Guest post: Washington: You’re fired

Forecasting Intelligence welcomes back the political journalist who predicted Trump’s victory in his popular post Hilary Clinton and the alligator. Here is his personal take on what to expect as Donald Trump prepares to become the next president of the United States.

This Friday, 20th January 2017 will go down in history as the day that the man who shed the USA of huge swathes of its unwanted and ineffective autocracy, the Washington deadwood, took office.

I’m certain that Donald’s celebrated catchphrase from the Apprentice, ‘you’re fired’, has massively contributed to his successful run to become the next POTUSA.

Washington, prepare to be fired. And you deserve it.

There has been quite frankly too much self-interest, horse-trading and wastage going on in Washington for years and the electorate, who are far smarter than the so-called elites could ever bring themselves to believe, know it.

Telling Lockheed Martin and Boeing to come back to the table with much better deals for their bloated F-35 and Air Force One projects was just the start. And Trump isn’t even the president yet.

The appointment of Donald Trump’s cabinet has caused some consternation as he has surrounded himself with hard nose billionaire businessmen, generals and litigators.

I view it as being a bit like a sheriff or an outlaw, if you like, finding the roughest, toughest men in the village in order to pull off the hardest job they have ever faced.

Overturning the Washington special interests, lobbyists and cosy contracts is going to be a gargantuan task and Trump is going to need a rock solid team around him to do it.

Their opponents will include people like the CIA who make a living based on outdated diplomatic attitudes residual from the Cold War, which will be permanently displaced as Trump forges a new thawing of Russo-American relations.

They will not be shifted easily, but they and plenty other’s self-interest and archaic attitudes are damaging the USA and will ultimately bring down the country unless they are removed.

Trump would be wise to fear for his life in the face of such powerful adversaries.

But he is seen by the American people as a man who is ultimately hard but fair and can fix their country. It all starts by draining the swamp – the rallying cry towards the end of his barnstorming presidential campaign.

Donald Trump has his work cut out achieving this but his energy levels are incredible, his work ethic second-to-none and his passion to succeed never-ending. And he is a patriot.

Those in Washington who are not pulling their weight or hurting America will soon find themselves on the wrong end of the Donald.

And will soon be told: ‘You’re fired’.

Guest post: Washington: You’re fired

My predictions for 2017

Reading the annual forecasting jamboree of the media and political elites (the “Pundocracy”) is an illuminating exposure to the worldview of our contemporary Dominant Minority. A common theme is bewilderment about the events of 2016 and a sense that the normal “rules of the game” have been shattered by the victories of Brexit and Trump.

Various reasons have been given for this inexplicable shift from the status quo, ranging from nefarious Russian hacking, the rise of so-called “fake news” media or an up-surge of racist and xenophobic attitudes among sections of the electorate. For a perceptive minority of commentators, there is a dawning understanding that the globalised economic system is under threat by a growing army of economic “losers”, across the developed world.

Those who have read my “winter is coming” post will understand that powerful structural forces, including accelerating climatic change, the peaking of global conventional oil supplies and growing resource and water scarcity around the world are a mega-trend which will shatter the current business-as-usual model over the coming decades. Coupled with the huge levels of debt in the global financial system, the sovereign bond super-bubble and the long-term stagnation of wages across the developed world, it is therefore not surprising that there are growing warnings about the longevity of our globalised liberal world order.

It is in this broader context that I have prepared a series of probabilistic forecasts that I think are likely to occur in 2017. I have tried to make the forecasts as specific as possible and have focused on European politics as this may prove a “game-changing” year for the future of the euro zone and the European Union (“EU”) itself.

Please note that these forecasts will expire on 31 December 2017.

  • Marine Le Pen will succeed in getting into the second round and go on to win the presidential election in May (60% probabilistic chance)

Assuming the opinion polls are correct, it is likely that Marine Le Pen of the National Front  (“NF”) will succeed in mobilising sufficient support to get into the second round of the presidential elections and should face Francois Fillon of the centre-right conservatives in a second round contest.

There is a risk that Le Pen will be edged out in the first round by tactical left-wing voters and for this reason, along with the polling lag against potential opponents in the second round, I have placed only a 60% probabilistic chance of my forecast coming true.

However, assuming Le Pen passes the first round, the NF leader will most likely go on to narrowly win on the back of a huge surge of support from an increasingly angry army of unemployed youth, the blue-collar industrial working class along with a broad coalition of the middle classes. This will include a middle class “shy Le Pen” vote and the conversion of a section of the nominally leftist public sector workforce on a traditionally socialist and anti-austerity message which promises to protect the bloated public sector from reform and mass redundancies.

The majority of the French populace fear the impact of economic globalisation and therefore will struggle, when the moment comes, to vote for the economically Thatcherite and socially conservative policies of Fillon, which is politically toxic to left-wing voters. Le Pen is very different to her fascistic father and it is likely that her brand of nationalistic, populist and statist politics will resonate with broad layers of the French electorate.

According to Bloomberg, 51% of the French electorate consider security their top priority, hardly surprising considering the wave of jihadi terror attacks that have afflicted the nation over the past few years. Mainstream parties have shifted to the hard-right on security issues and adopted policies once exclusively owned by the NF. Le Pen is a clever, charismatic and forceful political figure who will likely persuade a narrow majority of the French electorate that only she can crush the growing jihadi threat once and for all.

To summarise, I consider it likely that Le Pen should manage to get through to the second round, and if so, has a good chance of defeating her opponent on a platform of using the power of the French state to protect the populace from the impact of economic globalisation and crush the threat from Islamic fundamentalism.

  • Geert Wilders of the Party of Freedom will become the biggest party in the March elections in Netherlands (75% probabilistic chance)

Geert Wilders of the Party of Freedom will become the biggest party in the March elections, leading to either political paralysis, becoming part of a coalition government in some capacity or the formation of an anti-Wilders coalition of the other parties.

The growing threat of Wilders to the political establishment has familiar themes to the rise of Donald Trump and the shock victory of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum. It may be the case that the centrist parties will succeed in locking out the populists from power this year but it is probably only a matter of time before Wilders ends up in power in the Netherlands.

  • The Alternative for Germany (“Afd”) will narrowly beat the Social Democrats into second place in the federal elections (70% probabilistic chance)

The German federal elections, due in the autumn, will see the populist, anti-immigrant and anti-establishment party the Afd narrowly defeat the centre-left Social Democrats into second place with approximately 20% of the vote. Angela Merkel is struggling to unite her political base in readiness for running for a fourth term and it is a possibility that she may withdraw from politics should she fail to develop a common consensus on migration and security issues.

However, assuming that the Pundocracy is correct and Merkel does succeed in getting the conservatives behind her re-election bid, I expect that Merkel will get re-elected but will be an increasingly lame duck leader due to  the rising power of right-wing populism in Germany.

  • At least one major West European country will elect an anti-Euro government into power (65% probabilistic chance)

At least one major West European country will elect an anti-Euro government into power (most likely candidates France or Italy if the latter has elections this year) which will cause a deepening political crisis in the euro zone.

I have written before on the internal contradictions which have beset the euro zone since its inception in 1999. The original sin of the founders of the euro was the failure to create structures of political and fiscal union across the currency zone and this has ensured that the experiment has lurched from one crisis to another since the Great Recession of 2008/09. European polling reflects a steady and systemic collapse in faith in European institutions, the political leadership and the common currency and at some point these trends will culminate in an anti-euro movement sweeping to power in at least one euro zone member state.

  • Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of the House of Saud will be removed in a palace coup (55% probabilistic chance)

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (“MBS”), the leading figure in the Saudi Arabian royal family, has led a bold economic reform agenda which includes a public austerity drive, the proposed selling of a portion of the giant state oil company Saudi Aramco and challenging the traditional social contract with the Saudi populace. Whilst it may be the case that the reforms are sensible and long overdue, in a country with no political democracy, the risks of a public backlash are high.

MBS has also led the way in pushing for a more aggressive foreign policy and has been the public face of the controversial and costly Yemen war against the Shia rebels. Growing concern within royal family circles and the entrenched hostility among the powerful clerical establishment could lead to MBS being removed from power in 2017. There is even a wild card possibility of civil unrest from disgruntled members of the Saudi population which will aggravate a sensitive and dangerous moment for the Saudi Kingdom.

  • The sanctions regime against Russia will be eased or ended by President Trump by the end of the year (80% probabilistic chance)

Donald Trump has consistently said that it is in the best interests of America to work with President Putin in areas of mutual interest, in particular, the crushing of ISIS in the Middle East. I therefore consider it very likely that Trump and Putin will meet and arrange a grand strategic reset over the status of Crimea, coordinated military action over ISIS, spheres of influence in borderlands of Eastern Europe and the phasing out of the economic sanctions regime imposed on the Russian Federation by Europe and America.

Trump and his inner circle of advisers consider China the main strategic threat to American interests and wish to align Russia in a global anti-Chinese alliance. There will be entrenched institutional resistance to such a rapprochement from factions within the intelligence and military establishment and I would expect to see a number of high-level resignations from the upper echelons of the CIA as Trump forces through a radical shift in America’s foreign policy.

My predictions for 2017

Review of 2016

2016 will do go down in the history books as a game-changing year with the post-Cold War liberal world order shattered by the rise of populist and anti-establishment forces across the Western world.

What made this even more remarkable was that the vast majority of the Pundocracy were clearly stunned by the events that unfolded, whether it was the Brexit vote, the rise of Donald Trump to become the Republican candidate or his victory to become the 45th president of the United States. The media and political classes across the developed world have become a self-reverential echo chamber of the affluent, mixing only amongst their own elite circles and becoming ever further removed from the average voter.

One of the services of Forecasting Intelligence is to provide an alternative to the conventional wisdom of the chattering classes and hopefully provide accurate predictions of key political events and trends for the reader. As part of that process, I will on an annual basis, review my predictions made during the year and calculate my overall performance, using the Brier score.

If you wish to read my forecasts in further detail and my probabilistic scoring, please click here. So, how did I do?

The first two predictions related to the US presidential election and I scored trump cards on both of them (pardon the expression), successfully predicting both the election of Trump as Republican candidate as well as his eventual victory against Hilary Clinton on election night.

Trump rise to power should be seen, primarily, through the prism of class rather than the racial and sexual identity politics which so obsesses our liberal elites. Trump hard-line positioning on illegal immigration, trade policy and offshoring of jobs by American companies as well as his “America first” foreign policy was hugely appealing to blue-collar voters throughout the heartlands. The economic populism of the Trump message cut through to many, including first time or “once in a generation” voters who came out in force on Election Day. Trump also performed much better than expected among minority voters which helped ensure his narrow victory in Florida among other key battlefield states.

Donald Trump’s victory may have appeared highly improbable to the betting markets and political experts but for the few who did consider him in a strong position to win, the potential profit awards were huge. For those who had placed a bet on the Donald winning the election on the day I published my 2016 predictions, 10 January 2016, the odds were heavily stacked against Trump with a £100 wager delivering a profit of nearly £800 on betfair. Forecasting can be a very lucrative business for those who get it right.

My third prediction was that Britain would narrowly vote to leave the European Union (EU) in the Brexit referendum. Whilst the refugee crisis wasn’t as bad as I feared at the beginning of the year, the broader issue of the migration crisis, the question of future Turkish membership and concerns about the impact on jobs and local public services was central to the referendum debate. As it turned out, I was correct in forecasting that these concerns, along with a broader anger over the loss of sovereignty to Brussels, would tip the British electorate to vote for a narrow Leave victory.

So, for the three fixed political events of the year, which were guaranteed to happen, I successfully predicted every one.

My fourth prediction that civil unrest would explode in Germany between refugees and far-right activists, clearly did not happen on the scale predicted. Whilst the German town of Bautzen did see violence between refugees and the local far-right on one night in September, this did not act as a trigger for wider violence across the country.

Angela Merkel has had a difficult year, culminating in the horrific Berlin Christmas market terror attack at the end of 2016. The German public is waking up to the huge challenge of integrating over 1.2 million migrants. A sobering statistic is that currently only 3% of the refugees who have arrived since 2015 are in employment with the rest unemployed.

Although Angela Merkel’s own party has endorsed her as a candidate to run in the federal elections in 2017, her sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) has refused which is unheard of in post-war German politics.

The refusal of the Bavarian CSU to endorse Merkel is clearly part of an on-going revolt by the conservative forces within the CDU/CSU political bloc to drag Merkel to the right or force her out of office. Therefore, the above events provide a minimum clearing to trigger my forecasting prediction made at the beginning of the year that conservative forces would try to remove Merkel from office during 2016.

My final prediction of the year, with a 75% probability rating, was of a simultaneous ISIS terror attack in at least two west European countries. Thankfully, this did not happen as I feared and the European security services have done an excellent job in preventing the many terror plots hatched throughout the year. Europe has seen a number of major jihadi terror attacks, including the cities Brussels, Nice and Berlin. Whilst the jihadi terror threat didn’t play out exactly as I predicted, the countries which have suffered from terrorism was on my list of likely candidates at the beginning of the year.

Overall, my Brier score for my 2016 forecasts is 0.18 with 4 out of 6 forecasts proven accurate.

Please note that the Brier formula works that the lower the score the more accurate with 1 being the worst and 0 being the best possible score.

I will shortly be publishing my predictions for the year 2017 so please feel welcome to add yourself as a subscriber to Forecasting Intelligence at the bottom of this page.

Review of 2016

A Gallic dark horse emerges

The surprise emergence of the centre-right conservative candidate Francois Fillon as the victor in the Republican’s primary election has transformed the dynamics of the French presidential election. Fillon is a devout Catholic with socially conservative views who appeals to the traditional French bourgeois. These voters are alienated from the metropolitan Parisian elite and have been flirting with the National Front (“NF”) but have now discovered a champion they can identify with.

Fillon is therefore a significant threat to the NF, in particular the traditionalist Catholic strongholds in southern France most associated with the politics of Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the niece of the better known Marine Le Pen. Fillon is also advocating a free market “shock therapy” to the ailing French state with a massive cull of 500,000 public sector jobs and the gutting of workers rights including the 35 hour week, to the horror of the powerful public sector unions. Fillon’s Thatcherite politics has electrified his conservative base but have alarmed many on the Left.

Most experts consider that the most likely outcome of the first round of the presidential elections, scheduled for April 2017, will be a run-off between the centre-right Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen, of the hard right. The Socialist Party is in a state of collapse and with multiple candidates from the left-wing political spectrum competing, it is unlikely that any of them will be able to overcome Le Pen’s base of support in the first round.

Let us assume, for the moment, that the second round contest will involve a climatic duel between Fillon and Le Pen. The battle for the future of France will be based on the core issues of security, identity and the economy. Both Fillon and Le Pen advocate harsh measures against jihadi extremists and the preachers of hate who spread hard-line Islamism within Muslim communities. The centre-right has largely deserted the “happy identity” rhetoric of the liberal establishment and has embraced the hard right terrain once exclusively occupied by the NF.

Nicholas Sarkozy led the way in the use of a “French first” nationalistic discourse during the primary campaign although he was rejected for being divisive, toxic and unpopular. Fillon has also rejected the ideology of liberal multiculturalism and has emphasized the Christian and secular values which underpin the French republic. This represents a significant shift to the right for the mainstream conservative opposition. For those on the liberal-left of French politics Fillon’s brand of politics doesn’t sound any different to the “detoxified” NF of Le Pen on the key issues of security and identity.

Historically, centrist and left-wing voters have voted for the centre-right candidate to keep out the far-right, which is what happened in 2002 when left-wing voters came out in their droves against the NF, which was led by Marine’s fascistic father Jean Marine Le Pen. However, this was over a decade ago and with both candidates occupying the same hard right political space, this assumption will be tested to destruction in 2017.

On the economy, Fillon has broken with the statist status quo of French politics and has promised massive structural reforms to the French state, which employs half the workforce in France. In contrast Le Pen has shifted NF economic policy in a more socialist direction and has advocated a mix of statism, protectionism and an aggressive defence of the public sector against the forces of globalisation. It is clear that Le Pen’s strategy will be to portray Fillon as an arch-Thatcherite, bent on the destruction of the public sector and the rust belt industries which still employ the industrial working class in the country.

Opinion polls show that 54% of the French electorate are fearful of the effects of globalisation and a significant majority, around two thirds of the electorate, are opposed to the reforms advocated by Fillon. There is a paradox in the opinion polling conducted so far. The surface polling indicates that approximately two-thirds of the electorate will vote for Fillon against Le Pen, even though, the same proportion despise Fillon’s economic policies and favour Le Pen’s brand of socialist statism.

Lurking underneath the surface polling is a huge strategic opportunity for Le Pen, which is the conversion of blue-collar socialist voters and the public sector workforce which has historically voted for the Left. If Le Pen can successfully convince these sections of the electorate that their interests are better represented under a Le Pen presidency than she can pull off a shock victory on election night. The middle class civil servant terrified of losing his plum job in the public sector under a Fillon presidency may be tempted to vote for Le Pen, even if it is a “shy vote”, as has already been seen in British and American elections.

This election will come down to a clash between interests and values. Le Pen will appeal to the hard-headed material interests of the public sector middle class and the industrial working classes whilst Fillon will draw on the lingering values-based politics of liberalism and rejection of the NF.

Time will tell whether centrist and left-wing voters can overcome their hostility to the neo-liberal and pro-austerity policies of Fillon in sufficient numbers to keep Marine Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace.

A Gallic dark horse emerges

Update

I thought it would be a good idea to list, in chronological order, the various articles written on the blog for visitors to explore.

I will be posting on a monthly basis, rather than weekly, going forward now that the US presidential elections are out of the way.

Forecasting predictions

United States presidential election

Brexit referendum and immediate fallout

Future of industrial civilization

Europe

You may also be interested in the top 5 most popular articles visited since the blog was started. They are as follows;

  1. Winter is coming
  2. The global implications of a Trump presidency
  3. The rise of Caesar
  4. The strange death of Labour England
  5. Can the Donald pull it off?

At the beginning of 2017 I will be reviewing how my predictions compared with reality as well as present my forecast predictions for 2017.

Please do not hesitate to follow my website which you can do at the bottom of the page.

Update

Five minutes to midnight

After one of the most extraordinary presidential elections in American history the time has come for the American people to make their choice. The bombshell announcement that the FBI was re-opening the “Emailgate” case, along with the massive rises in Obamacare premiums, led to a significant tightening of the race going into Election Day, although this trend has reversed in the last few days.

Donald Trump’s populist, anti-establishment and neo-isolationist message appears to be resonating with the American public who despise a corrupt, venal and out-of-touch political class, personified in the candidature of Hilary Clinton. The blue-collar billionaire’s “drain the swamp” slogan, like the Leave campaign’s “take back control”, has hit home with Middle America who are angry about the antics of a distant Washington establishment.

For British readers, we are in familiar territory. The polling is too close to call but the “experts” are overwhelmingly calling it for the status quo establishment candidate, in this case Hilary Clinton, to win. This is reflected in the calculations of the betting and financial markets who have priced in a Clinton victory. What the pundocracy are failing to anticipate is a potential “Brexit effect”, the unexpected surge in support, on Election Day, for the anti-establishment candidate which could result in a shock Trump victory.

Of course, the American elections and the Brexit referendum are very different and it maybe that making a parallel between the two political events will turn out to be wrong. The subterranean electoral forces, outlined in my recent post, principally a “shy Trump” factor, the rise in first time white working/lower middle class voters and a late swing to the Donald, will very likely play a significant role in determining the victor of the election.

The truth is that both candidates have a serious chance of winning this election tonight and nobody can know for certain what the American electorate will decide in the privacy of the ballot booth. However, on a balance of probabilities, I maintain my prediction, made at the beginning of the year, that the most likely outcome of the presidential election will be a victory by Donald Trump.

We will soon find out if the alligator really has managed to sink his teeth into Hillary Clinton.

Five minutes to midnight