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

French presidential elections: And then there were two!

1st round result

Source: CNBC

“A week is a long time in politics”

Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson

It’s less then two weeks before the presidential election and the polls show that the centrist candidate has a commanding lead over the populist challenger. The consensus of the political experts is overwhelming. The race is over.

No, I am not referring to the current French presidential elections but the US presidential elections held last year. As an example, this Telegraph article dated 27 October, headlined with the Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton enjoying a massive 14 point lead and went on to describe the virtually inevitable political fallout of her victory on Election Day.

Of course, just because the experts have been wrong before doesn’t mean they are wrong this time.

Indeed, the 1st round of the French elections was striking for the lack of surprises. No hidden Marine Le Pen (“Le Pen“) vote. No unexpected surge of support for the conservative Francois Fillon (“Fillon“). The Emmanuel Macron (“Macron“) vote remained firm despite the risk of undecided voters floating away to other candidates.

Le Pen has had a lacklustre campaign and her polling has dropped from a peak of 27% to 22% in the final count as voters moved away to the hard left Eurosceptic challenger Melenchon. Yet, the relatively poor performance of the populist hard right is in no way indicative of a broader rejection of anti-establishment populism by the French electorate.

As Ambrose Evans Pritchard notes in the Telegraph, 48pc of the French population “…voted for movements – from the hard-Left to the hard-Right – that fundamentally reject the EU as currently structured, with the sovereignty candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan winning 1.7m votes on a pure anti-EU ticket”. In other words, approximately half the French population rejected the pro-European establishment personified by the politics of Macron.

french-map-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

Source: Telegraph

From a historical perspective, Le Pen performed very well, and her entry into the second round is an historical success for the nationalist hard right. As the above map shows, Le Pen came first across broad swathes of France, with certain regions of the north-eastern Rust Belt polling above 30%. This is a massive step forward from the elections held in 2012, let alone the electoral drubbing her father received in 2002.

Taking this into consideration the fact remains that the overwhelming consensus is that Macron will comfortably defeat Le Pen on 7 May 2017.  This is backed up by the polling evidence which suggests that Le Pen will struggle to get more then 40% of the vote.

It is interesting to note that according to Opinionway, the issue of security and terrorism is a top priority for approximately 40% of the electorate. The same proportion of the electorate plan to vote for the National Front in the second round. The bad news for Le Pen is that whilst there is likely to be a correlation between the issue of security and voting support for the populist hard right, the issue of terrorism is not the top concern for the majority of the French electorate.

As noted in a previous post, the over 65 voters who preferred the Republican candidate Fillon will be the main kingmakers in this election. These “silver voters” are socially conservative, support membership of the Euro and the European Union and wish to see a muscular approach to the threat posed by jihadi terrorism and the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism. The silver vote remained loyal to Fillon despite the corruption scandals and are now potentially in play for both candidates.

Le Pen and her inner circle have clearly been making steps to address the two biggest challenges to converting these voters, the first being the lingering toxicity of the National Front brand and the second the fear provoked by her economic plans to leave the eurozone. For pensioners relying on their savings, exiting the euro would likely lead to a significant depreciation of the value of their assets, potentially crippling the finances of a retired voter.

The decision to temporarily step down as leader of the National Front and to appoint the mainstream conservative Nicolas Dupont-Aignan as her proposed Prime Minister are further steps in distancing herself from the National Front. They are principally designed to reassure conservative voters who are open to voting for Le Pen in the second round.

It is potentially more significant that media reports are suggesting that a potential Le Pen/Dupont-Aignan government would not proceed with plans to call a referendum on leaving the Euro and the European Union. If true the main obstacle for the Catholic Right electoral block to switch to Le Pen has been removed. It has been calculated that Le Pen lost 4% of the electorate in the 2012 presidential elections due to its anti-euro stance.

The presidential debate due on 3rd May will be critical to Le Pen’s chances. If she performs well, reassures conservative voters fearful of her economic agenda and provokes Macron into a series of blunders, you may see a surge of support for the hard right candidate in the polls.

Many voters complain that they don’t know what Macron stands for and if, under pressure, he comes out with statements that shock both the Left and Right, it will drive further voters to either abstain or turn to Le Pen. Macron has stated publicly his support for Angela Merkel’s controversial decision to open the borders to over a million Muslim migrants in 2015. The centrist candidate has also argued that France will be unable to stop the further mass migration of refugees into Europe. A population where a majority (60%) would back a total ban on migration from majority Muslim countries would likely be appalled by such comments in a nationally televised debate.

The Republican Front is fracturing, with the hard left populist Melenchon refusing to endorse Macron and the conservative politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan joining forces with Le Pen. It is true that the established parties have endorsed Macron but it remains an open question whether the Left will come out in force for an ex-Rothschild banker and supporter of globalisation.

There is a narrow path to victory for Le Pen which will rely on mass abstention from the Left, the conversion of the Catholic Right and a strong turnout by her core blue-collar vote on 7 May. A prerequisite of such a scenario will be a breakthrough in the 40% polling ceiling in the coming week. Without that surge in support, as the successful forecaster Nadeem Walayat notes, it is highly unlikely that Le Pen can win the election.

Should Le Pen see a surge in support in the coming week and hit the mid-40’s, the hard right leader will be within the margin of error of victory, as noted by the French political scientist Serge Galam.

Galam has argued in a mathematical paper that should Le Pen voters turn out in greater numbers then the Macron vote, Le Pen can win even though she trails in the opinion polls. As an example, “if Le Pen is projected to lose by 45 to 55 percent in the runoff, she could win if turnout for her is 85 percent versus 70 percent for her rival, for an overall turnout of 77 percent.”

Overall, my current forecast, as at the current state of play, is that Macron will defeat Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential election.

I will be providing a final forecasting update on the likely winner of the presidential election in a week’s time.

British general election – probabilistic forecast update

I recently reviewed the British general election which you can read here.

My probabilistic forecast is that the Conservative Party has an 85% chance of winning with an enlarged majority in the House of Commons.

French presidential elections: And then there were two!

FI Special: the British general election and a 1st round French presidential election forecast

 

General-election-2017-Theresa-May-why-June-8-903869

Last year I warned of the possibility that Prime Minister Theresa May would go for a snap general election in either the spring or autumn of 2017 prior to the beginning of the serious Brexit negotiations. As it happens, the logic of calling an early general election has clearly become overwhelming for the Conservative leader, with the general election to be held on Thursday 8 June.

On the face of it, the outcome appears to be a forgone conclusion. The opinion polls all show that the Conservative Party has a strong and consistent lead over the Labour Party, with a Yougov poll showing the Tories with a massive lead of 48%, versus a second place Labour party, at 24%. As long standing readers of this blog know, surface polling should be read in conjunction with deeper underlying polling of the electorate to get an accurate sense of the public mood. What does the underlying polling data tell us?

According to the Yougov polling data, the Tories have a commanding lead on the critical issue of economic competence, with a 24% lead on this issue. When it comes to leadership, 54% of the electorate think that Theresa May makes the best Prime Minister compared to only 15% for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party. On the two most critical issues for the average voter, perceptions of economic competence and leadership calibre, the Conservatives are massively ahead in the polls.

The underlying polling data provides little to no comfort to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and would indicate that the Conservative lead in the polls is durable and not a mirage. However, there are a number of factors that could contain any potentially huge increase in the Conservative majority. The first is low turnout by soft Tory voters who may feel that there is little point of turning up at the ballot box since Labour has no realistic chance of winning the election. This would be amplified if they voted Remain during the Brexit referendum as Theresa May has embraced the Brexit cause since coming to power.

The Liberal Democrats are likely to see a revival in their fortunes since their electoral drubbing in the 2015 general election. The Liberals have become the go to option for those voters angry about the Brexit result and who wish to attempt to reverse the decision to exit the European Union. The Liberals are likely to regain seats from the Tories in London as well as the south-west. Tactical voting by Remain voters, some of them soft Tory’s, could impact seats in the affluent south of the country.

The Conservatives hope to gain dozens of Labour marginal seats where majorities voted to leave the European Union. Considering the dire state of the Labour party this is likely and will compensate for the potential loss of seats to the pro-European Liberals. The anti-EU UKIP party is crumbling in the polls as its supporters defect to the pro-Brexit Tories. The combination of the return of UKIP voters and Leave voting soft Labour voters should be sufficient to turn a considerable number of Labour seats blue on 8 June.

Whilst the possibility of a Labour government is not impossible, it seems highly unlikely as a political outcome, taken the above factors into consideration. My forecast is a Conservative victory with an enlarged majority but it is too early to predict how big the majority may be.

Should Jeremy Corbyn perform better then expected during the campaign, the current talk of a landslide victory of over a 100 seats will look increasingly out of touch should the polls start to narrow. A major gaffe by the Labour leader could lead to a further collapse in Labour support (down to 20%) and push the Tories close to or above 50%, leading to the possibility of a 1997 style defenestration of the Labour party.

I will provide an updated forecast of the British general election result as the campaign develops.

1st round French presidential election forecast

The 1st round of the French presidential election race is nearing this Sunday 23rd April and the polls indicate that all four main candidates have a reasonable chance of getting into the second round.

I recently wrote that the reader should prepare for the unexpected and I consider this still to be the case. At the beginning of the year I warned that there was a possibility that Marine Le Pen (“Le Pen”) may not get to the second round, which was one of the reasons why I only gave a 60% probability chance of Le Pen winning the French presidency.  This is one of a number of possible scenarios, including Melenchon getting into the final two or Fillon performing better then expected which could happen this weekend.

I wasn’t planning to forecast the likely winners of the 1st round due to the extraordinary volatility of the French electorate and the difficulty of picking out the winners of a crowded four horse race. This remains the case.

However, my reading of the French electorate does indicate to me that on a balance of probabilities the most likely outcome of the 1st round will be Le Pen winning with Fillon coming second. Please note that this is a very tentative forecasting prediction and all four main candidates, Le Pen, Fillon, Macron and Melenchon have a plausible chance of getting into the second round.

The reason why I think that Le Pen and Fillon may have the edge is that France profonde, conservative, patriotic and the backbone of French society, will turn out in force for both Le Pen and Fillon. Both candidates have committed supporters and for different reasons feel deeply alienated and angry about the direction the country is going.

The Bloomberg article on the provincial town of Donzy may prove to be a canary in a coal mine.

Of course, I may be wrong and if I am honest, this has been the toughest forecast to make to date since launching the FI blog. We will find out on Sunday if my forecast turns out to be correct.

Whatever happens, I recommend preparing for the unexpected.

FI Special: the British general election and a 1st round French presidential election forecast

Expect the unexpected

The truth is that nobody knows what the results will be in the 1st round of the French presidential elections due next Sunday 23rd April 2017. The single most salient fact in this extraordinarily volatile election is that approximately 40% of the French electorate are undecided. Significant swings could happen on the day of the election which should be taken into consideration when reviewing the polling data.

I would therefore recommend that readers should treat with skepticism the predictions of anybody, including myself, on what the outcome will be.

Given the huge numbers of undecided voters and the political upheavals within the Republican and Socialist party primaries, I would not be surprised if further unexpected electoral shocks will be dealt by an angry and anti-establishment minded French electorate.

I will therefore outline a number of potential electoral shock scenarios which could happen in the 1st round, based on my reading of the presidential race to date.

Francois Fillon (“Fillon”)

The French conservative candidate has survived a series of bruising corruption scandals and is currently around 18% in the polls, behind both Macron and Le Pen. As Ambrose Evans Pritchard argues in the Telegraph, Fillon is an experienced, solid and presidential candidate who may yet see a revival of his political fortunes as the French public turn to a safe pair of hands. Fillon is from the political mainstream, is tough on security and is clearly the most statesmen-like of the candidates in the contest.

It is plausible that centre-right voters who are flirting with voting for Macron will return to the Republican fold, ensuring that Fillon does better then expected on election night.

Marine Le Pen (“Le Pen”)

Le Pen has consistently polled around 25% of the vote and has the most committed support base of all the candidates. Most pundits, including myself, consider it likely that she will end up going into the second round.

One possibility is that Le Pen will under perform on the night as traditional National Front voters, who dislike her anti-Euro/EU views, defect to Fillon. Fillon’s pro-business, socially conservative and pro-Euro stances could resonate with elements of the National Front electoral base. The Dutch populist politician Gert Wilders found that the centre-right Mark Rutte’s hard-line policies on security leached voters away from his own party. Fillon’s own strong positioning on the rising threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism could have a similar role in the French elections.

The other shock scenario is that Le Pen will out-perform expectations, hitting close to or above 30% in the 1st round. The bellwether town of Donzy in Burgundy has a record of accurately reflecting the national vote and informal polling suggests that Le Pen will do considerably better then the national polling suggests in the 1st round.  It is clear in the Bloomberg article that not everybody is comfortable with admitting that they plan to vote for Le Pen, which suggests a potential shy Le Pen vote, in force. One has to wonder if some of the “undecided” voters don’t want to admit to a pollster that they plan to vote for the National Front.

There is some evidence to suggest that this is a real trend. Polling during the US elections which asked voters who they thought their neighbours and friends would vote for was more accurate then the official polling data, suggesting that there was a “shy Trump” force at work which manifested itself on election night, as I predicted before the election. A similar poll recently conducted in France “…asked voters who they believed their friends and neighbours are supporting, and voters revealed Le Pen was their choice.”

A strong performance by Le Pen does not mean she will necessarily win in the sound round. Indeed, the article on Donzy suggests that a Le Pen versus Fillon contest will lead to a narrow Fillon victory. However, a strong performance by Le Pen would electrify the country, the financial markets and provide the National Front with massive momentum going into the second round.

Emmanuel Macron (“Macron”)

The independent centrist Macron is the golden boy of the Parisian elite, the media and the financial markets. It is clear who the bulk of the French establishment would like to see winning on 7th May. However, the French are in a rebellious mood and are deeply unhappy about the economy, security and the state of the country. It is questionable whether Macron, an inexperienced politician, can persuade the French population that he is ready to be head of state.

Polling suggests that around 40% of the Macron vote is undecided whether to vote for him, by the far the softest support of all the leading candidates. There is a real risk that Macron has peaked too soon and will see a fall in his numbers on election night to around 18%, knocking him out of the race.

The alternative is that Macron will do better then expected, with voters signalling a readiness to rally around a centrist, pro-European and reformist candidate after flirting with the radical fringes on the Left and Right.

Jean-Luc Melenchon (“Melenchon”)

The hard-left Melenchon has been a surprise hit during the two presidential debates held and has seen his poll ratings jump to around 18%, just ahead of Fillon. It is clear that the hard-line socialist has the momentum going into the 1st round.

Melenchon is a Euro-sceptic, hostile to globalisation and a “soak the rich” candidate of the Left. The mere possibility that he could get into the second round is causing alarm bells to ring in trading rooms and boardrooms in Paris, London and New York.

I consider the possibility that Melenchon could get into the final two a real possibility assuming he is able to further consolidate the Left vote. The Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon is seeing his poll rating slump as socialist voters get on-board the Melenchon train. The truth is that voting for Hamon is a wasted vote, if you are a socialist, whilst Melenchon now has a realistic chance of getting into the second round.

Should Macron and Fillon both get approximately 20% of the vote, Melenchon could sneak into second place assuming he can get a further fraction of the Socialist party vote in the coming 10 days. A Le Pen versus Melenchon contest would be the ultimate nightmare for the French and European political establishments and would trigger violent upheavals in the financial markets. Whilst I do not consider it likely, it is not improbable, taking into consideration the trends within the polling data.

Conclusion:

We will soon find out who will be the winners of the 1st round and I will publish a Forecasting Intelligence (FI) blog post on the outcome, the implications and whom I think is most likely to win the second round.

Expect the unexpected

Populist politics and the Dutch elections

Le Pen

“All politicians should be populists”

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte

A leading Dutch politician declares in an open letter to the Dutch population that immigrants who don’t integrate should “act normal or go away”. You, the reader, may think that this is just one more incendiary statement from the populist firebrand politician Gert Wilders, except, your wrong. The open letter was in fact signed by the current centre-right Prime Minister of Netherlands, Mark Rutte, who won the most seats in the elections, held this week.

The media and political elites of Europe, the Pundocracy, have hailed Gert Wilders failure to come first as a defeat of populism. Gert Wilder’s is a highly provocative right-wing populist politician who advocates, in a one page manifesto, the banning of the Koran, the shutting down of mosques and the withdrawal from the European Union (“EU”).  Wilders shows little interest in actually taking power or accepting the inevitable compromises which come from governing a nation. Comparisons between Wilders and Marine Le Pen should thus be treated with caution. Even Le Pen’s harshest critics accept that she is a formidable, charming and intelligent foe with a ruthless hunger for power.

The real story of the Dutch elections was the embracing of nativist, nationalist and populist rhetoric and policies by the centre-right parties, including most notably, the Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The key to Rutte’s electoral success was his hard-line position with Turkey in the days running up to the election which was intrinsically populist and played well with the voters.

What we are actually seeing is the start of the mainstream-isation of populism in centrist politics, which is why populist politicians are struggling, in both the UK and parts of the Continent. UKIP has seen its vote share drop in by-elections since the centre-right governing Conservatives embraced whole chunks of their manifesto, including grammar schools, immigration controls and exiting the EU.

The Telegraph notes that the anti-immigrant parties of the Right now command 45% of the overall vote, almost half of the Dutch electorate. Yet the Netherlands, despite issues with the integration of a growing Muslim minority, has a successful economy, low unemployment and no recent history of jihadi terrorism. If anti-immigrant and populist politics can enjoy such success in the Netherlands, one must wonder how Le Pen will perform in the up-coming presidential elections as the metrics are far worse in France. A series of horrific jihadi terror atrocities, high youth unemployment, a stagnating economy and a deep national malaise provides fertile territory for her goal of becoming the next occupant of the presidential Élysée Palace.

I have written before that the key to the French elections will be how the French “silver vote” swings in the second round. Polls show that Le Pen is equal or ahead in every age bracket, from the ages of 18 to 64, and only falls of a political cliff with the over-65’s, as shown in the FT graphic.

The older French voter still associates Le Pen with the dark days of her fascistic father Jean-Marie Le Pen and a stigma remains regarding voting for the National Front. If Le Pen can persuade sufficient numbers of these grey voters that she is not an extremist, she will likely win the French presidential election, as I have predicted at the beginning of this year.

The conservative Republican candidate Francois Fillon enjoys solid support from the elderly with his traditional social views and hard-line worldview on the perceived growing threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism. Fillon, like his political peers Theresa May and Mark Rutte, belongs to a new breed of European political leaders who have combined populist language and policies despite emerging from the traditional political establishment. One can call them and their voters the “soft populists”.

Should Macron embrace a strongly liberal, open border and pro-immigration/European stance in a Le Pen versus Macron clash in the second round, the question remains whether “soft populist” voters on the centre-right will vote for Macron or go for the “hard populist” option of Le Pen in the absence of Fillon.

Whilst it is certainly plausible that Macron will win the French presidential election, the chances of a shock Le Pen victory is more likely then the political pundits and markets assume, and will have profound implications for Europe if the unthinkable does indeed happen.

Populist politics and the Dutch elections

Götterdämmerung

This article is part of a series of articles on the end of the liberal world order and the emerging post-liberal geopolitics which will replace it. I recommend that readers also read, in conjunction to this article, my post Europe’s coming Campi Flegeri explosion, the global implications of a Trump presidency and winter is coming.  

Berlin, Tagung Warschauer Pakt, Gruppenfoto

“The most important trends shaping the political landscape of our time, to my mind, are the descent of the liberal movement into its final decadence, and the first stirrings of the postliberal politics that is already emerging in its wake.”

John Michael Greer (The Coming of the Postliberal Era)

On 29 May 1987 the pictured leaders of the Warsaw Pact, the Communist military alliance, met to discuss matters of importance within the Soviet bloc. The division of the world into two major blocs had been a permanent feature of geopolitics since the end of the last Gotterdammerung, the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. The possibility that the Soviet world would implode within a few years would have been considered unthinkable by most observers of world politics, including the foreign policy elites of the Western world.

In a few years, when the Berlin wall came crashing down and the Red Army withdrawn from Eastern Europe, these confident leaders of a once mighty military and political bloc would fall from power amid massive street protests. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its external empire was an end of a world order based on the ideology of Communism. Perceptive observers of the Soviet bloc had noticed for years the crumbling of its foundations and there were a number of individuals who successfully predicted the collapse of the Soviet world order. Yet, with hindsight, it is sobering to note that few foresaw the possibility that the Soviet “house of cards” could and did come crashing down.

I consider the liberal world order, based on the free movement of labour, capital and trade within a globalized economic model is now facing its own terminal decline and death. One could write a book on the causes behind the collapse but I would argue that the primary factor, the Limits to Growth megatrend, is driving this collapse even if it is gone largely unnoticed. The peaking of conventional oil supplies and the long-term rise in oil prices, contributed to the financial crisis in 2008 and the “secular stagnation” which has so puzzled economists since then. Hard limits in the resources which powers our economy is incompatible with an economic-financial system which assumes limitless sources of energy will always be available and that physical reality is starting to impact.

The stagnation and decline in real living wages for the bulk of the citizenry of the developed world, which is a direct consequence of our growing resource scarcity predicament, has been a body blow to the authority and power of our governing liberal elites. The political shocks of 2016, the Brexit vote, the election of Donald Trump and the crushing defeat of the “yes” campaign in the Italian referendum, are the belated political reaction in the face of these long-term trends.

A core part of the liberal world order was a belief that nationalism was a thing of the past which would surely fade away as we became ever more globalised in the brave new world of Facebook, cheap flights and Amazon. This has not happened. Raw nationalism is back as a powerful political force as nationalist strongmen come to power across the world. The rise of these Caesar’s is a common pattern in history and is a sign that our own industrial civilisation is in a state of terminal decline, as John Greer wrote recently.

To understand why these charismatic strongmen, and potentially strongwomen, are coming to power one must explore the writings of Arnold Toynbee. I have written before on Toynbee’s civilisation model, with its division of the world into a dominant minority who rule a society, an internal proletariat (the workers) and an external proletariat outside the core regions of the civilisation at that time. The ideology of political liberalism finds its strongest adherents among the elites of society and those who benefit from the status quo, the financially comfortable middle classes, who constitute approximately 20% or more of society. Among the internal proletariat, who constitute the rest of the population, support for liberal values is in progressive decline as their living standards slowly disintegrate.

ch

This collapse in support for liberal values can be illustrated in the sobering opinion poll commissioned by the prestigious Chatham House institute, the results which are shown above. Majorities across Europe now support a ban on any further migration from mainly Muslim countries, including a remarkable 61% in France, which faces presidential elections in April/May. Currently only the National Front candidate Marine Le Pen has indicated that she could support such a policy. Clearly the internal proletariat’s of Europe are embracing populist, nativist and nationalistic ideologies which pose a huge challenge to our modern dominant minorities.

One response of a dominant minority is to enter into an alliance with the hordes of desperate external proletarians who wish to benefit from residing in the wealthy core of a civilisation. For decades, big business in America has benefited from the work ethic of millions of illegal immigrants who have come across the Mexican border to do jobs ordinary Americans don’t want to do. The election of President Trump, as I predicted in January 2016, was in part to the growing anger of many within the American proletariat to this state of affairs.

The German liberal elites, led by Angela Merkel, made a deliberate decision in 2015 to let in over a million predominately Muslim migrants from the non-European world into Germany. As this German article notes, the German government is aware of Germany’s low birth rate and the need to find new workers as its own internal proletariat shrinks in size. Or, to use Toynbee’s language, the German dominant minority have imported over a million external proletariat’s to in effect replace and supplant a declining internal proletariat which is increasingly hitting retirement.

The liberal world order, already in a profound crisis with the election of a neo-isolationist and nationalist President Trump, is unlikely to survive in the face of the defection of their internal proletariat’s to the new post-liberal ideology of populist nationalism. Opinion polls show that the majority of Americans back the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration policy and crackdown on illegal immigration, despite the howls of outrage from the liberal elites. It is also noteworthy that sixty-five percent of Americans reacted positively to the “America First” message in President Trump’s inauguration speech. The truth is that whatever individual voters views on the man himself, majorities back Trumpism and reject the foundations of the liberal world order.

Should Europe join America in rejecting the key tenets of liberalism, including free trade and relatively open border migration policies, the liberal order would go down a similar path to the lost world of Soviet Communism. I consider this very likely in the years ahead. Future historians may look back at the gatherings of our current Western liberal leaders in the same way that we react to pictures of those stony faced Communist leaders in the eighties before they were swept away by the forces of history.

Götterdämmerung

Europe’s coming Campi Flegrei explosion

civilization-collapse

‘In creating barbarian war-bands the external proletariat has merely prepared itself for a destructive attack upon the dying civilisation.’

‘Ancient civilisations were destroyed by imported barbarians; we breed our own’

Arnold J Toynbee “A Study of History Part 1”

Scientists have discovered that the Campi Fegrei caldera, off Italy, is heating up again. Over 30,000 years ago, the caldera erupted and spewed almost a trillion gallons of molten rock in the atmosphere, in the process setting of a “volcanic winter” which contributed to the wiping out of the Neanderthals.

Europe is geopolitically and literally sitting on a volcano and we are getting closer to the point when one of the core regions of a declining industrial civilisation disintegrates politically, economically and socially. The election of President Trump marks a sea change in the globalised liberal world order which was already struggling under the impact of the post-Lehman Great Recession, the long-term rise of resource prices, driven by limits to growth, and an increasingly rebellious populace angry about a perceived loss of cultural identity, economic stagnation and rising jihadi terrorism.

Europe has enjoyed a long summer under the benign protection of the US military which has meant that most European nations have been able to effectively opt-out of paying for their own defence. The post-Cold War “peace dividend” has allowed the European political class to focus on that ultimate grand liberal project, the European Union (“EU”), and its ever further integration. That world is now dying.

President Trump, in his inaugural speech, outlined an “American First” manifesto which has horrified the European political class. In it, President Trump articulated a return to neo-isolationism and an end to the certainties of a post-Cold, and indeed, the post WW2 era. Although Prime Minister Theresa May managed to get a grudging confirmation from the president that America is still committed to NATO, it is clearly on the condition that European allies will commit to the minimum 2% defence spending.

I am sceptical whether this will actually happen if the price is further cuts in welfare spending which will be deeply unpopular among continental electorates. It is therefore only a matter of time before President Trump effectively pulls the plug on America’s security commitments to the European continent. A Trump America may form bilateral military protection agreements with traditionally pro-American states like Poland and the Baltic states. However, this will be on the condition that these countries contribute far more to their own defence spending.

The EU itself can be considered a classic case of “sophisticated state failure”, with a Byzantine governance model which even the experts struggle to understand. The Ostrich type position of the Brussels establishment since the Brexit vote in June 2016 is an example of how the European political class is increasingly incapable of thinking creatively on how to restructure the EU.

A creative and bold European leadership would advocate a reformed union with a new class of membership, involving a repatriation of powers back to the member-state, for those countries historically more sceptical of European integration. A re-think on the principle of freedom of movement, internal border controls and a much tougher external border policy on economic migrants from the troubled Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”) region, along the lines of the Australian model, would also be significant moves in shoring up support for the project.  As you may have noticed, none of this has happened, to date.

The eurozone itself remains a half botched job with a monetary union without a corresponding fiscal or political union. The single market is in deep trouble as “temporary” border controls pop up around the Continent due to the security threats posed by jihadi terrorists and massive refugee flows from the MENA zone of disorder. Warnings from leading experts that the eurozone is a “house of cards” which could collapse soon are multiplying, reflecting the growing levels of alarm within elite European circles.

My conclusion therefore remains that the eurozone is likely to collapse within the next 5 years, as noted in my post “winter is coming”, and that the migration crisis will accelerate the collapse of the EU itself in the coming decades. The trigger for the coming collapse will be the rise to power of governments with a mandate to withdraw from the eurozone and even the EU itself on the Continent. I have predicted that this could happen as soon as this year, with the up-coming elections in the Netherlands, France and potentially even Italy and Austria.

The migration crisis which has hammered the Continent since the summer of 2015 should be understood within the broader historical context of a declining civilisation. Arnold Toynbee, a little known figure these days, wrote a 12 volume universal history comparing the rise and fall of 19 civilisations. His aim was to see, in this long cyclical story of the rise and fall of successive civilisations, whether common patterns could be discerned.

Toynbee argues that civilizations break down when there is deterioration within the social order, an inability to respond to challenges, and a subsequent loss of that self-determination that had once impelled growth, instead of variety and versatility there is deadening uniformity and uninventiveness. A disintegrating society breaks up into a dominant minority, and internal proletariat, and an external proletariat (barbarian warrior bands).

A dominant minority is the elites of society, the rich and powerful, who run the civilisation but who have lost the respect and authority in the eyes of the rest of the population, the internal proletariat. The Brexit vote occurred despite the fact that the majority of the academic, cultural, political and economic elites of Great Britain advocated for a Remain vote. A majority of the internal proletariat decided that their interests were better off out of the EU. This is a good example of Toynbee’s theory in action. The internal proletariat have lost respect for the judgements, wisdom and “expertise” of the elites and voted accordingly.

The external proletariat is the mass of the population who physically reside beyond the core zones of the civilisation of that time. The fearsome barbarian warrior tribes of the steppes were the external proletariat of the Roman Empire, which the Roman legions kept out, for centuries. Eventually the Roman Empire imploded and these warrior bands, led by charismatic strongmen, plundered, raped and murdered their way around the once wealthy Roman Empire.

In our industrial civilisation, the external proletariat is the mass of the world population who live beyond the core zones of North America, Europe, Russia, Australasia, and parts of south-east Asia. We call this the developing world where a small minority (their own dominant minority) lead a luxuriant lifestyle amidst a sea of poverty.  The eruption of the migration crisis is a sign that as the MENA region disintegrates into state failure and lawlessness, the fit young men of the external proletariat, will risk their lives to get to the security and perceived economic opportunity of the West.

It is important to note that just as the bulk of the “barbarians” who were initially allowed to settle in the twilight years of the Roman Empire had no intention of destroying the Roman world, the vast majority of the predominately Muslim migrants pouring into Europe only wish to enjoy the fruits of European prosperity. In an era of economic decline and worsening resource scarcity, the migrants will form part of a growing urban underclass, with little prospects of bettering themselves through legitimate ways. This is illustrated by the fact that approximately 99% of the German migrants are still unemployed.

The rise of Islamist and violent jihadi ideology among the Muslim populations of Europe is a sinister warning that as Toynbee warned, we are breeding our own barbarians. The thousands of trained jihadi terrorists across the Continent are being joined by ever further waves of radicalised Muslim migrants, creating a growing security nightmare for the European authorities.

The terrorists/barbarian warrior bands are already within the cities of the European heartland of our industrial civilisation and their numbers are growing. If history is any guide, we will see ever bigger waves of determined migrants forcing their way into Europe, as the MENA region faces water scarcity, food and energy shortages and protracted state failures across the region. A small but significant number of these migrants will start plundering, raping and murdering Europeans as Attila the Hun and his warriors did to the ancient Roman citizens. The Cologne sex attacks on New Years Eve, the wave of migrant crime in Paris and the horrific suicide bomb attacks in Brussels are an early sign of that grim future.

Should the European elites fail to get a handle on the growing security threats facing the continent and the significant flows of migrants from the external proletariat into the ranks of the pan-European urban underclass, than violence, social disorder and even civil war could erupt. This is the worst case scenario.

The alternative scenario, which I consider more likely, is that starting from 2017 countries across Western Europe will start electing populist and nationalistic political forces to power. These conservative and populist politicians will have a mandate from their internal proletariat to restore sovereignty, border controls and end the creeping Islamification of their societies. This will involve brutal measures, including the shutting down of mosques, deportation of Islamist extremists and refugees and potentially even the mass deportation of non-assimilated Muslim populations. The former conservative German Chancellor Helmut Kohl wished to deport half the Turkish Muslim population from Germany, declassified documents, now reveal. It is not inconceivable that similar conversations are on-going within security, military and political circles within Europe.

Fortress Europe, led by a club of sovereign states, will shut the borders and prevent, if needs be by force, the mass migrations of the external proletariat into the European continent. These political forces, who will be the new European establishment, will align themselves with the bulwark of traditionalism, the Russian Federation, under the de facto Tsar Putin. Russian influence in a post-eurozone and probable post-EU Europe will grow as America withdraws into isolationism and Russian gas, oil and coal become the main energy sources of an energy starved Europe.

The future of Europe largely depends on the electoral choices of the European people over the coming decade. The current liberal elite who run Western Europe are wedded to a set of policies that have failed and are causing more problems than they are solving. As Paul Arbair notes in his essay on Brexit, “The growing popular revolts against globalisation, the EU, or multiculturalism are signs that our societies are already struggling to uphold their level of complexity and are subject to strong forces that are pulling towards a break down to a lower complexity level i.e. localised economies, national governance, homogeneous societies, etc”. The rise of populism can thus be seen as a reaction against a failed system that is now in a systemic crisis and showing growing signs of collapse.

To conclude, Europe faces profound challenges as we enter into the twilight era of industrial civilisation. The drum beats of the barbarian war-lords can already be heard in European cities, the nativist warrior bands are stocking up their arsenals and millions of the external proletariat are planning to pour into Europe.

A certain degree of social disorder and violence is inevitable but how much and on what scale remains to be seen and will depend on how European politics changes in the coming decade.

Europe’s coming Campi Flegrei explosion