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January 25, 2018

About political leadership in the 20th century

Here is a short note about a shift in the nature of political leadership that does not yet seem to be on the radar screen of UK political commentators. We noted a number of newspaper columns recently calling for the removal Theresa May. The latest one, in the Times by Iain Martin notes that the job of prime ministers is to lead, and that May leads from behind, letting the civil service do the job instead. 

While we, too, have our problems with this style of leadership, we note that it is becoming the norm in modern politics. The visionary leader is the quintessential character in systems that produce clear single party majorities. But coalition and minority governments bring up very different types of leader, the kind of which the likes of Martin are not accustomed too. Angela Merkel is another such leader with a shocking lack of vision. The reason the Tories do not replace May is simple: when parties are split down the middle, the last thing they need is leader with a vision.

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January 25, 2018

Progress in name dispute talks and new opposition at home

Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev met face to face for the first time, demonstrating their goodwill to solve the name dispute but also putting out some red lines,  Kathimerini reports. In their three-hour talk, Zaev agreed to rename Skopje’s international airport and a main thoroughfare, which both bear the name of Alexander the Great. Tsipras for his part pledged that Greece would ratify an EU association agreement with Macedonia, known in Greece as FYROM. 

Tsipras' handling of the name dispute came under fire from the opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He accused Tsipras of not briefing all political parties and said if he were to negotiate he would make sure that Macedonia changes its constitution first. This dispute about Macedonia also gives rise to a new political grouping along the lines of the Lega Nord in Italy according to Macropolis. This puts Mitsotakis under pressure not to neglect the more right-wing members of his party. 

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January 25, 2018

About 40% probabilities

We were amused last year when a well-known political consultant put the odds of Marine Le Pen winning the French presidential elections at 40%. Aside from the absurdity of assigning precise mathematical odds to any uncertain political event, we always felt there is something deeply dishonest about the 40% number specifically because it a version of: Head's I win, tails you lose. The analysts can claim that he was right because Le Pen didn't win. But if she had won, his odds would have looked better than anyone else's. 

We noted the other day that Tony Blair put the chances of a Brexit revocation at - yes - 40%. The same logic applies in this case. Duncan Robinson @duncanrobinson reminds us of a hilarious poem written by Lorcan Roche Kelly @LorcanRK about 40% probabilities  - actually in response to that aforementioned Le Pen bet. 

The poems ends in:

"So whenever you hear that tell-take phrase 'a forty percent chance of [the latest craze]'

Know that a bullshitter is what you've got and better keep thinking whatever you thought"

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