A big thank you to those who’ve contributed to the post-referendum appeal to help keep PB going

June 25th, 2016

Charles2 (1)

It has become something of a PB tradition after big elections for an appeal to be made for funds to help keep the site going. This year we’ve been fortunate to have had a robust enough technical infrastructure to deal with the massive traffic that was being generated. Alas this requires a lot of effort (thank you to my son Robert) and costs money. Quite a few other sites fell over at times.

If you would like to add your contribution please click the button below. It would be very much appreciated.

A note on the picture This year I’ve had a “significant birthday” and the present from my wife, Jacky, was to commission professional genealogical research into my ancestry.

The picture, of my father’s father, Charles, (standing on the left in the wagon) campaigning in Nelson, Lancashire, was discovered during the process. It also threw up something I had not known before – the family of my mother’s foster mother were Conservative activists in Burnley.

Mike Smithson



Anatomy of the biggest night of political betting ever when in 4 hours the 93% favourite lost

June 25th, 2016

How the drama unfolded


David Herdson looks at the post-referendum purpose of UKIP

June 24th, 2016

UKIP youth

Your next mission, should you choose to accept it … is what?

The fruitcakes have taken over the asylum. UKIP, which well under a decade ago was a fringe party – it polled only 3.1% in the 2010 general election – has achieved the purpose for which it was created. Those critics who laughed at the party’s failure to win more than one seat last year should reflect that electoral success is only a means to an end, and is rarely the only means through which it can be achieved.

Rather like a fleet or army in being, UKIP didn’t need to win a direct battle against its opponents (which was useful because it wasn’t very good at it); it simply had to pose a sufficient threat to them by the fact of its very existence in order to prompt them into altering their course of action to offer UKIP the strategic opportunity they seized on Thursday.

Little more than a year after Douglas Carswell returned as UKIP’s sole MP, the true value of his party’s 3.88m votes is now apparent. So much for the ‘wasted vote’ thesis. Farage stands triumphant while all around him lies the wreckage of the careers of the leaders of great parties, of their policies and – who knows – perhaps yet of one or more of those parties themselves.

Never can the future have looked so bountiful in all directions. But in that excess of opportunity lies UKIP’s dilemma: after having succeeded in what it was created for, what does it do next? (It’s true that the UK is still a member of the EU but despite what will no doubt be delusional proposals from Europhiles for some new settlement on the one hand, and the paranoia of cynics that somehow the elite will backslide on the other, no-one can seriously question that the countdown is now running. The decision has been made).

UKIP’s European mission isn’t necessarily over even with EU withdrawal. There’s still the matter of the European Court of Human Rights, which remains a super-national impingement on British sovereignty, but that’s a lesser prize. The real challenge lies now within British politics.

Or challenges, plural. With all three old parties in various states of confusion and weakness, and with UKIP’s unusually broad membership base ideologically, it can – and must – choose where to position itself for the 2020s now that its former USP is greatly negated, or else it will wither and die.

– Does it try to build on that eclectic base and act as a generic protest party against a distant elite? But then what does it do if it attains power?

– Does it promote ‘freedom’ in more individual forms, harnessing its traditional liberal / libertarian strain, and so targeting the Conservatives and Lib Dems?

– Or does it seek to build on the huge Leave votes from Labour heartland areas where the Conservatives are limited in appeal and Lib Dems discredited, and position itself as the authentic voice of the working class?

These aren’t wholly contradictory strategies but there are clear choices that will have to be made between them, or other options, if their platform is to have some kind of coherence.

Beneath the policy question lies another practical problem: the party’s strength in depth, or lack thereof. As a young party, it remains very bottom-heavy: a lot of voters but few cabinet-capable and fully media-ready politicians, for example. If Britain had PR, UKIP would have won around a hundred seats last time out. Had they done so, could they have nominated enough to do the job sufficiently well without causing embarrassment? The track record from the European Parliament isn’t good.

For the time being, the leadership question answers itself. Despite Farage not being party of the official Leave campaign and despite some off-colour moments from him, this remains his victory more than anyone’s. Within UKIP, his position will be unassailable for some years unless hubris strikes. Yet Farage isn’t necessarily the person best-placed to capitalise on the immense strategic opportunity available – but who could do better even if they’d be allowed to? Opportunity in theory is fine but it takes people to grasp it in practice.

The whole edifice of British politics as we know it is weaker than at any time in the last eighty years. There can be no certainties at all. If the first half of the 2010s were extraordinary, the second has the potential to be utterly revolutionary – but only if those with the chance to make it so can take it. UKIP, unlike the SNP, may well fall short on that score. But then UKIP, unlike the SNP, has already achieved its greatest goal.

David Herdson

p.s. A quick word on Margaret Hodge’s No Confidence motion for the PLP. We don’t even know as yet whether the motion will be accepted, never mind how MPs will vote for it if it is. What we do know is that it carries no validity within Labour’s rulebook, only the power of pressure (though that would be considerable if it’s carried). What Corbyn is proving now, as Blair, Brown and Miliband proved before him, is that a Labour leader determined to go on holds an extraordinarily powerful position, particularly while the internal opposition to him remains leaderless.


Granny storming the barricades

June 24th, 2016

La Liberté guidant le peuple

Richard Nabavi on the post-BREXIT world

You know the drill.  It’s a scenario which has played out many times in countries around the world, sometimes peaceably, sometimes with much violence: the old elite is overthrown, an iconoclastic movement tears down the old structures and grabs power.  Regimes and institutions which looked as though they would last for ever are suddenly overthrown, with breath-taking speed.  What seemed permanent vanishes in front of you.  Old certainties no longer apply: suddenly, a new lot are in power, drawing their support from a popular movement which ignores expert opinion and, in a burst of enormous energy and self-confidence, wants to do things a completely different way.

And make no mistake about it – this is an iconoclastic revolution; not violent like the storming of the Bastille, but extraordinary all the same.  Like all revolutions, it started as a result of legitimate concerns being channelled into an enormous well of popular anger, inchoate and unfocused, but raging against the Other.  Most such revolutions end in tears.  Most end up not with the elite being overthrown, but with the old elite being replaced by a new elite.  Deep-seated problems, and real or perceived grievances, turn out not to be susceptible to quite such easy solutions as the revolutionaries thought.

We shall see how this one turns out, but in one respect this revolution is already quite unlike any other. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”, wrote Wordsworth, “But to be young was very heaven!”  And that’s the oddity of this extraordinary event:  revolutions are supposed to be the work of the young:  brash, excitable, over-confident, energetic, thinking they know better than their risk-averse elders, and with little to lose from the overthrow of the status-quo.  But in this case it’s the other way round: according to YouGov, 18-24 year olds voted 75% for the Establishment option of Remain, but in the 65-plus age group, 61% were up there storming the barricades.  The young have had their preferred Establishment shattered on their behalf.  It’s an inversion with profound consequences for the politics of the UK.  I wouldn’t pretend to be able to guess how it will play out.

Richard Nabavi


The first challenge for the BREXIT team – dealing with buyer’s remorse

June 24th, 2016

It seems many voted for LEAVE because they thought it wouldn’t happen


Now Corbyn could be coming under pressure

June 24th, 2016


Could we have 2 main party leadership contests at once?

It has been on the cards for some time that the unexpected winner of Labour’s leadership contest, Mr. Corbyn, last September could face difficulties in the period following the referendum. This is even more so given the outcome.

It was always going to be tricky for someone who has opposed the EU in the past to head a pro-EU party in the referendum. Many say his heart was not in it and his comments on immigration hardly helped in the closing period. He might have the backing of many members but he’s struggled wit the wider LAB voting audience as we’ve seen in poll after poll.

Only on Wednesday Corbyn’s Ipsos MORI ratings amongst party voters dropped to a new low with just half saying they are satisfied with him.

The EURef campaign has put the focus in his campaigning abilities which to many appeared to be lacking. What happens in the PLP in the next few days could be crucial.

I’ve long regarded Corcyn as being like EdM but without the charisma and a whole lot of policy baggage.

It has become something of a PB tradition after big elections for an appeal to be made for funds to help keep the site going. This year we’ve been fortunate to have had a robust enough technical infrastructure to deal with the massive traffic that was being generated. Alas this costs money. Quite a few other sites fell over at times.

If you would like to make a contribution please click the button below. It would be very much appreciated.

Mike Smithson


Cameron resigns

June 24th, 2016


The CON leadership contest begins


… And the winners of the EUref polling race look set to be TNS and Opinium

June 24th, 2016

Once the final polls came our I wrote that if LEAVE did it it would be as big a polling disaster as GE2015. In fact then none of the final polls were in range. At least this time two of them, TNS and Opinium, got very close and were showing LEAVE leads.

The latter is very much on a roll. It was the most accurate online poll at GE2015 and last month got the London Mayoral race spot on.

My German TV interview on Tuesday

From a betting perspective this was one of my most profitable nights ever. I’d been very mindful of the recent comments by my friend, the Tory psephologist Lord Robert Hayward, who had suggested that he thought that LEAVE was being understated in the polls.

As soon as Newcastle and Sunderland came out I got on LEAVE which offered very good odd for several hours. I tipped it on Twitter when it was a 39% chance.

I hope other PBers had a good night.

Mike Smithson