-job which has muddled through, lurching from one crisis to another. The German elections were supposed to be the moment that the Franco-German motor would rev up and make real progress in the creation of euro-wide fiscal and political union. The German elections has had the opposite effect and gravely weakened those hopes.

The political reality in Berlin is that the new coalition government will be dominated by Eurosceptic conservative voices from within the CSU and the Free Democrats who are bitterly opposed to President Macron’s ambitious reform agenda. A eurozone which continues muddling along raises the growing risk, as Macron has predicted, of imploding within the next 10 years or so.

Historians will likely look back at the Merkel years as a 21st century version of the long Edwardian summer before the horrors of the Great War. Alistair Macleod has predicted that by early 2019 at the latest, the eurozone will be plunged into another major economic crisis, triggered by rising interest rates and a collapse in government bond prices, resulting in the bankruptcy of eurozone banks. There is a growing consensus among economists that the current bull market is in its maturing phrase and is unlikely to last much longer.

Last year, in my post “winter is coming”, I attempted to forecast our likely future within the context of the limits to growth models which have proved eerily accurate since the 1970’s. To summarise, the peaking of global fossil fuels, accelerating climate change and an insolvent global economic system based on the false god of perpetual growth is leading us to another major crisis, potentially within the next few years.

Looking ahead, one can start to sense a foreboding future for Germany as the next decade arrives. Another economic crisis, potentially triggered by a deeper energy and food crisis, at the end of this decade, will plunge the eurozone into another recession. Rising unemployment, increased poverty and a loss of hope among broad layers of the population could lead to even bigger electoral successes for populists of both the Left and Right across the EU. Should Italy or one of the other eurozone countries exit the eurozone, under Target1, Germany could face crippling economic losses.

A toxic cocktail of rising Islamist terrorism and challenges in integrating the refugees, economic crisis in the eurozone and the proletarianization of a contracting German middle class could drive up to half the electorate into the hands of extremist parties on both the Left and Right. A revival of nationalist currents across the political scene could lead, by the end of the 2020’s, of a nationalist-conservative government in power. Should the worst case scenario happen and the eurozone/EU disintegrate, a German-Russian axis could reemerge as the dominant geopolitical force within the European continent.

To summarise, the broader global headwinds are wreaking the stable liberal post-Cold War era of international relations. The election of President Trump in November 2016 heralded, as I predicted months earlier, the beginning of a new era in world history, of Scarcity Industrialism. This era, described in detail by the German military in a report on peak oil, will lead to a breakdown in market based economies, the end of globalisation and the return of power politics in the world arena.

If, dear reader, that doesn’t sound promising terrain for a nationalist party attracting significant support already, then you haven’t read enough history.

For better or for worse, Germany is becoming a “normal” Western country and nobody knows for certain how European politics will be impacted in the years to come by this transformation.

One thing is for certain, it will not be boring…

 

Make Germany Great Again

Thoughts on Poland

 

Poland-Cracow-arial-view

http://www.vjv.com

 

Please accept my apologies for the long delay in posting on the blog. I have recently got married in Poland to my lovely new wife and have only just returned from our honeymoon. Normal service will be resuming soon on Forecasting Intelligence!

I thought you may find interesting my on-the-ground thoughts on how Poland has developed since the end of Communism and how the ordinary people feel about the European Union, Russia and the migration crisis.

 

I first visited Poland in 2000 during a tour of central and Eastern Europe when it was still recovering from dark days of being a satellite state of the Soviet Russian Empire. The contrast between the West and East was stark as you crossed the border between the enlarged Germany and Poland with respect to the roads, quality of life and general development. This was prior to Poland joining the European Union (“EU”) in 2004 and it was clear to me that in many ways Poland was still a developing country.

Despite the relative poverty I found the Polish people the friendliest and welcoming of all the countries we toured and Krakov was a stunning city with lots of history and culture. Even then, I had the sense that at some point in my future, I would be returning to Poland.

After I met my Polish wife a few years ago, I returned a second time to Poland to meet her family, who live in the south-eastern part of Poland, near the Ukrainian border. What struck me the most was the massive improvement in the overall infrastructure and development of the country since I had last visited 13 years ago. The region was filled with gleaming new motorways; the regional cities had modern new airports and shopping malls with all the brands common to a West European city. Poland had arrived.

Whilst in the countryside and the cities there are still pockets of deep poverty, the overall standard of living has massively improved since the end of the Cold War for the average Pole. Speaking to ordinary Poles, it was clear that the vast majority appreciated the benefits of membership of the EU, including the freedom to travel and work in Britain and Germany and the development aid which had transformed the country for the better. There also seemed to be a consensus that Poland would join the euro in the future but only once wages and living costs had caught up with the west European standard. Overall Poland seemed comfortable about its role within the EU and optimistic about the future of the country.

The spectre of Russia still haunted the Polish psyche and President Putin was a feared figure across Polish society. The Ukrainian crisis had erupted and the Poles take very seriously the prospect of another Russian invasion which is understandable given their tortured history.

The migration crisis in 2015 transformed Europe’s politics and was the critical factor in the Brexit vote in my opinion. The scenes of huge numbers of young Muslim men marching across the Balkans into Germany horrified many across Europe, in particular central-Eastern Europe. Virtually every single Polish friend and family member was opposed to Angela Merkel’s decision to open the borders to the vast hordes of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa (”MENA”).

The migration crisis and the rising wave of Islamist terror attacks across Western Europe have sharpened the sense that the importation of significant Muslim populations has been an historic mistake. Poland and other countries in the former Warsaw Pact bloc are determined to avoid making the same perceived mistakes. This is the principal reason for the rise of nationalist governments to power in the region.

The political elites of Western Europe, including the Brussels bureaucracy, think that it is only sensible that every country in Europe should share the burden in hosting refugees who have arrived in Europe since 2015. The fact that clear majorities in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are opposed to such a thing matters little. Since 2015, relations between Poland and the EU have sharply deteriorated.

My visit to Poland this year was naturally dominated by planning for the wedding but there were a number of conversations about the EU, the migration dispute and the Euro. I noted that among ordinary Poles, a hardening of positions on preserving the Zloty currency, keeping the refugees out of the country and in some quarters a sympathetic view on Britain’s Brexit vote last year which I had successfully predicted.

If Europe insists that Poland accepts Muslim refugees, I think that a narrow majority of Polish people would be prepared to leave the EU. This intuitive feeling of mine has been confirmed by a recent poll, as noted in this Bloomberg article, in which “…fifty-one percent said they’d be ready to surrender membership in the 28-member trading bloc”. Whilst any Polexit scenario remains unlikely for the foreseeable future, it should not be dismissed outright.

The Polish people have suffered greatly in the 20th century and those in their eighties can still remember the barbaric Nazi occupation, the brutal post-war years and the poverty and shortages under Communism. They are a proud, dignified and strong people who value their culture, traditions and the independence restored since the end of the Berlin Wall. Poland has now crossed a point that it can survive, and indeed prosper, outside the EU, if needs be, should it decide that this is in its best interests. The economy is booming, real wages are rising and EU aid is no longer quite as vital as it was a decade ago.

My own view is that a generation from now Poland could be one of the main economic great powers of Europe, if it plays its cards right in the coming years. I will be preparing soon a mega-post on the future of Europe in a post-peak world which will incorporate the likely impact of further mass movements of people from an imploding MENA region as well as other key trends, including resource scarcity, technological regression and accelerating man-made climate change.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

Thoughts on Poland

British general election: What went wrong?

 

Hung parliament

COURIER MAIL

 

Readers, I failed you.

In my last post, I predicted that the Conservatives would win a comfortable majority in the British general election, which turned out to be spectacularly wrong. It is true that many pollsters, pundits and political experts also got it wrong, but this provides me with scant comfort as Forecasting Intelligence (“FI”) is supposed to be superior to the conventional wisdom of the Pundocracy.

The writer John Greer, whose book I have reviewed before, wrote an article (which is no longer online), when Jeremy Corbyn (“Corbyn”) got elected Labour leader in 2015, predicting the Corbyn surge. He argued, presciently, that Corbyn’s Bennite brand of old-school socialism offered an alternative to a set of economic and political policies that had failed the majority of the population. The stagnating wages, the growing income inequality between rich and poor and the nearly decade of austerity by the ruling Conservative Party would inevitably lead to an electoral backlash.

A young person growing up in 21st century Great Britain in the twilight era of a declining industrial civilisation faces the prospect of crippling student debt, a ferocious competition for good quality jobs, sky high housing prices and  overwhelmed public services heaving from the burdens of an ageing society, mass migration and years of public sector austerity. I haven’t even mentioned the growing but partially hidden crises of climate change, resource depletion and the massive army of jihadi extremists walking our streets. The truth is that the Tories under Theresa May had nothing to offer younger voters and this was reflected in the ballot box.

Yet, I anticipated this aspect of the election in my blog, predicting that Labour would do well in the university towns (for example Cambridge, Oxford, Bath and Canterbury) and the metropolitan cities, for example London seats like Battersea where the Tories lost an 8,000 majority to Labour. Whilst I didn’t specifically write about Scotland in this general election, the huge anti-SNP tactical voting validated my prediction made last year that we would not see another “Indyref2” referendum anytime soon.

It was in the Midlands and the North of England, the Brexit Rust Belt constituencies, which failed to swing Conservative which destroyed the Tories chances of a comfortable majority. It was also the basis for my forecast of an enlarged Tory majority.

During my pre-election review, prior to writing my post, I struggled to find any writers among the Corbyn Left, who expected anything other then a disastrous defeat for Labour in the Brexit northern heartlands. It was the overwhelming consensus from Labour MP’s, activists and pollsters that Corbyn was toxic for many traditional Labour voters and as a consequence the Tories would sweep the board. This turned out to be massive political intelligence failure by both political parties. My mistake was to assume that Labour campaign headquarters had accurately read the mood of their own supporters.

However, there were clear signals throughout the campaign that something was going disastrously wrong for the Tories. The Yougov experimental poll predicting a hung parliament turned out to be spot on. The writer Rod Liddle in the Spectator wrote during the election campaign that many northern Labour and UKIP voters were turning to Labour rather then the Tories as expected. Similarly, the moment when the BBC Question Time audience laughed at Theresa May when Jeremy Paxman accused her of being a blowhard should have raised a bigger alarm bell with me then it did. When the electorate are laughing at you, it is a sure sign of danger, as Ed Miliband and David Cameron can both attest to.

What worked in the 2015 general election failed in this election. In May 2015, David Cameron won a shock majority despite all the polling evidence to the contrary. Although it was pre-FI, I successfully forecast the Tory majority, and placed money on it on the political betting markets, using the underlying polling data on perceptions of economic competence and leadership. David Cameron had a significant lead over the Labour leader Ed Miliband on who was more trusted to run the economy and be the best Prime Minister. In the end, despite what the surface polling indicated, the voters went for the party who was best judged to run the country best.

This time around it was different. Whilst Theresa May enjoyed significant leads on both issues going into Election Day, her likability and favourability ratings had collapsed compared to the surging Corbyn. Throw in the political uncertainty of Brexit and the clear desire for revenge among many Remain voters, and the normal rules of politics were thrown away. Across the Western world, electorates are increasingly prepared to vote for change candidates who are perceived to be outside the despised political class. Emmanuel Macron brilliantly positioned himself as an outsider of a corrupt and failed Parisian political establishment and swept to power on that same anti-establishment wave.

When the dominant political and economic ideology, neo-liberalism, fails the majority of the electorate, people will vote for a leader who offers an alternative assuming that they are sufficiently charismatic and plausible. This is the lesson for the Tories, who failed to own the “change” message, and suffered accordingly.

Corbyn was successful because he was charismatic, offered a set of policies that appealed to many voters, particularly younger voters, and promised a New Jerusalem to a population increasingly tired of a failing business as usual status quo. The Labour party played a superb game on Brexit, appealing to middle class Remain voters who want a soft Brexit whilst signalling to their traditional base in the north that they would restrict immigration through a hard Brexit. At some point Corbyn will have to choose between a soft or hard Brexit and will end up disappointing one side or another of his new electoral coalition. Whether it is Great Grimsby or Kensington and Chelsea remains to be seen.

The writer John Greer has a chilling warning to those who dismissed Corbyn’s chances in a general election, “…the British politicians and pundits who are busy decrying Corbyn’s election just now might want to temper their rage and consider the alternatives: if Corbyn fails, Nigel Farage and the UKIP party are waiting in the wings to harness the public’s frustration with the abject failure of business as usual, and if Farage falls in his turn, what replaces him could be much, much worse.”

After Trump, Brexit and the Corbyn surge, who would now dare dismiss such a warning?

There is no doubt, to paraphrase the old Chinese curse, that we live in interesting times…

British general election: What went wrong?

British general election: Final forecasting prediction

2010 General Election Polling Day

UKIPDAILY

 

The British electorate will be voting tomorrow in the snap general election called by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. The polls have been variable, with Yougov predicting a hung parliament and other pollsters predicting a landslide victory for the Tories.

The Tories have not had a great campaign with the dementia tax u turn damaging Theresa May’s (May) mantra of “strong and stable” leadership. The average of the polls show the Tories took a modest hit in their support, dropping from 47% to 43% since the launch of their manifesto.

The biggest story of the campaign is the better then expected performance by Jeremy Corbyn (Corbyn), which I warned was a possibility, when previewing the snap general election in April. Corbyn’s energetic and impassioned performance on the campaign trail has galvanised the Labour core vote and enthused non-voters, including many younger voters.

Corbyn’s soft socialist manifesto, including higher taxes for the wealthy, increased corporation tax for business and nationalisation of the railways, has proved popular with sections of the electorate. Labour under Corbyn has consolidated the left of the British electorate at the expense of the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Subsequently Labour’s ratings in the polls have surged into the mid-thirties during the course of the campaign.

However, as I warned in a post last year, concerns about whether Corbyn is “soft” on national security, immigration and representing Britain in the difficult Brexit negotiations have proved toxic on the doorsteps. This has proved particularly damaging in Labour’s heartlands in the Midlands and the north.

Having reviewed the forecasts on the likely outcome of the British general election, two schools of thought have emerged. The first school bases itself on the current average polling, with the Tories on a 7% lead, leading to the most likely outcome of a 60-70 seat majority for the Tories. Nadeem Walayat, who has successfully forecast the Leave, Trump and 2015 Tory victory, has forecast a Tory majority of 66. Lord Ashcroft has predicted a Tory majority of 64 based on his own polling models.

The other school of thought is that the Tories will do better then expected on the night, as has happened in every British general election (barring 1983) for nearly fifty years. When reviewing the underlying polling data May enjoys double digit leads on who will best manage the economy, run the country and negotiate the best outcome in the Brexit negotiations. In the Mail on Sunday poll, which showed a Tory lead of only 1%, 53% of the electorate trusted Theresa May to defend Britain versus only 25% for Jeremy Corbyn.

Whilst it is not impossible that the normal rules of politics are overturned this time, it is still unlikely that the British electorate will vote for Labour in sufficient numbers considering their huge concerns about Jeremy Corbyn. It is for this reason that Michael Moszynski, who successfully predicted the 2015 Tory victory and the Leave result, has forecast that the Tories will win a majority of 104. It is also worth considering that Nadeem Walayat has stated that his second most likely scenario is a Tory majority of above 100 seats.

The surge in Labour support is overwhelmingly based in the metropolitan big cities and the university towns which already have mainly Labour MP’s. As Stephen Bush writes in the New Statesman, “…the Labour people who are sounding cheery – there are some – tend to be campaigning in big cities or university towns.” Outside these bubbles of Corbynmania, the picture looks grim for Labour, and the Conservatives are quietly confident of picking up droves of marginal seats in the West and East Midlands, in the north-east and Yorkshire, and in some of the outer London constituencies.

Overall, I continue to stand by my forecasting prediction, made on 20th April, that the Conservatives will win this general election by an enlarged majority (85% probabilistic chance).

In regard to the size of the Conservative majority, my forecast is that the Tories will win a majority of 104 seats.*

In regard to those forecasts of a smaller Tory majority (e.g. 60 to 70) I would consider these to be the second most likely scenario after a Tory majority of 3 digits.

We will find out whether I am right in the early hours of Friday morning.

* Please note that my forecasting prediction made on 20th April is not predicated on successfully predicting the size of the Conservative majority, only that the Tories will increase their majority.

British general election: Final forecasting prediction

Keep calm and carry on

Manchester

TELEGRAPH

On Monday 22 May 2017 my worst fears came true.

Salman Abedi, a 22 years old jihadi, was waiting in the foray of the Manchester Arena as young girls came out of a pop concert. Abedi blew himself up with a home made bomb, killing 22 and maiming dozens more, some for the rest of their life.

Last year, when discussing the growing threat posed by Islamist terrorism, I warned that jihadi terrorists would start deliberately targeting children. Tragically this warning has now come true.

The response from the public was overwhelmingly that we will not let this affect our lives and it is an understandable response. It is encapsulated in the slogan “Keep calm and carry on”. Yet, the time for platitudes, messages of solidarity and one minute silences, worthy as they are, cannot be the only response to this deadly threat.

It is time that our media and political elites start being honest with the general public about the scale of the threat, the nature of the ideology that drives young men to slaughter innocent men, women and children and the steps we could take to contain the threat.

As James Forsyth writes in his weekly column, the reality is that our security services are increasingly overwhelmed by the scale of the threat posed by radicalised terrorists. The security agencies have confirmed that there are 23,000 extremists on their radar but only 3,000 can be actually monitored at any time. Indeed, “…the reason the number of persons of interest to the security services has remained at 3,000 for so long is that the security services are operating an informal one in, one out policy. So no one can be added to this list unless someone else is taken off.”

Think about that for the moment. There could be hundreds, if not thousands, of dangerous extremists who should be monitored by the security agencies but who aren’t, as the resources simply aren’t available. The intelligence officers tasked with preventing terrorist attacks are playing God; taking a calculated risk that one potential terrorist is a greater threat then another radicalised extremist.

The truth is that our government has lost control of this problem.

I watched the BBC coverage in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing and not once was the issue of the radical Islamist ideology that drives these attackers discussed by the media talking heads. It is impossible to understand and defeat this insidious enemy if we are not prepared to call it for what it is, which is Islamic terrorism.

These jihadi terrorists are taught a selective and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam which worships the slaughter of infidels, the creation of a sharia based Islamic state which will conquer the non-Muslim world. They justify their actions by quoting the actions and words of the Prophet Mohammed.

This is a sensitive subject for obvious reasons, but my own reading suggests that there are two parallel interpretations within the Koran, a peaceful and aggressive interpretation, and both have theological roots going back to the beginning of Islam. As David Goldman, writing on this subject in Asian Times notes, “…there are two readings of the Qur’an and the Sunna (Islamic traditions connected to Muhammad): one that opts for the verses that encourage tolerance toward other believers, and one that prefers the verses that encourage conflict. Both readings are legitimate.”  

Thankfully, the vast majority of Muslims subscribe to the tolerant and peaceful interpretation of Islam, which is a blessing. Yet, in the absence of an Islamic Pope to make a final judgement and conduct a reform of the holy texts, the fundamentalist strand of Islamist thought will continue to exist within the Muslim world. The challenge for Britain and other countries is to contain and preferably destroy this extremist version from their societies.

Tarique Ghaffur, a Muslim former police chief, has publically called for the creation of special internment centres for the most dangerous jihadi extremists. These internment camps would work closely with Muslim religious authorities in removing these dangerous individuals from society and de-radicalising them with the assistance of moderate clerics. Colonel Richard Kemp, writing in the Telegraph, has also called for the internment of the most dangerous extremists, the deportation of foreign extremists residing in the United Kingdom (“UK”) and travel bans on jihadi’s who have gone abroad to fight for the so-called Islamic State (“ISIS”).

The above steps, if taken prior to the Manchester bombing, would have prevented Salmon Abedi from returning to the UK and carrying out his deadly attack. If the government does not take these steps then further terror attacks are almost certainly inevitable and more people will die over the coming years.

Having read extensively on the intelligence and security threat posed, I consider that the UK, in the absence of the internment of the most dangerous jihadi extremists, will face further deadly attacks in the coming years. Just as France experienced a series of jihadi terror attacks, culminating in the horrific Paris attacks which killed over a hundred French citizens in November 2015, Britain is on the same path.

At some point in the coming years, Britain will experience a terrorist attack on a similar scale to the Paris atrocity, and the government will be forced to implement a state of emergency. Internment, deportation and strict immigration controls will be put in place because the general public will demand a muscular response to this growing threat.

The tragic question is how many more innocent people have to die before such action is finally taken by our government?

Keep calm and carry on

French presidential elections: Final forecast

It’s nearly over.

The exit results will be published within the hour for the French presidential elections. All the opinion polls have shown that Emmanuel Macron (“Macron”) has consolidated his comfortable lead over Marine Le Pen (“Le Pen”) and the betting markets are overwhelmingly predicting a Macron victory.

The presidential debate held on Wednesday was the last big opportunity for Le Pen to build momentum going into the final days of the campaign. What she needed to do was reassure undecided voters that she could be trusted to take over the country, would not plunge the country into economic chaos and civil unrest and would restore order to a nation troubled by a series of jihadi terror attacks.

Whilst her aggressively populist pitch may have worked well with elements of her core base, it didn’t reach out to Fillon voters, who were most likely to switch to Le Pen. I noted in a previous post that the “silver voters” were the key kingmakers of this election and that Le Pen was struggling to get over 40% in the polls due to hostility to the National Front/Le Pen brand and opposition to her anti-Euro/Frexit economic agenda.

Some pundits have argued that Le Pen never had a chance of winning as the so-called Republican Front would mobilise to prevent her from winning. Yet, polling showed that Le Pen would have defeated President Hollande if he had got into the second round. Clearly, if the mainstream candidate was unpopular enough, Le Pen could win a presidential election.

For Le Pen to win tonight, she will need to capture the “silver voters” and persuade sufficient numbers on the Left not to vote for Macron. If I had been her campaign manager, I would have ditched the unpopular anti-Euro policy early on and aggressively courted conservative voters by building alliances with mainstream Conservative Right politicians to assuage concerns about a Le Pen presidency.

The other issue which a lacklustre Le Pen campaign has struggled with is its core messaging. The core patriots versus globalist narrative that Le Pen has pushed for month’s turns out to have confused their core working class vote. Messaging matters in elections.

The Leave campaign stumbled upon the brilliant “take back control” message which was simple, effective and resonated with the British population. Le Pen’s campaign team appear not to have done the basics, focus polling their messages and seeing what would work best with their core and potential voters. The change in their message in the last weeks of the campaign to “protection” was probably a case of too little too late.

At the beginning of the year I predicted, with a 60% probabilistic rating, that Le Pen would get into the second round and go on to win the election. Whilst I clearly got the first part of my forecast right, it appears likely that the second half of my prediction will be proven wrong tonight. Whilst the majority of the underlying polling data indicated that Le Pen’s “France first” could resonate with the majority of the population, a superb campaign and exceptional debating performances by Le Pen, was also a prerequisite for pulling of a victory. At the end of the day, the campaign and the leader matter as much as the underlying mood of the country, as the Leave campaign can testify.

We will shortly see whether Le Pen has done better then the surface polling suggests, and has narrowed or even won the election. The lower turnout might strengthen her final result, but I maintain that the most likely outcome will be a victory by Macron.

French presidential elections: Final forecast