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August 28, 2018

Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case

In small countries where large cities are the main drivers of economic growth, urban politics can become the main reason behind a national crisis. Take Ireland. Dublin represents 50% of the national GDP and yet there is no urban governance structure for this metropolitan city. This is quite unusual compared to other European metropoles. 

Two researchers, John Tomaney and Niamh Moore-Cherry, link the lack of metropolitan governance with the economic crisis in 2008. They argue that a property-based growth machine brought developers, and local and national politicians, together with a banking sector that became over-committed to residential and commercial real estate.

The lack of an adequate governance structure in Dublin gives rise to clientelism and results in uncoordinated responses across different levels. Politicised private actors can play the zoning game with direct access to local and national politicians, and sometimes in corrupt ways to eke out some rezoning even if there is no approrpiate infrastructure. Instead of coordinating, local governments compete with each other for infrastructure projects and revenues. The results are inefficient projects in the area, like the three regional shopping malls built by three different local authorities about 25km apart from each other on the orbital M50 motorway. 

The government's response so far was a spatial plan but no real governance at the metropolitan level. The authors argue this is a sign of a deeply-rooted metrophobia, related to Ireland's history and national identity. It does not look like it will change any time soon.

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August 28, 2018

How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics

Two of the more controversial predictions we have been making about UK politics are that there will be no reversal of Brexit and that the Labour anti-semitism scandal will not go away, and may even trump Brexit as the main campaign issue at the next elections. The two are related in complex ways. It is entirely possible that Corbyn could win an election but, even if he did, he would not be in a position to lead a majority of the British people out of Brexit.

We had to read his latest remarks twice, assuming at the first they were taken out of context or falsified in some other way. A few days ago he noted that zionists in the UK had 

"no sense of English irony despite having lived here all their lives." 

With his statement he is verbally depriving a section of the Jewish community of its citizenship and its associated rights - especially the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of race or belief. Of all the comments we have had so far, this is by far the worst. For as long as Corbyn is leader, the anti-semitism issue will not go away. 

The Times reports this morning that the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee will vote on whether to overhaul its disciplinary processes, to penalise members that accuse other members of anti-semitism. The motion talks about vexatious allegations for factional purposes. The source of this information is a website - Skwawkbox.org - that is associated with Corbyn. It refers to penalities for vindicative accusations, noting that to accuse someone of anti-semitism constitutes one of he most serious things anyone can do. It says that Labour should stop the abuse of such accusations for factional purposes. There are now denials that this proposal is being considered. We think it is unlikely to be adopted in view of the public outrage. But, together with Corbyn’s statement above, the public is no doubt about Corbyn’s intentions.

Racism is thus going to remain an issue in UK politics. Accusations of racism may not prevent Corbyn being elected. But it distracts from other more important issues, especially on Brexit. The position of the Labour Party on Brexit remains incoherent. The party is split, and the official formulas of the UK having a good relationship with the single market constitute pure sophistry. 

In this context, we noted a comment by Gideon Rachman in the FT. Rachman was attracted to the hard Remainers' position of betting on a failure of the negotiations, or betting on the Commons rejecting a deal, followed by a process that would lead to a second referendum. This option, he now writes, constitutes a hazardous bet. The EU may not co-operate, nor might the British electorate. The best strategy now is not to play for the first-best outcome but for a pragmatic - if depressing - compromise. Accept the deal, and pick up the fight after Brexit. 

"The EU is evolving and Britain might eventually rejoin a second tier of the club focused mainly on trade and the single market."

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