Brexit boost

Not a word from the Governor of the Bank of England; Institute of Fiscal Studies; IMF; OECD; World Bank: BBC; or rest of the experts who were wheeled out during the referendum campaign, on the positive effect of Brexit on Team GB’s Olympic performance.

There are those who will argue, with some justification, that correlation isn’t proof of causation.

No doubt they will grasp at the straw of England’s elimination from the European Cup which came just three days after the referendum result was announced.

However, it should be pointed out that Iceland has never been a member of the EU and withdrew its application to join in March 2015.

And today’s announcement that unemployment has fallen to a new low is further evidence that the decision to leave the EU hasn’t been the disaster that various gurus predicted.

Unfortunately, apart from about 200 shares in Commercial Union – a legacy from a past mortgage – I have no interest in the FTSE 100, but I can’t help noticing that it now stands at 6,900 compared to 5,500 at the end of March – a not-to-be-sneezed-at 25% increase.

And, if you’re still not convinced, I would point out that, in last year’s Six Nations, the three teams representing countries using pound sterling beat the Euros by seven matches to one with the other drawn.

Of course, you would be right to point out that this is totally unscientific, but so are all the fancy computer programmes that are used to forecast economic performance.

As recently as this spring, George Osborne had to make a significant downward revision to the growth forecast on which he based his autumn statement less than six months earlier.

As the American economist J K Galbraith put it: “Economic forecasting was invented to make astrology look respectable.”

Or, as the Office for Budget Responsibility says in its most recent report:

“Forecasts provide an essential basis for setting policy. But since the future can never be known with anything approaching precision, forecasts are surrounded by significant uncertainty and will inevitably prove to be wrong in many respects.”

And don’t get me going on those flawed computer models they use to tell us what the climate will like be in 100 years’ time.

Last week, in an analysis of the legal battles over the interpretation of the Labour Party’s rule book, I referred to the ruling of the High Court on the question of who could vote in the forthcoming leadership contest, where Mr Justice Hickinbottom said:

“At the time each of the claimants joined the party, it was the common understanding as reflected in the rule book that, if they joined the party prior to the election process commencing, as new members they would be entitled to vote in any leadership contest.”

I went on to say:

“The Labour Party has now taken the matter to the Court of Appeal though it is not easy to how how it might reach a different conclusion.”

Well, easy or not, the Court of Appeal did reach a difficult conclusion which only goes to show that you shouldn’t be too categorical when predicting what might happen when the lawyers get involved.

As I have said previously: in every contested legal case 50% of the barristers are wrong, though a different percentage applies when it comes to collecting their fees.

Before going on to discuss the Court of Appeal’s findings, a word or two about the strong Pembrokeshire connections of the judicial cast.

As those who closely follow these things will know, Mr Justice Hickinbottom was the judge in the care home fees case where PCC was found to be in breach of its legal obligations and had to pay legal costs of some £300,000.

This despite the, then, Leader Cllr John Davies telling the Western Telegraph on the eve of the trial that he was confident that the council was in the right.

The Court of Appeal’s judgement, overruling Hickinbottom J, was given by Lord Justice Beatson, who, you may recall, was the judge who ruled that Cllr Malcolm Calver’s right to freedom of expression had been infringed by the finding of PCC’s standards committee – upheld on appeal by the Adjudication Panel for Wales – that his criticisms of Manorbier Community Council on his website amounted to a breach of the Code of Conduct.

At the time Beatson J was a mere High Court judge, but, it seems, the committee that oversees judicial appointments was so impressed by his handling of the Calver case that they promoted him to the Court of Appeal.

It appears that Lord Justice Beatson’s judgement hinged on a clause in the party rule book that stated:

“The precise eligibility criteria [‐ that is to say, to vote in the election ‐] shall be defined by the National Executive Committee…”.

So, when it restricted the voting rights of those members who had joined in the past six months, the NEC was simply exercising the powers to set the “precise eligibility criteria” that the rule book allowed.

Presumably, if the NEC had stipulated that only members of more than two-years’ standing could vote that, too, would have been OK.

And, had the Corbynistas been in control of the NEC, they would have been free to extend the franchise to anyone whose membership had been ratified on the day before the vote.

This seems like a recipe for legalised gerrymandering and it is a pity that the disenfranchised members who brought the case chose not to appeal to the Supreme Court.