Time to enact the boundary changes for a more level playing field at next General Election

An outcome of the expenses scandal in 2009 both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had pledged in their 2010 manifestos to reduce the number of constituencies. The outcome was Schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, with the reduction from 650 to 600, along with a review to achieve more equal constituency sizes. The Boundary Comission published its initial recommendations in 2016, then, following extensive consultations, published revised recommendations in 2018. Given the historically low esteem with which the House of Commons is currently held, and the deadlock on the Brexit issue, perhaps there should be a coming together in the House of Commons to enact these changes to show that they can work together to produce a more level playing field in general elections. The main block on such changes is that greater fairness will lead to shifts in the makeup of Parliament.

2018 Review Changes by Region

The Boundary Commissions 2018 recommendations, published on 05/09/18 are spread across sites for Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. Using the results of the 2017 General Election I constructed a table to show the proposed constituency changes by region.

Figure 1 : Proposed Constituency Changes by Region. Additionally is an apportionment of the seats won by Conservative and Labour at GE 2017 on a national and regional basis. As the decrease smallest decreases in seat numbers tend to be in the regions where the Conservatives are stronger, GE 2017 fought on the new boundaries may have given the Conservatives an majority.

All regions will lose seats in the proposed boundary changes, but the proportionate changes vary considerably. Wales will lose over a quarter of its seats, going from 40 to 29 seats. At the other extreme, the South East, which is already the biggest region, will lose just one seat. The result of implementing the changes would make the average number per constituency across regions far more equal than currently. It should be noted that both Scotland and Wales will still have broadly the same representation per capita in Westminster as England, despite having devolved parliaments.

More detailed analysis from Electoral Calculus

The above gives a general high level impression. The Electoral Calculus website provides a far more detailed analysis through its “Make your Prediction” tool. I first plugged in the results of the 2017 election for the major parties based on the 2017 boundaries at regional level.

Figure 2: Electoral Calculus prediction for 2017 General Election based on 2017 boundaries. The Speaker is included in the Conservative Party Numbers

This fairly accurately produces the 2017 result at the top level with a hung parliament. The predictor slightly overstates the Labour seats, fails to predict any seats for Plaid Cymru and understates the Lib-Dem seats for the same reason. That is the support for the parties is more concentrated than the program allows. Plugging in the national results produces the prediction of a small Conservative majority, much for the same reason. The program does not properly allow for concentrated regional or local support.

More interesting is the prediction based on the 2018 boundaries with 600 seats.

Fig 3 : Electoral Calculus’s estimate of the 2017 General Election result against an estimate based on regional party vote share.

The detailed Electoral Calculus analysis predicts the Conservatives would have been just one short of a majority if the 2017 General Election has been fought on the 2018 600 seat boundaries, or two short if the Speaker is excluded. The national predictor shows a majority of 12. These figures are very similar to my rough estimates above, with a slight Conservative bias in top level forecasts. Given that both the main parties have seen losses of MPs, on these figures neither would see a large net loss of sitting MPs, provided that both Labour and Conservatives were in a similar position in the polls to 2017. However, this is not the case. Electoral Calculus, based on opinion polls from 03 Sep 2019 to 27 Sep 2019, predict a Conservative majority of 12. Plugging in the national vote shares into the predictor, I get a Conservative majority of 26. Using the 2018 Boundaries, with 600 seats the majority increases to 54. Conservative seat share rises from 52.5% to 54.0%, whilst Labours seat share falls from 32.6% to 30.8%. A more level playing field works in the Conservatives favour. However, the bias in the predictor means that the difference is likely smaller.

Fig 4 : Based on opinion polls from 03 Sep 2019 to 27 Sep 2019, Electoral Calculus national GE predictor based on current 650 seat parliameny and 2018 constituency boundaries

However, voting for fairer boundaries should not be based on immediate polling. One would hope that HM’s Official Opposition would have ambitions of winning and election in the future. What would be the impact of swapping the poll positions of Conservatives and Labour? Figure 5 does just that.


Fig 5 : Same assumptions as fig 4, with the exception that polling positions of Conservatives and Labour are reversed.

If the polling positions of Conservatives and Labour were reversed then the Labour Party would be in a similar position to under the existing system and under the 2018 constituency boundaries with 600 seats. This is however a likely scenario under the current circumstances. Allowing for a Conservative bias in the Electoral Calculus estimates, Labour would likely obtain an overall majority. If Conservative votes fell away, they would mostly go to the Brexit Party, whilst gains for Labour would come from the Liberal Democrats. In the final figure I also assume that the Brexit Party are up 5% and the Lib Dems down 5%.

Fig 6 : Same assumptions as fig 5, with the exception that Brexit Party are up 5% and Lib Dems down 5%.

This marginally improves Labour’s position at the expense of the Lib Dems, sufficient to gain a slim overall majority. Again, allowing for the Conservation bias in the figures, the majority would be less marginal.

The Labour party bias under the current boundaries

Although the Electoral Calculus figures have a slight Conservative bias, the Boundary Comission changes will favour the Conservatives over Labour. Figure 1 indicates part of the issue. In Wales, the North West and the North East are regions have both larger than average falls in the number of seats and where Labour have a clear majority of the seats. Conversely in the Eastern, East Midlands, South West and South East Regions have both much smaller than average falls in seat numbers and where the Conservatives have a clear majority of the seats. The current constituency boundaries have a Labour Party bias that will be rectified. I have created a couple of charts from the General Election 2017 results, one of which amplifies the current Labour bias in the voting figures.

Fig 7 : From the 2017 General Election results, bands of the percentage of valid votes gained by each party. The upper chart is the count of seats in each band. The lower chart shows the average constituency size.

In 2017, the Conservatives achieved at least 50% of the vote in 243 seats. For Labour it was 222 seats. The Conservatives gained 40-50% of the vote in 135 seats, winning 71. Labour gained 40-50% of the vote in 89 seats, winning 35. The problem for Labour is that their vote is more highly concentrated than the Conservatives. Thus they need a higher share of the national poll, on a uniform swing, to gain a parlimentary majority than the Conservatives under current boindaries. Put another way, on average the Conservatives gained 55.46% of the valid vote in the constituencies they won, whereas Labour gained 59.33%. Of course the greater spread of votes across constituencies works in the Conservatives favour in winning elections, but against them relatively if party support drops below 25%. Conversely the current boundaries work in Labour’s favour in the event of a poll collapse, but it is mostly due to their concentrated support.

The lower chart illustrates the problem for Labour from the boundary changes. Whereas the average constituency size where the Conservatives recieved > 50% of the vote in 2017 is 75,400, for Labour it is 70,500. Under the 600 seat Parliament, whereas the Conservatives would retain 243 such seats, Labour would expect to only recieve 208 seats, a loss of 14. For the seats gained with less than 50% of the vote the Conservatives would expect to go from 74 to 71, whilst Labour from 40 to 38. Thus in a 600 seat parliament the Conservatives would expect to have 314 seats, as against 317 seats in a 650 seat Parliament. Labour would go from 40.3% of the seats to 41.0% on the same rough calculation.

Finally, there is another paradox. Although, on average, Labour constituencies have a smaller electorate than Conservative ones, of the 31 seats with an electorate over 85,000, 14 are Labour. There are three Labour seats with over 90,000 voters – Bristol West, West Ham and Manchester Central. It is not an even picture across the country.

Concluding Remarks

It is now eight years since legislation was passed to reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600, along with making them more equal in size. Had the 2017 election been faught on this more level playing field it is most likely that the Conservatives would have been returned with a small majority rather than losing that majority. The impact of enacting the changes would be to counter the relative discrimination that much of the South and East of England has in general elections due to having larger average constituencies. Most of all it would be of benefit to those in the 31 constituencies with over 85,000 voters, listed below.

Fig 8 : The gemeral election 2017 results for the 31 constituencies with electorate of over 85,000.

Kevin Marshall

Is the Benn Surrender Act incompatible with Article 50?

Earlier this month the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland published a judicial review from three applicants v the Prime Minister and others. Although not widely reported, it was commented on by Guido Fawkes, and the judgement itself is linked to by the website. It was a case of Remainers trying to derail Brexit by ever legal ruse they could think of. The Judge threw out all arguments, and saddled the applicants with all the costs.

One area covered in the judicial review is on Article 50, which I believe could be the basis of a legal challenge to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019, colloquially called the Benn Surrender Act. Quotes from the review are cited as by paragraph and page. E.g. (3):4 is paragraph 3, page 4.

Article 50

The review quotes Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union in full. 

Article 50 of this international treaty (the “TEU”) provides:

“(1) Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the
Union in accordance with its own constitutional
requirement.

(2) A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify
the European Council of its intention. In the light of the 12 guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future
relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent
of the European Parliament. 

(3) The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph (2), unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period. 

(4) For the purposes of paragraphs (2) and (3), the Member
of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it ….

(5) If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure 
referred to in Article 49.”

Article 49 makes provision for any European State applying to become a member of the EU. This contemplates a formal agreement between the Applicant State and the Member States.

Article 50 TEU Analysed

(55):46-47 

Certain aspects of Article 50 did not fall to be construed in either Miller or Wightman. Bearing in mind that the exercise is one of construing a measure of EU law, I consider that those aspects of Article 50 not addressed in either Miller or Wightman yield the following construction:

(i) First, there is no concept, meaning or definition of “negotiate” supporting the view that the clause beginning “… the Union shall negotiate … ” denotes a duty and exercise unilateral in nature. It takes two to tango. The concept of negotiation must surely be, depending on its context, something bilateral or multilateral in nature. This discrete element of Article 50(2) would be emptied of meaning and rendered nugatory if it is not to be construed thus.
(ii) There is no legal context known to this court which dictates that negotiations must culminate in a legally binding agreement between the negotiating parties. There is nothing in the text of Article 50 which displaces this proposition. Nor is there any identifiable basis or rationale for implying any different or contrary
construction.
(iii) Article 50(2) clearly establishes an imperative, namely a negotiated and concluded withdrawal agreement, without purporting to mandate that this occur.
(iv) Article 50(3) expressly contemplates the possibility that the negotiations required by Article 50(2) will not culminate in a withdrawal agreement.
(v) The plain aim of the two year period specified in Article 50(3) is the promotion of stability and certainty in the EU.
(vi) The provision made in Article 50(3) for consensual extension of the basic two year period is plainly designed to further the overarching imperative of a negotiated and concluded withdrawal agreement.

The Descisions in Wightman and Miller are covered respectively by (20-21): 15-16 and (22):16.

The first point dispells any claims that it only Britain that should negotiate, with the EU acting as immovable.

The second and third points dispel any notion that an agreement must be concluded as a condition of leaving the EU. The fourth point is that Article 50(3) possibility that a member state will exit without a deal.

The fifth and sixth points are relevent to the Benn Surrender Act. The two year noticification period is clearly for “the promotion of stability and certainty in the EU“. By implication any extension of the period is to achieve that aim. If a conclusion of a withdrawal agreement is not possible, as the parties are too divided, then a further extention is not justified. It would go against the spirit if Article 50 to use an extention as a means of punishing a member state for wanting to leave when such an extension is furthering a period of uncertainty and disrupting the normal business of the EU.

Further, the Surrender Act potentially impels the Prime Minister to submit a request to the EU to extend Article 50 until 31st January 2020.  Yet the same Parliament has on two occasions has failed to trigger a General Election to remove Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose declared central policy aim is to leave the EU on 31st October “do or die“. In so doing Parliament implicitly recognizes the authority of Prime Minister Johnson as the Head of State in the negotiation of international treaties. Parliament is therefore conflicted.

But most paradoxically, whilst Britain remains a member of the EU it is still bound by the Treaty of the European Union. The Surrender Act in compelling the Prime Minister to potentially request an extension of the withdrawal period for purposes other than negotiating a withdrawal agreement, and in causing continued disruption to the EU as a whole, and Britain as a member state in particular, are clearly going against the intent of Article 50(3) of the European Union. Parliament should be honest and revoke Article 50. However, although a majority could be achieved in both houses of parliament, there is no democratic mandate to do this. In other words the House of Commons in wanting to frustrate Brexit and to remain in the EU is potentially in breach of the clear intent of TEU Article 50(3), creating a clear constitutional mess in an EU member state, all to suppress the EU Referendum result for which the House of Commons has no democratic mandate.

Kevin Marshall

Cummings, Brexit and von Neumann

Over at Cliscep, Geoff Chambers has been reading some blog articles by Dominic Cummings, now senior advisor to PM Boris Johnson, and formerly the key figure behind the successful Vote Leave Campign in the 2016 EU Referendum. In a 2014 article on game theory Cummings demonstrates he has actually read the Von Neumann’s articles and seminal 1944 book “A Theory of Games and Economic Behavior” that he quotes. I am sure that he has drawn on secondary sources as well.
A key quote in the Cummings article is from Von Neumann’s 1928 paper.

‘Chess is not a game. Chess is a well-defined computation. You may not be able to work out the answers, but in theory there must be a solution, a right procedure in any position. Now, real games are not like that at all. Real life is not like that. Real life consists of bluffing, of little tactics of deception, of asking yourself what is the other man going to think I mean to do. And that is what games are about in my theory.’

Cummings states the paper

introduced the concept of the minimax: choose a strategy that minimises the possible maximum loss.

Neoclassical economics starts from the assumption of utlity maximisation based on everyone being in the same position and having the same optimal preferences. In relationships they are usually just suppliers and demanders, with both sides gaining. Game theory posits that there may be net are trade-offs in relationships, with possibilities of some parties gaining at the expense of others. What Von Neumann (and also Cummings) do not fully work out is a consequence of people bluffing. As they do not reveal preferences it is not possible to quantify the utility they receive. As such mathematics is only of use in working through hypothetical situations not for empirically working out optimal strategies in most real world sitautions. But the discipline imposed by laying out the problem on game theory is to recognize that opponents in the game both have different preferences and may be bluffing.

In my view one has to consider the situation of the various groups in the Brexit “game”.

The EU is a major player whose gains or losses from Brexit need to be considered. More important that the economic aspects (the loss of 15% of EU GDP; a huge net contributor to the EU budget and a growing economy when the EU as a whole is heading towards recession) is the loss face at having to compromise for a deal, or the political repurcussions of an Indpendent Britain being at least as successful as a member.

By coming out as the major national party of Remain the Liberal Democrats have doubled their popular support. However, in so doing they have taken an extreme position, which belies their traditional occupation of the centre ground in British politics. Further, in a hung Parliament it is unlikely that they would go into coalition with either the Conservatives or Labour.  The nationalist Plaid Cymru and SNP have similar positions. In a hung Parliament the SNP might go into coalition with Labour, but only on the condition of another Scottish Independance Referendum.

The Labour Party have a problem. Comparing Chris Hanretty’s estimated the referendum vote split for the 574 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales for the EU Referendum with 2015 General Election Results, Labour seats are more deeply divided than the country as a whole. Whilst Labour held just 40% of the seats, they had just over half the 231 seats with a 60% or more Leave vote, and almost two-thirds of the 54 seats with a 60% or more Remain vote. Adding in the constituencies where Labour came second by a margin of less 12% if the vote, (the seats need to win a Parliamentary majority) I derived the following chart.

Tactically, Labour would have move towards a Leave position, but most of the MPs were very pro-Remain and a clear majority of Labour voters likely voted remain. Even in some Labour constituencies where the constituency as a whole voted Leave, a majority of Labour voters may voted Remain. Yet leading members of the current Labour leadership and a disproportionate number of the vast leadership are in very pro-Remain, London constituencies.

The Conservative-held seats had a less polarised in the spread of opinion. Whilst less than 30% of their 330 England and Wales voted >60% Leave, the vast majority voted Leave and very few were virulently pro-Remain.

But what does this tell us about a possible Dominic Cummings strategy in the past few weeks?

A major objective since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and Cummings was appointed less than two months ago has been a drive to Leave the EU on 31st October. The strategy has been to challenge the EU to compromise on the Withdrawal Agreement to obtain a deal acceptable to the UK Parliament. Hilary Benn’s EU Surrender Act was passed to hamper the negotiating position of the Prime Minister, thus shielding the EU from either having to either compromise or being seen by the rest of the world as being instransigent against reasonable and friendly approaches. Also, it has been to force other parties, particularly Labour, to clarify where they stand. As a result, Labour seems to a clear Remain policy. In forcing the Brexit policy the Government have lost their Parliamentary majority. However, they have caused Jeremy Corbyn to conduct a complete about-turn on a General Election, called for an ummediate election, then twice turning down the opportunity to call one.

Back to the application of game theory to the current Brexit situation I believe there to be a number of possible options.

  1. Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU. The Lib Dem, Green, SNP amd Plaid Cymru position.
  2. Labour’s current option of negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement to liking, then hold a second referendum on leaving with Withdrawal Agreement or reamining in the EU. As I understand the current situation, the official Labour position would be to Remain, but members of a Labour Cabinet would be allowed a free vote. That is Labour would respect the EU Referendum result only very superficially, whilst not permitting to break away for the umbrella of EU institutions and dik tats.
  3. To leave on a Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by PM Boris Johnson and voted through Parliament.
  4. To leave the EU without a deal.
  5. To extend Article 50 indefinitely until the public opinion gets so fed up that it can be revoked.

Key to this is understanding the perspectives of all sides. For Labour (and many others in Parliament) the biggest expressed danger is a no-deal Brexit. This I believe is either a bluff on their part, or a failure to get a proper sense of proportion. This is illustrated by reading the worst case No Deal Yellowhammer Document (released today) as a prospective reality rather than a “brain storm” working paper as a basis for contingency planning. By imagining such situations, however unrealistic, action plans can be created to prevent the worst impacts should they arise. Posting maximum losses allows the impacts to be minimized. Governments usually kept such papers confidential precisely due to political opponents and journalists evaluating as them as credible scenarios which will not be mitigated against.

Labour’s biggest fear – and many others who have blocked Brexit – is of confronting the voters. This is especially due to telling Leave voters they were stupid for voting the way they did, or were taken in by lies. Although the country is evenly split between Leave and Remain supporting parties, the more divided nature of the Remainers is that the Conservatives will likely win a majority on around a third of the vote. Inputting yesterday’s YouGov/Times opinion poll results into in the Electoral Calculus User-Defined poll gives the Conservatives a 64 majority with just 32% of the vote.

I think when regional differences are taken into account the picture is slightly different. The SNP will likely end up with 50 seats, whilst Labour could lose seats to the Brexit Party in the North and maybe to the Lib Dems. If the Conservatives do not win a majority, the fifth scenario is most likely to play out.

In relation to Cummings and Game Theory, I would suggest that the game is still very much in play, with new moves to be made and further strategies to come into play. It is Cummings and other Government advisors who will be driving the game forward, with the Remainers being the blockers.

Kevin Marshall

Updated 29/09/19

Confirmation that Labour cannot win a General Election

My previous post looked at the implications of the May European Election Results for a future General Election. At Capx Matt Singh takes a similar approach in Does first past the post still favour Labour and the Tories? https://capx.co/does-first-past-the-post-still-favour-labour-and-the-tories/
The conclusions are slightly different to my own but it is worth comparing and contrasting Singh’s analysis and my own.

Matt Singh just looks at the May results, whereas I also look at the 2014 European Election results and the following General Elections in 2015 and 2017. This is my Figure 1

Fig 1 : Vote share of major parties in four recent UK elections

Matt Singh concentrates on the current polling data showing the four parties on roughly equal voter share. I agree with his statement

(O)n current vote shares, no party would be anywhere near an overall majority. If we put all four main parties on 21 per cent, the assumptions detailed above would put Labour on around 180 seats, the Brexit Party on around 160 seats, the Lib Dems on roughly 130, the Conservatives down to about 100 and the SNP in the 50s.

That is on equal vote shares the Labour Party would gain the most seats, with the Conservatives the least. Further, I agree that for the two major parties …..

…. dropping too far into the teens could see Labour or Tories being decimated, with seat numbers dropping into the double digits. Labour would have a degree of protection, because its enormous majorities in its safest seats would save it in many cases. But the Tories really would be staring into the abyss.

I also looked at the council area results by four or five regions of Great Britain. That is Northern England, Midlands/Wales, Southern England, London, and Scotland. The latter two I lumped together as they had stood as out as sharing opinions on Brexit different from the other regions.

Matt Singh used data from Professor Chris Hanretty, who has estimated the European election results by constituency from the results by council. The two key tables, (under the banner of Number Cruncher Politics) are as follows

Fig 2 : From the Capx.co article
Fig 3 : From the Capx.co article

These two charts show why the Tories are more vulnerable to a complete meltdown than Labour, as the latter have much stronger support in the ninth and tenth deciles. Singh does not draw the corollary conclusion. That is, based in even swings, to form a majority Government the Tories need to achieve a lower national vote share than Labour to achieve an overall Parliamentary majority. This is important. Hanretty’s charts are with 2019 UK vote shares of 9.1% for Conservative and 14.1% for Labour. To win a General election majority it is important to be ahead of the major opposition in the 5th and 6th deciles. In these areas, Labour were behind the Conservatives in the EU elections despite the 5 point lead overall. In addition, I attempted to go beyond the numbers to look at the impact of positions on Brexit. Both the Conservatives and Labour were punished in the Euro Elections for their vague positions on Brexit. The Conservatives for failing to exit the EU due to the failure to obtain anywhere near majority on the Withdrawl Agreement. Labour for being nominally pro-Brexit, but putting on onerous conditions that would see Britain end up remaining in the EU. Both parties lost out to those Parties with much more strident positions on Brexit. The Conservatives lost out mostly to the Brexit Party. Labour lost out to the Pro-Remain Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, along with the Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland. The Conservatives lost out to Remain parties less than Labour lost out to the Brexit Party. In the last week, Boris Johnson – likely the next Prime Minister – has come out with a strong pro-Leave position that would grab votes from the Brexit Party in a General Election. Conversely, the Labour Party leadership is divided over whether to make Labour a Pro-Remain Party. If it did, Labour might gain some votes from a number of Remain parties but would lose votes to the Brexit Party, or the Conservatives. The Tories are thus in a much better position to achieve the 30% vote share / 10 point lead to win an election than Labour.

Kevin Marshall

How the Tories can win a General Election and why Labour cannot win

Summary 

In the May 2019 European Elections the Brexit Party were clear winners, with the Liberal Democrats a respectable second with near 20% of the vote. The two major parties were both punished by the voters – the Conservatives for failing to deliver Brexit and Labour for sitting on the fence. Analysis of the results by council area indicate

  • Labour Party support is more concentrated that the Conservative support and has huge divides in terms of support for Brexit.
  • Conservative support is more thinly spread and concides with both Brexit Party and Lib Dem areas.
  • Strong anti-Brexit vote split between Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru, whilst pro-Brexit support concentrated in the Brexit Party.
  • Change UK and UKIP had low support and have faded since.

The data strongly suggests that the Conservative Party are the most vulnerable to complete annihilation as a major player, but are the one’s who will be the net gainers with a clear Brexit policy. A No-Deal Brexit platform could see the Tories win a landslide, even with little over a third of the popular vote. A clear Remain platform for Labour could improve their current poll ratings, but is both unlikely under the current policy and would be insufficient overtake a Tory Party with a clear Brexit Policy.

Introduction

The United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland is anything but united. The country as a whole and Parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with a majority unable to be reached for any outcome. Prime Minister Theresa May has resigned the leadership of the Conservative Party with a large field of candidates vying to replace her. 

The Prime Minster, and others, have tried to patch together a majority through some compromise formula. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with the European Union will does not satisfy either the majority who voted to Leave the European Union, nor those who want to cancel the Brexit process. The new Conservative Leader will have a form a majority around a position, with a large highly disatified minority. In my view that will only happen after another General Election where one of the two major parties establishes a clear Parliamentary majority either on their own or in coalition. From my analysis of the data – mostly from the EU Elections in May – the only stable Parliamentary outcome is for the Conservatives to win on a platform of a no-deal Brexit. Under the current circumstances, the Labour Party cannot come close to a majority, primarily due to a revived Liberal Democrats, but also from the Green Party and the nationalists in Scotland and Wales.

Four recent UK elections & Failing to Deliver Brexit

The current context should be understood in the light of four recent UK-wide elections. 

Fig 1 : Vote share of major parties in four recent UK elections

The European Election in 2014 resulted in the United Kindom Indpendance Party (UKIP) achieving 26.6% of the vote and almost a third of the 73 UK seats in the European Parliament. The Conservative Party under David Cameron won the General Election in the following year with a promise of a referendum. Compared with the European Election of the previous year, the Conservative vote share increased 13.7% and the UKIP vote share decreased 14.0%.

The resultant European Union Referendum Act 2015 was supported by all major parties with the exception of the SNP. In the subsequent referendum on 23rd June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union, despite the vast majority of politicians and the greater financial resources being devoted to remain. Early the following day Prime Minister David Cameron accepted the result and resigned. Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn called on the Government to trigger Article 50 immediately. A few days later, Theresa May launched her leadership campaign with a key statement on Brexit.

 Brexit means Brexit. And we’re going to make a success of it. There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it by the back door, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and as Prime Minister I will make sure that we leave the European Union.

On 7th December 2016, the House of Commons vote on respecting the
outcome of the referendum is passed 448 votes to 75.

On 29th March 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May notifys the EU of the UK’s intention to leave. The time period is two years, implicitly making the withdrawal date 29th March 2019.

On 18th April 2017 the Prime Minister calls a snap General Election to
for 8th June, to capitalise on the Tories clear lead in the opinion polls. The outcome is the Tories lose their majority. Yet compared to the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives vote share increases 5.6% to 42.4% and the UKIP vote share is down 10.8% to just 1.8%.

A House of Commons Timeline extracted the commitments of the two major parties in their 2017 manifestos. The Conservative manifesto stated

As we leave the European Union, we will no longer be members of the
single market or customs union but we will seek a deep and special
partnership including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement.

The final agreement will be subject to a vote in both houses of parliament. To agree the terms of our future partnership alongside our withdrawal, reaching agreement on both within the two years allowed by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.
Once EU law has been converted into domestic law, parliament will be able to pass legislation to amend, repeal or improve any piece of EU law it chooses, as will the devolved legislatures, where they have the
power to do so.

The Labour Party Party Manifesto stated

Labour accepts the referendum result and a Labour government will put the national interest first.
We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’ rights and environmental
standards, provide certainty to EU nationals and give a meaningful role
to Parliament throughout negotiations.
To scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh
negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union.
A Labour government will immediately guarantee existing rights for all EU nationals living in Britain and secure reciprocal rights for UK citizens who have chosen to make their lives in EU countries.

Both parties have commitments to leave the EU, but have quite different intepretations. The Conservatives guaranteed to leave on 29th March 2019, whilst Labour makes leaving conditional on obtaining certain guarantees. Neither Party has changed these commitments. It can be argued that neither Party respects the perception of leaving as exiting the single market and other institutions, as projected by both the Leave campaign and the Government’s Pro-Remain booklet sent to every household as part of the referendum campaign. 

The EU withdrawal agreement does not contradict the Conservatives manifesto, but does contradict the perception of what leaving the EU means.

On 15th January 2019 the EU Withdrawal Agreement is defeated “by a majority of 230 (with 202 voting in favour of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal and 432 against).” Despite this, the Government won a no confidence vote the next day by 325 to 302. In a second “meaningful vote” on 12th March, the Government loses by 149 votes.

On the 13th March, “Dame Caroline Spelman’s amendment (moved by Yvette Cooper) – ruling out a ‘no-deal Brexit’ at any time – is passed by 312 votes to 308.” On the same day a motion “to seek permission from the EU to delay Brexit beyond 29 March 2019” is passed by 413 votes to 202.

On 14th March “Dr Sarah Wollaston’s amendment – requesting an extension of Article 50 in order for a second referendum to take place – is rejected by 335 votes to 85.” This is delayed first to 12th April, then to 31st October. 

It is interesting to note that during March the Conservatives were mostly leading in the opinion polls, but after 29th March Labour were leading. In April, after the launch of the Brexit Party and the announcement of European Parlimentary elections, both parties lost support. 

In the European elections the Brexit Party was the clear winner. The Brexit Party and UKIP combined reached 33.7% of the vote (30.5% and 3.2%), up 31.9% on GE 2019, whilst the Tories had 8.8% of the vote, down 33.6%. The Liberal Democrats and the Green, with their clear policies to stop Brexit,improved by 12.2% and 11.0% to 19.6 and 12.6%, whilst the Labour Party’s vote share declined 26.3% to 13.7%. Whilst not all the vote movement from the Tories to no-deal Brexit parties, or from Labour to the stop Brexit parties, a massive poll published by Lord Ashcroft on 27th May confirms that this was the majority case. The Tories saw greater losses to the Brexit Party, whilst Labour saw losses to both the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. The poll also showed that the Labour Party of who retained more supporters from the General Election 2017.

The EU Election 2017 as a General Election opinion poll 

Although there are clear differences in voting patterns between the European Elections and the General Elections, it is clear that from the above analysis for either the Conservative or Labour Parties to stand a chance of getting a majority, they must regain voters lost to other parties in the European Elections. Some voters will move back anyway, and much higher turnout in General Elections will have a role to play. But opionion polls in the last two weeks show that we may have four UK-wide parties in play, with the Greens making up a significant fifth. Fig 2, extracted from Britain Elects, summarizes these polls.

Fig 2 : Westminster Opinion polls in the three weeks following the European Elections 2019. Source Britain Elects

Britain Elects also summarized the EU Election Results 2019 by council area, with the change on 2014. For Great Britain (i.e. the UK excluding Northern Ireland) I have summarized these results by the YouGov opinion poll regions. That is (with number of MEPs) England North (17), England South (16), Midlands + Wales (23), London (8) and Scotland (6). This is only indicative as council areas vary considerably in number of voters. In the EU Referendum of 2016, the electorates for the Isles of Scilly, Orkneys and Shetlands were respectively 1,800, 16,700 and 17,400. At the other end of the scale Leeds had 543,000 voters and Birmingham 707,000. Also I have only covered just over 90% of councils. Due to re-organisations in areas like Suffolk and Dorest comparisons between 2014 and 2019 are not available.

Independence Parties Vote increase from 2014 to 2019

If the May European Elections had been a General Election I estimate the Brexit Party would have won a parliamentary majority of around 170 seats with just under one third of the vote. Combined with the UKIP vote, the two Independance Parties achieved a considerably higher share of the vote than UKIP did on its own in 2014. This is common across virtually every council area, as shown in Fig 3

Fig 3 : UKIP vote share by council in European Elections 2014 compared to Brexit Party plus UKIP vote share in European Elections 2019. Black line denotes no change.

There are very few council areas where the Independence vote did not increase. The variation by YouGov region is noticeable.

Fig 4 : Regional split of UKIP vote share by council in European Elections 2014 compared to Brexit Party plus UKIP vote share in European Elections 2019. Black line denotes no change.

It is in the North of England, the Midlands and Wales where some of the largest increases in the Indpendence party votes have occured. In the South of England the increase is more moderate. In both London and Scotland support for Independance parties is generally less than in the rest of the UK, with the outliers being in outer London. In 2014 the call was for a Referendum on the European Union. In 2019 the failure to implement the result of that referendum resulted in an even greater vote for the Independence Parties. In the sample councils in 2014 the unweighted average for UKIP was 29% of the vote. In 2019 the Brexit Party had an unweighted average of 33.9%. The Lib-Dems on a “block Brexit” platform achieved a more substantial gain, from 7.2% in 2014 to 19.9% in 2019. The Conservatives lost ground, from 25.0% average vote share in 2014 to 9.0% in 2019. The Labour Party also lost ground from 22.9% to 12.6%. 

Countering the Lib-Dems and the Brexit Party in a GE2019

In the 2014 Euro Elections both Labour (under Ed Miliband) and the Conservatives (under David Cameron) lost votes to UKIP, but both maybe gained votes from the Liberal Democrats. In 2019 the Conservatives and Labour Parties both lost more ground, this time to the Brexit Party, the Lib Dems, and to lesser parties like the Greens. In this section I look at the vote shares of the two major parties in 2014 Euro Elections with those of the Brexit Party in 2019.

Fig 5 : Labour and Conservative vote share by council in European Elections 2014 compared to Brexit Party vote share in European Elections 2019. Black line denotes equal share. To the lower left is where Brexit Party has larger share in 2019 than Labour or Conservative Parties in 2014.

In Figure 5 in the vast majority of councils the Brexit Party achieved a greater share of the vote in 2019 than either the Labour or Conservative Parties did in 2014. The scatter is somewhat different. The Labour party has a fair number of councils where their 2014 vote share far outstripped the Brexit Party’s 2019 vote share, but a far greater number of councils where they did badly in 2014 (i.e. much less than 20% vote share) and where the Brexit Party achieved over 30% vote share in 2019. For the Conservatives the biggest cluster is where they achieved greater than 20% vote share in 2014 and the Brexit Party achieved greater than 30% vote share in 2019. This indicates that the Conservatives have far more to gain from adopting the Brexit Party’s no deal Brexit position than Labour.  The regional split largely confirms this. 

Fig 6 : Regional split of Labour Party vote share by council in European Elections 2014 compared to Brexit Party vote share in European Elections 2019. Black line denotes equal share. To the lower left is where Brexit Party has larger share in 2019 than Labour Party in 2014.

Figure 6 looks at the regional fight between the Labour Party and the Brexity Party. Given that the current Labour leadership is dominated by London-based MPs (Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott) the perspective could be that there is little to be gained electorally from adopting a strong “Leave” position. Labour are strong where the hardline Brexiteers are weak. There are also councils in other parts of England (e.g. Liverpool, City of Manchester, Oxford, Bristol) where this pattern also applies. Conversely there are many councils in the Midlands and the South where the Labour Party has a very weak presence, but the Brexit Party gained over 30% of the vote in 2019. There are also quite a few councils where the Labour Party has considerable competition from the Brexit Party. This includes many marginal areas in the Midlands and North that Labour would need to win to form a Government. These include Barrow-in-Furness, Broxtowe, Bolsover, Dudley and Wrexham.

Fig 7 : Regional split of Conservative Party vote share by council in European Elections 2014 compared to Brexit Party vote share in European Elections 2019. Black line denotes equal share. To the lower left is where Brexit Party has larger share in 2019 than the Conservative Party in 2014.

Figure 7 shows a quite different position for the Conservative Party compared to Labour. They are strongest in the South and much of the Midlands. In these key areas the Tories have strong competition from the Brexit Party. 

Lib Dems and Brexit Party Head-to-Head 2019

In the Euro Elections the Liberal Democrats also made a strong showing, achieving second place behind the Brexit Party. Their “Stop Brexit” policy is the antithesis of the Brexit Party’s “No Deal Brexit” stance. There were other Parties with similar hardline positionsin the May elections. In Figure 1 the Green Party made a strong showing, as did the nationalist parties in Sotland and Wales. Change UK had a similar small share of the vote to UKIP. It is unlikely either will figure in a General Election.

The problem for both Labour and the Tories is that winning votes from either the Lib-Dems or the Brexit Party will mean losing votes to the other. Their attempts at straddling the polar opposites last month meant losing to both sides. In this context it is worth examining the vote shares of the Lib-Dems and the Brexit Party by council. 

Fig 8: Liberal Democrat and Brexit Party vote shares in European Elections 2019 for Great Britain. The black line denotes equal share. London and Scotland combined.

Of the 365 councils covered, the Brexit Party had a greater share of the vote in 297. The regional split gives more information.

Fig 9: Regional split of Liberal Democrat and Brexit Party vote shares in European Elections 2019. The black line denotes an equal share. London and Scotland combined.

In Figure 9 I have combined London and Scotland as they show a similar picture that is quite different from the rest of Great Britain. The North of England has a less widespread Lib-Dem support than in the combined South East and South West Regions. In the central belt from Wales to East Anglia there is quite strong Lib Dem support in a minority of places. In a good proportion of that minority Brexit Party support is stronger. In London and Scotland it is the Lib-Dems that are stronger. Scotland has most of the instances where combined Lib Dem and Brexit Party Support was less than 40% due to the SNP being the leading party.

Lord Ashcroft Polls

Lord Ashcroft published a massive Euro-election post-vote poll on 27th May looking the shift in vote from the General Election 2017 and the Euro Elections. With respect to the loss of votes from the two major parties the article states

More than half (53%) of 2017 Conservative voters who took part in the European elections voted for the Brexit Party. Only just over one in five (21%) stayed with the Tories. Around one in eight (12%) switched to the Liberal Democrats. Labour voters from 2017 were more likely to stay with their party, but only a minority (38%) did so. More than one in five (22%) went to the Lib Dems, 17% switched to the Greens, and 13% went to the Brexit Party.

That is, for every one of the 2017 Conservative voters who voted Liberal Democrat last month, more than four voted for the Brexit Party. For the Labour it is the other way round. For every one of the 2017 Labour voters who voted for the Brexit Party, three voted for the either the Liberal Democrats or the Greens.

If this is cast into the above analysis, a no-deal Brexit strategy for the Tories will draw back votes from the Brexit Party, but not lose them a whole lot more votes to the Liberal Democrats. On the other hand for Labour, a clear Remain strategy to win back voter share is less pronounced, as in May they retained a larger share of the 2017 voters, and have a less one-sided loss parties with a clear Brexit standpoint. From today’s announcement, the adoption of a clear Pro-Remain strategy is not likely to happen whilst Jeremy Corbyn is the leader.

Conclusions

In the South of England, much of Central England and in parts of Northern England and Wales the Conservatives were the strongest party in 2017 and where the Brexit Party support is considerably stronger than the Liberal Democrats. A clear No-Deal Brexit policy as the way of respecting democracy would, therefore, win more votes than it lost. It would mean losses of a number of constituencies such as Winchester and Richmond-on-Thames. On the other hand, it could mean winning constituencies from the Labour Party, particularly where the Liberal Democrat and Green share increased on 2017. For the Conservatives, it means a will to win a majority in the knowledge that fair number of existing seats would be lost in the process.

The Labour Party is unlikely to clarify its position on Brexit, despite many in the party such as Emily Thornberry and Tom Watson wanting this change. The reason is the danger of losing seats through betraying the Leave voters in the North, Midlands and Wales, with substantial numbers of Labour MPs being against the move. Yet sitting on the fence will lose votes to four parties, or for traditional Labour voters to stay at home. The Conservatives will the biggest winners here.

Kevin Marshall

Forecast for the UK EU elections 2019

I know that it is only a few hours before we know the results of the elections to the European Parliament, but I have devised a forecast based on the last published YouGov poll, commissioned by the Times and published the day before polling and based on fieldwork on 19th – 21st May 2019. This gave the following results

Basing a forecast on one poll is risky. In favour is the large sample size of 3864, YouGov’s reputation and the D’Hondt system which approximates to proportional representation. Against is the rapidly-changing political opinion; unknown relative turnout of different opinion groups; and the need to split YouGov’s five regions into eleven regions.  This I did by (a) Using an ITV / Cardiff University / Yougov poll published on Monday 20th May for Wales (b) apportioning the Brexit Party and LD vote within a YouGov Region by the relative Leave percentage in the EU Referendum.  

My forecast is below. 

 

Discussion

My forecast might give too many seats to the Brexit Party. The Europe Elects projection, based on the last 5 opinion polls, only predicts 30 seats for the Brexit Party, and 6 seats for the Conservatives. For the Conservatives, this might be very optimistic. In my forecast, the sole seat in the South-East is the last of ten seats to be allocated. 

 

My forecast might overstate the Brexit Party for another reason. In his weekly email Iain Dale states

Everyone expects the Brexit Party to wipe the floor, but some of the turnout figures show that turnout in Remain areas seems to be higher than that in Brexit areas. It seems the LibDems could come second, with the Tories and Change UK getting no seats at all. 

Turnout might be an issue. It depends on the relative anger over the Brexit issue. However, it also appears that the Remain vote will be split between the Lib-Dems, Green Party and Change UK. Further the Conservative Party will be the biggest losers, but the Labour Party can at best hope to be a distant second to the Brexit Party.

Kevin Marshall

Reconciling recent ice mass balance estimates for Antarctica

This post is a slight modification and extention of a comment made at the cliscep post The Latest Antarctic Ice Sheet Alarmist Con

As a (slightly manic) beancounter I like to reconcile data sets. The differing estimates behind the claims of accelerating ice mass loss in Antarctica do not reconcile, nor with sea level rise data.
The problem of ice loss needs to be looked at in terms of the net of ice losses (e.g. glacier retreat) and ice gains (snow accumulation). Any estimate then needs to be related to other estimates. The Guardian article referred in the  cliscep post states

Separate research published in January found that ice loss from the entire Antarctic continent had increased six-fold since the 1980s, with the biggest losses in the west. The new study indicates West Antarctica has caused 5mm of sea level rise since 1992, consistent with the January study’s findings.

The paper is Rignot et al 2018 “Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017“. The abstract states

The total mass loss increased from 40 ±
9 Gt/y in 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/y in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/y
in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/y in 2009–2017. In 2009–2017,
the mass loss was dominated by the Amundsen/Bellingshausen
Sea sectors, in West Antarctica (159 ± 8 Gt/y), Wilkes Land, in
East Antarctica (51 ± 13 Gt/y), and West and Northeast Peninsula
(42 ± 5 Gt/y). The contribution to sea-level rise from Antarctica
averaged 3.6 ± 0.5 mm per decade with a cumulative 14.0 ±
2.0 mm since 1979, including 6.9 ± 0.6 mm from West Antarctica,
4.4 ± 0.9 mm from East Antarctica, and 2.5 ± 0.4 mm from the
Peninsula (i.e., East Antarctica is a major participant in the mass
loss).

Jaime @ 19 May 19 at 7:56 am points to a New Scientist article in January claiming that Antartica ice loss has trebled. The underlying article is from Nature – The IMBIE Team – Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017. The abstract states

The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimeters (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain.

The key problem is in the contribution to sea level rise. The Rignot study from 1979-2017 gives 3.6 mm a decade from 1989-2017, about 4.1 mm and from 1999-2017 about 5.6 mm. The IMBIE team estimates over the period 1992-2017 7.9 mm sea level rise, or 3 mm per decade. The Rignot study estimate is over 50% greater than the IMBIE team. Even worse, neither the satellite data for sea level rise from 1992, nor the longer record of tide gauges, show an acceleration in sea level rise.

For instance from NOAA, the satellite data shows a fairly steady 2.9mm a year. rise in sea levels from 1992.

Using the same data, the University of Colorado estimates the average sea level rise to be 3.1 mm a year.

Note that in both the much greater variability in the Jason 2 data, and the slowdown in rise after 2016 when Jason 3 started operating.

The tide gauges show a lesser rate of rise. A calculation from 155 of the best tide gauges around the world found the mean and median rate of sea level rise to be 1.48 mm/yr. 

Yet, if Rignot is correct in recent years Antarctic ice loss must now account for around 22-25% of the sea level rise (satellite record) or almost 50% (tide gauges) of the measured sea level rise. Both show no accleration. What factors have a diminishing contribution to sea level rise over the last 25 years? It cannot be less thermal expansion, as heat uptake is meant to have increased post 2000, more than offsetting the slowdown in surface temperature rise when emissions accelerated. 

Kevin Marshall

Postscript

This is not the first time I have covered rather extreme claims in one of Prof Eric Rignot’s estimates of accleration in ice melt. Six years ago I looked at Rignot et al 2011 – Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise

I compared the 12 monthly rise in sea surface temperatures with the corressponding chart of ice mass balance loss for Greenland and Antarctica. The peaks and troughs corressponded nicely, with about 18 months between ice loss and sea level rise. This is quite remarkable considering that from Rignot et 2011 in the 1990s ice loss would have had very little influence on sea level rise. It is almost as though the modelling has taken the sea level data, multiplied by 360, flipped it, moved it back a few months then tilted to result show acceleration. 

Yet the acceleration of 14.5 ± 2 Gt/yr2 for Antarctica results in decadal increases not too dismillar from those in the abstract of Rignot et al 2018. This would validate the earlier results except for another paper. Shepherd et al Nov 2012 – Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance had a long list of authors including Rignot and three of the four co-authors of the Rignot et al 2011. It set the standard for the time, and was  the key article on the subject in IPCC AR5 WG1. Shepherd et al Nov 2012 has the following Table 1.

For Antartica as  experienced no significant acceleration in ice mass loss in the period 1992-2011. 

Monopoly Water Company campaigns to control its customers

At Guido Fawkes this morning I was confronted with a bright green and yellow advert.

It is an appeal for increased regulation. The reason for the regulation is political.

Water is not part of the climate change debate
It is treated like an add on when it is critical to life. We need to change this now.

Water might be critical to life, but that does not mean the supply is critical. Provision of food and healthcare are also critical to life, and successful provision of both is much more complex and challanging than the supply of the most basic and plentiful of commodities.

If we don’t act now we face a £40 billion water crisis
Sign our petition at change.org

Clicking on the link takes us to a Change.org petition headed

Water efficiency is critical to climate change. Act now to prevent a water crisis.

The petition starts with the statement

We need to mobilise support and act now. The conservation of water can no longer wait.
Water efficiency is critical to the debate on climate change – an issue pushed to the forefront by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. If we do not act now, we will suffer a water crisis, not only our generation, but for future generations to come. This needs to change now – join our campaign #WhyNotWater.

The heading states “Water efficiency is critical to climate change” implying that changes in water efficiency will affect the actual course of the climate. But the text is “Water efficiency is critical to the debate on climate change”, where some activists claim water efficiency should be part of a debate. The heading implies backing empirical evidence, whereas the text is about beliefs.
Further, a superficial reading of the statement would give the impression that climate change is causing water shortages, and will cause a water crisis. But clicking on the Affinity Water link takes us to a press release on 10th May

Affinity Water warns of water shortages unless government acts now

The UK’s largest water only company, Affinity Water has warned that within the next 25 years and beyond, there may not be enough water due to climate change, population growth and increases in demand.

….

Unlike the advert and the petition there are mentions of other factors that might affect climate change, but no data on the relative magnitudes.

Note that Affinity Water is a limited company, with gross revenues in year to 31 March 2018 of £306.3m, operating profit of £72.3m and profit after tax of £29.6m (Page 107).

The piece finishes with

To find out more about the manifesto visit www.whynotwater.co.ukand to sign a petition to demand the legislation needed for water efficient labelling and water efficient goods and housing visit www.affinitywater.co.uk/ourpetition

The whynotwater website is a bit more forthcoming with the data.

Why should we act?

  • Climate change is likely to reduce our supply of water in our area by 39 million litres of water per day by 2080.
  • The population is growing and is expected to increase 51% by 2080. This is equivalent to approximately 1.8 million more people in our supply area, putting further strain on our resources.
  • Using water wisely is critical in the South East – a severely water-stressed area; did you know there was less rainfall than other parts of the country? Between July 2016 and April 2017 the area received 33% less rainfall than the national average.
  • Customers in the South East also use more water daily – 152 litres per person per day, which is higher than the national average of 141 litres per person per day.

From the above population in the supply area is projected to increase from 3.53 to 5.33 million. With unchanged average water usage of 152 litres, this is implies an increase in consumption of 274 million litres. Population change is projected to have seven times the influence on water demand than climate change on supply. It should be noted that these figures is domestic consumption. Currently Affinity Water supplies around 900 million litres per day, implying over 350 litres per day is from other sources. Based on total average supply, climate change ove 60 years is projected to reduce supply by just 4.3%.

But which projection is more robust, that of population increase, or of falls in water availability? With population it is possible to extrapolate from existing data. From the World Bank data, the population of the UK increased by 11% from 2001 to 2016. At this rate, in 2076 the population will be 52% higher than 2016. Within the South East using national data might be unreliable, as population shifts between regions. But it is likely that by 2080 population in Affinity’s supply areas will be significantly higher than today.

Water availability is not so precise, yet the fall due to climate change of 39 million litres per day is just 7% of existing domestic demand, or 4.3% of total water usage. There are some records at the Met Office of rainfall. In particular in the South East are records for Heathrow Airport and Manston in Kent. I have graphed annual rainfall data, with averages of the last 10 years.

In the past twenty years rainfall has increased in both Manston and Heathrow. Compared to 1979-1998, average annual rainfall in 1999-2018 was 17% higher in Manston and 9% higher in Heathrow. In 60 years from now it might be higher or lower due to random natural climate variability. Any projection of a 4-7% reduction in rainfall is guesswork. If this is still a scientific estimate of unmitigated human-induced climate change, then Affinity better pass the message onto Greta Thurnberg and Extinction Rebellion. From the XR! Website.

THE TRUTH

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.

This may seem sensationalist even by the the worst tabloid standards, but is the group have toned down a bit. When launched XR! were proclaiminghuman-caused (anthropogenic) climate breakdown alone is enough to wipe out the human species by the end of this century.

As there was no real water crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, why should there be in 2080? The only way there will be a water crisis is if water supply does not increase in line with the projections of rising population. Even then it will hardly contribute to the mass deaths of people in Britain as part of a species extinction. Meeting long-term changing demands should be within the control of the British Government and the regulated water companies. Instead a monopoly water company appears to be falsely attributing the whole problem to an issue outside of its control, campaigning to introduce regulations that are aimed at controlling consumer demand. Rather than serving their client base by additional investment, Affinity Water looks to be deriving fixed demand by controlling them. That investment in new reservoirs, wells, water recycling plants, pipelines from wetter places (Scotland has on average twice the rainfall of the South-East) and even desalination plants could cost billions of pounds. In so doing Affinity Water is listening to a bunch of revolutionaries rather than serving their customers. This must be especially galling for the Affinity Water customers who commute into London and have been inconvenienced by Extinction Rebellion’s blockades over recent months.

Kevin Marshall

Postscript at 4.00pm

The screenshot of the petition petition was taken at around 9.30 this morning, with 594 signatures. It now has 622 signatures. That is less than 5 signatures per hour. In that time Guido Fawkes has likely had over 10,000 unique visitors, based on last weeks figures,

Update 16/05/19 at 23.50

Another day of advertising a Guido Fawkes (and maybe elsewhere) has seen the number of signatures rise to 678. The petition was raised two weeks ago. 

Warming in Canada is making temperatures less extreme

Yesterday the BBC broadcast “Climate Change – The Facts”. Jaime Jessop has already posted the first of a promised number of critical commentaries. Alex Cull has already started a transcript. Another here.

At the start the narrator says

What we’re doing right now is we’re so rapidly changing the climate, for the first time in the world’s history people can see the impact of climate change.

Greater storms, greater floods, greater heatwaves, extreme sea-level rise.

This reminds me of Jaime’s article of 4th April – Canada’s Burning and it’s Mostly Because of Humans Says Federal Government Report 

The true headline claim from the Canada’s Climate Change Report 2019 was

Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming.

This observation is since 1948. This is partly because land has warmed faster than the oceans and partly because the greatest warming is in the Arctic. See two graphics I produced last year from the HADCRUT4 data. Note that much of the Canada-US border is at 49N, though Toronto is at 44N.

Canada is land based and much of its area is in the in the Arctic. Being part of a continental land mass, Canada also has extremely cold winters and fairly hot summers. But overall it is cold. Average Canadian temperatures from Berkeley Earth in 2013 were still -3.5C, up from -5.5C in 1900. BE graphic reproduced below.

The question is, does this mean that climate is becoming more extreme? The report on page 127 has a useful table

In Canada as a whole, and in four of the six areas, Winter average temperatures have warmed faster than those in the Summer. The other two have coastal influences, where I would expect the difference between  summer and winter to be less extreme than Canada as a whole. Climate has generally become less extreme.
However, if climate is becoming more extreme as a result of general warming then it this would result in more warm temperature records than cold temperature records to be set in recent decades. From Wikipedia has Lists of extreme temperatures in Canada.

Of the 13 Provinces and Territories, only two have heat records more recent than 1950. That is Nunavut in 1989 and Yukon in 2004. For extreme cold, records are more spread out, with the two most recent in 1972 & 1973.

Wikipedia also has lists of highest & lowest temperatures ever recorded in Canada as a whole. The hottest has duplicates in terms of adjacent places, or the same places on adjacent days. Not surprisingly nearly all are located well inland and close to the US border. The record highest is 45.0 °C on July 5, 1937. The bottom half of the list is of records of 43.3 °C or 110 °F. The three most recent were set in 1949, 1960 and 1961.
The coldest ever recorded in Canada was -63.0 °C on February 3, 1947 at Snag Yukon. The third lowest was −59.4 °C in 1975. On the list are three from this century. −49.8 °C on January 11, 2018, −48.6 °C on December 30, 2017 and −42 °C on December 17, 2013. Eleven of the thirteen provinces and territories are represented in the 31 records on the coldest list, and there is 21.9 °C difference between the top and bottom of the list. Seventy years of Winter warming in Canada have raised average temperatures by 3.3 °C, but the extreme low temperatures are 13 °C higher.

It would seem that the biggest news is of winter warming of 3.3 °C in 70 years has resulted in far less extreme cold, and considerably lower extreme cold temperatures. The more moderate summer warming has not resulted in record heatwaves. The evidence is that Canada’s warming has made temperatures less extreme, contradicting the consensus claims that warming leads to more extremes. In Canada, global warming appears to be causing climate changing for the better. So why is the Canadian Government trying to stop it?

Kevin Marshall

How climate damage costings from EPA Scientists are misleading and how to correct

The Los Angeles Times earlier this month had an article

From ruined bridges to dirty air, EPA scientists price out the cost of climate change. (Hattip Climate Etc.)

By the end of the century, the manifold consequences of unchecked climate change will cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year, according to a new study by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency.
…..
However, they also found that cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and proactively adapting to a warming world, would prevent a lot of the damage, reducing the annual economic toll in some sectors by more than half.

The article is based on the paper
Climate damages and adaptation potential across diverse sectors of the United States – Jeremy Martinich & Allison Crimmins – Nature Climate Change 2019

The main problem is with the cost alternatives, contained within Figure 2 of the article.

Annual economic damages from climate change under two RCP scenarios. RCP8.5 has no mitigation and RCP4.5 massive mitigation. Source Martinich & Crimmins 2019 Figure 2

I have a lot of issues with the cost estimates. But the fundamental issue centers around costs that are missing from the RCP4.5 costs to enable a proper analysis to be made.

The LA Times puts forward the 2006 Stern Review – The Economics of Climate Change – as an earlier attempt at calculating “the costs of global warming and the benefits of curtailing emissions.
The major policy headline from the Stern Review (4.7MB pdf)

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

The Stern Review implies a straight alternative. There are either the costs of unmitigated climate change OR the costs of mitigation policy. The RCP4.5 is the residual climate damage costs after costly policies have been successfully applied. The Stern Review quotation only looked at the policy costs, not the residual climate damage costs after policy has been applied, whereas Martinich & Crimmins 2019 only looks at the residual climate damage costs and not the policy costs.

The costs of any mitigation policy to combat climate change must include both the policy costs and the damage costs. But this is not the most fundamental problem.

The fundamental flaw in climate mitigation policy justifications

The estimated damage costs of climate change result from global emissions of greenhouse gases, which raise the average levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases which in turn raise global average temperatures. This rise in global average temperatures is what is supposed to create the damage costs.
By implication, the success of mitigation policies in reducing climate damage costs is measured in relation to the reduction in global emissions. But 24 annual COP meetings have failed to even get vague policy intentions will collectively stabilize emissions at the current levels. From the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018 is Figure ES.3 showing the gap between intentions and the required emissions to constrain global warming to 1.5°C and 2.0°C.

Current mitigation policies in the aggregate will achieve very little. If a country were to impose additional policies, the marginal impact would be very small in reducing global emissions. By implication, any climate mitigation policy costs imposed by a country, or sub-division of that country, will only result in very minor reductions in the future economic damage costs to that country. This is even if the climate mitigation policies are the most economically efficient, getting the biggest reductions for a given amount of expenditure. As climate mitigation is net costly, under current climate mitigation policies will necessarily impose burdens on the current generation, whilst doing far less in reducing the climate impacts on future generations in the policy area. Conversely, elimination of costly policies will be net beneficial to that country. Given the global demands for climate mitigation, politically best policy is to do as little possible, whilst appearing to be as virtuous as possible.

Is there a way forward for climate policy?

A basic principle in considering climate mitigation is derived from Ralph Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

An emended prayer (or mantra) for policy-makers would be to change things for the better. I would propose not having perfect knowledge of the future, but having a reasonable expectation that it will change the world for the better. If policy is costly, the benefits should exceed the costs. If policy-makers are aiming to serve their own group, or humanity as a whole, then they should have the serenity accept that there are the costs and harms of policy. In this light consider a quote by Nobel Laureate Prof William Nordhaus from an article in the American Economic Review last year.

The reality is that most countries are on a business-as-usual (BAU) trajectory of minimal policies to reduce their emissions; they are taking noncooperative policies that are in their national interest, but far from ones which would represent a global cooperative policy.

Nordhaus agrees with the UNEP emissions gap report. Based on the evidence of COP24 Katowice it is highly unlikely most countries will not do a sudden about-face, implementing policies that are clearly against their national interest. If this is incorrect, maybe someone can start by demonstrating to countries that rely on fossil fuel production for a major part of their national income – such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries – how leaving fossil fuels in the ground and embracing renewables is in their national interests. In the meantime, how many politicians will public accept that it is not in their power to reduce global emissions, but continue implementing policies whose success requires that they are part of policies that collectively will reduce global emissions?

If climate change is going to cause future damages what are the other options?

Martinich & Crimmins 2019 have done some of the work in estimating the future costs of climate change for the United States. Insofar as these are accurate forecasts, actions can be taken to reduce those future risks. But those future costs are contingent on a whole series of assumptions. Mostly crucially, the large magnitude of the damage costs are usually contingent  on dumb economic actor assumptions. That is, people have zero behavioral response to changing conditions over many decades. Two examples I looked at last year illustrate the dumb economic actor assumptions.

A Government Report last Summer claimed that unmitigated climate change would result in 7000 excess heat deaths in the UK by the 2050s. The amount of warming was small. The underlying report was based on the coldest region of England and Wales only experiencing average summer temperatures in the 2050s on a par with those of London (the warmest region) today. Most of the excess deaths would be in the over 75s in hospitals and care homes. The “dumb actors” in this case are the health professionals caring for patients in extreme heatwave in the 2050s in exactly the same way as they do today, even though the temperatures would be slightly higher. Nobody would think to try adapt practices through learning from places with hotter summers than the UK at present. That is from the vast majority of countries in the world.

Last year a paper in Nature Plants went by the title “Decreases in global beer supply due to extreme drought and heat”. I noted the paper made a whole serious of dubious assumptions, including two “dumb actor” assumptions,  to arrive at the conclusion that beer prices in some places could double due to global warming. One was that although in the agriculture models barley yields would shrink globally by 16% by 2100 compared to today contingent on a rise of global average temperatures of over 3.0°C , in Montana and North Dakota yields could double. The lucky farmers in these areas would not try to increase output, nor would farmers faced with shrinking yields reduce output. Another was that large price discrepancies in a bottle of beer would open up over the next 80 years between adjacent countries. This includes between Britain and Ireland, despite most of the beer sold being produced by large brewing companies, often in plants in third countries. No one would have the wit to buy a few thousand bottles of beer in Britain and re-sell it at a huge profit in higher-priced Ireland.

If the prospective climate damage costs in Martinich & Crimmins 2019 are based on similar “dumb actor” assumptions then any costly adaptation policies derived from the report might be largely unnecessary. People on the ground will have more effective localized, efficient, adaptation strategies. Generalized regulations and investments based on the models will fail on a benefit cost basis.

Concluding comments

Martinich & Crimmins 2019 look at US climate damage costs under two scenarios, one with little or no climate mitigation policies, the other with considerable successful climate mitigation. In the climate mitigation scenario they fail to add in the costs of climate mitigation policies. More importantly, actual climate mitigation policies have only been enacted by a small minority of countries, so costs expended on mitigation will not be met by significant reductions in future climate costs. Whilst in reality any climate mitigation policies is likely to lead to worse outcomes than doing nothing at all, the paper implies the opposite.
Further, the assumptions behind Martinich & Crimmins 2019 need to be carefully checked. If it includes “dumb economic actor” assumptions then on this alone the long-term economic damage costs might be grossly over-estimated. There is a real risk that adaptation policies based on these climate damage projections will lead to worse outcomes than doing nothing.
Overall, if policy-makers want to make a positive difference to the world in combating climate change, they should acquire the wisdom to identify areas where they can only do net harms. In the current environment, that will take an extreme level of courage. However, these justifications are far less onerous than the rigorous testing and approval process that new medical treatments need to go through before being allowed in general circulation.

Kevin Marshall