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Battle lines drawn, but are they in the right place?

A few weeks ago, I predicted in this column that a general election was looming. Let’s be honest though, it’s not like it was an inspired guess. The parliamentary impasse we’ve seen in recent times was always going to give way to a battle via the ballot box – and it already has the signs of being a brutal contest. It’s noticeable how there’s only been passing reference to opinion polls so far. Maybe it’s because they’ve proved so inaccurate in the past. Or perhaps they just don’t mean as much as they once did. A consequence of our arcane electoral system is that while 650 seats are notionally up for grabs, the main action happens within 50-60 marginals where small majorities can be ‘swung’ o

Nightmare on Downing Street

Try as I might, I can’t entirely shake off the imagery that came to mind when someone commented a while back of how the Brexit saga resembles a rubbishy daytime soap opera. Not only do you have all sorts of flawed characters popping in and out of a needlessly long-winded plotline, just when it looks as if something is to resolved, along comes a fresh implausible twist that manages to drag out the ending a bit longer. Even so, you can miss half a dozen episodes and still effortlessly pick up on the basics after a few minutes of recap. I’m not for a moment attempting to trivialise this hugely important step for the nation’s political future but I can nonetheless appreciate how the public has b

Square pegs, round holes and government

I used to have a woodwork teacher known among students for a colourful turn of phrase when motivating a class. In one instance, I remember being fixed by his stare over half-moon glasses while he observed, “Bailey, if brains were dynamite then you wouldn’t have enough to blow your hat off”. It’s an expression that comes to mind nowadays whenever I watch a UK government minister (or shadow equivalent) during interviews. As far as they’re concerned, the key is to avoid answering questions in any sort of detail while loudly talking over the interviewer and never drawing breath. Most politicians, and their press advisors, know that time is precious in live television and that the journalist will

Brexit: dealing from the bottom

Regardless of where you stand on the subject, there’s no denying that a sustained chorus of opinion is dead set against the idea of leaving the EU without a meaningful deal. Besides the politicians, there’s opposition from the car-making industry, national retailers, export associations, wholesalers, trade bodies and farmers. All reckon it would be devastating. What’s more, the warnings are that the economic damage will not only be longer-lasting than claimed by leave proponents but could be permanent in some instances. On top of this commercial angst comes a caution from the Institute of Fiscal Studies that even a "relatively benign" no-deal Brexit would push UK debt to its highest since th

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