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July 27, 2017

Löfven's move

Things are moving fast in the Swedish transport agency data leak scandal. Yesterday the Alliance - the Swedish right-wing opposition consisting of the Moderates, Centre, Liberal, and Christian Democratic (KD) parties - called a no-confidence motion against three ministers. The Local has a background piece on Swedish no-confidence motions. But it may not come to that. PM Stefan Löfven has called a press conference for 10am this morning, and apart from braving the motion, he has the options of dismissing the ministers himself, resigning his whole cabinet, or calling snap elections.

Löfven can inflict maximum damage on the opposition by actually resigning, argues Lena Mellin in a column at Aftonposten. The reason is that the Alliance is ambivalent about working with the right-wing populist Swedish Democrats, which holds the balance in the Riksdag with 47 out of 349 seats. If Löfven resigns he splits the Alliance, with Centre and Liberals opposed to working with the SD, the smaller Christian Democrats in favour, and the larger Moderates currently on the fence. If the Alliance failed to muster a majority, Löfven could be re-elected and the Alliance would look both petty and ineffectual just one year before the next general election. The proximity of the next election would make it hard for a new Alliance cabinet to get its bearings before having to go to the polls again. Finally snap elections, while riskier, would have almost the same effect because the balance in the Riksdag would be similar and, due to a quirk of the Swedish constitution, snap elections don't reset the electoral clock and the 2018 election would still proceed as scheduled.

According to election polls, which don't reflect the scandal yet, if elections were held now the Swedish Democrats would overtake the Moderates to come second to the Social Democrats. The Moderates have also lost support, apparently to Centre, partly because of their openness to working with the Swedish Democrats. The Christian Democrats, in addition, are at risk of missing the 4% to enter the Riksdag. None of this looks good for the Moderate-led Alliance. The only poll taken after the scandal broke shows the SD in first place. This is consistent with the polling bias or the pollster, Sentio. We would further note that Sentio and YouGov, both of which do online polling, are the only two pollsters that consistently put SD in first place. This kind of online polling bias is something to watch out for.

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July 27, 2017

The nearing end of petrol and diesel engines

Die Welt has a story that more and more European countries are setting an end date for fuel-burning car engines. The UK became the latest when it named 2040 as the year when the sale of petrol and diesel cars will no longer be allowed. The paper notes that Germany is not among these countries, as the government continues to refuse to follow the trend for reasons that are not hard to guess. Apart from the UK, Norway has set an end date of 2025, while the French environment minister Nicolas Hulot is also advocating a 2040 end-date. And China has introduced a binding quota for electric cars. 

In Germany, only the Green Party advocates similar measures. All the other parties are beholden to the car industry. Some CDU politicians are now resigned to the fact that Germany, too, may have to follow the trend, but equally they absolutely hate the idea that other countries are taking the lead - and affecting an industry that is so important to the German economy. 

We have been writing for some time that Germany’s literally toxic reliance on the diesel technology is one of the biggest threats to the German economy beyond the short-term. While a 2040 end date seems far away, it will start to affect sales immediately, as buyers face the risk that the date will be brought forward, or that fuel taxes may increases dramatically. The CDU’s strategy seems to be to find a European solution that satisfies German demands (maybe the year 2140). But, for now, the German government sticks to the position not to put an end to fossil-fuel-burning car engines.

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July 27, 2017

Why a second referendum in the UK won’t happen, and why it would be wrong

This comment by Owen Jones, a young hard-left commentator for the Guardian, against a second referendum, is worth reading. He makes a number of good arguments of why a second referendum will not happen, and why it should not happen. 

"Wanting to overturn a referendum result is an entirely legitimate perspective to have. It is an extremely controversial perspective currently, with polling suggesting little evidence of Leavers regretting their vote. To shift opinions would need a number of things: a charm offensive that persuades those who voted Remain in 2016, let alone Leavers; a grassroots movement; and emotional arguments that go for the heart as well as the head. None of these ingredients appear to be on offer from hardcore anti-Brexiteers who are angrily lashing out at Remain supporters like me, let alone the 52% who voted to Leave."

He cites a number of reasons why the supporters of a second referendum are wrong. The following subset seems particularly relevant to us:

  • those in favour of a second referendum are questioning the legitimacy of the first referendum by pointing to the No-voters' lower educational standards - which is deeply anti-democratic and repellent;
  • they dismiss the first referendum as advisory-only - which is true technically but not in the context of a vote that came with a government guarantee that it would honoured; 
  • they are pointing towards the lies of the Leave campaign - but, if campaign lies do not invalidate ordinary elections, why should this be different in a referendum;
  • they would not have conceded a second referendum if they had won; and
  • perhaps most important in our view: overturning a referendum result would do catastrophic and possibly irreversible damage to UK democracy - if the cause of the referendum result was a disillusionment with political elites, just imagine the response if the elites were to gang up and undo Brexit. 

There is a big debate going on in the Labour Party on this issue. One senior Labour strategist is quoted as saying that the party may take an opportunistic approach to Brexit: if the mood in the country changed, so would the party. This not the view of Jeremy Corbyn himself. Like the Tories, Labour, too, is split on Brexit, with some supporting a hard Brexit while others want a Brexit with continued single-market membership. We always argued that this is a bit of a shadow debate, since Theresa May’s Article 50 letter already stipulates an exit from the single market and the customs union, and this is the direction in which the Brexit talks are heading.

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