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February 03, 2017

The Schulz effect is getting huge

There is more evidence of a Martin Schulz effect, from another poll, by Infratest Dimap, which now has the SPD at 28%, up from 20% only two weeks ago before there were any rumblings of a Schulz effect. The rise in the popularity of Schulz has partially affected the CDU, which stands at 34%, down from 37%. The other party into which Schulz’ popularity is eating into is the AfD, which according to this poll has lost three percentage points.

As so often, the headline poll results are not the most interesting. The poll revealed that Schulz is more popular than Angela Merkel - which is genuinely new. If there were a direct election, 50% would vote for Schulz against 34% for Merkel. And 50% believe that the SPD should run the next Grand Coalition, while only 39% say the CDU/CSU should.

What these polls are telling us is that we should regard the result of the German elections in September as wide open. It is not a foregone conclusion that Merkel will win. The CDU/CSU’s overall 6pp lead is less than the shift in the SPD’s vote over the last two weeks. As with the French elections, the outcome of the German elections will depend on events that are yet to happen.

It is our view that the polls systematically overestimate the support of the CDU and underestimate the support for the AfD, so that the SPD has everything to play for. Schulz benefits greatly from his lack of participation in the Grand Coalition, thus not being  associated with its politics. Through Schulz, the SPD may be able to escape the curse of the junior coalition partner. But his lack of experience of German domestic politics could also prove to be a handicap during the campaign.

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February 03, 2017

The post-Brexit boom goes on and on and on

It is becoming increasingly clear that the pre-Brexit economic predictions were not innocent errors, but outright lies intended to manipulate a political debate. There was also a near 100% correlation with expectations that Remain would win the campaign, so that the lie would never be exposed. We cannot recall a single voice who said: hold on, what if we lose? Would our forecast not damage our reputation? 

The Bank of England was one of the cheerleaders of Project Fear, but also has been one of the first to show contrition, and has since reverted to honest forecasting. This is not the same as accurate forecasting. All it means is that your forecast is based on professional judgement, not political prejudice. Yesterday’s forecasts are in many ways extraordinary: 2% GDP growth for this year, and 1.6% and 1.7% for 2018 and 2019 respectively. There is, of course, the risk of a hard Brexit shock, a risk that is hard to quantify. Another interesting aspect of the forecast is the marginal downward revision of inflation - the forecast peaks at 2.7%.

The main reason for this upward revision lies in the government’s economic policy, and what one may call the Trump effect. We argued that the economic trajectory for the UK economy would depend less on Brexit than on the policies adopted by the UK, and the global environment. That prediction seems to be borne out.

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February 03, 2017

A correction on Catalonia

The way yesterday's article on Catalonia was worded gave the wrong impression that Mariano Rajoy had already issued an official warning to the Catalan regional government under article 155, and that the Spanish senate had already voted to authorise the suspension of the regional government. None of this has happened yet, but most major newspaper front pages carried the central government's threat to do so to stop a repeat of the 2014 independence vote.

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