Richard Tyndall on the exit strategy

June 26th, 2016


Recent interventions into the Muslim world by Western powers post 9/11 have been characterised by one great failing. Whilst they have carefully planned and executed the military phase of the campaign, they have utterly failed to deal with the post conflict stage leaving behind failed states in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya as a result.

The Brexit campaign is in danger of doing the same thing if they do not sort out, very quickly, what their next moves are to be in the removal of the UK from the EU. Some might reasonably argue that they have already left it too late and these plans should have been clear before they ever went to war. Part of this failing – if indeed it does exist – might be because the politicians running the campaign didn’t actually think they ever stood a chance of winning. As a result they were making hostages to fortune throughout the debate and now have to find some way to reconcile the many different promises they made.

As an aside I should point out that exactly the same problem would have existed post a Remain victory although the consequences would probably have taken slightly longer to reveal themselves.

The biggest hostage of course is the question of freedom of movement and the inextricably linked issue of access to the single market. Dan Hannan has come in for some criticism over the last 24 hours for advocating the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) solution that would see very little change in the principle of freedom of movement but would, if developed properly, probably see drops in EU migration because of the restrictions placed on benefits. It is a position he has maintained resolutely throughout the campaign and I suspect is one reason why he was not used by Leave in most of the main events, in spite of being one of their most effective speakers.

Clearly there are a number of barriers to be overcome to achieve such an outcome. Three are of particular importance.

1.      The electorate. Immigration formed the core of the Leave campaign and was almost certainly the reason they won. Opponents will rightly point out that there is no mandate for ignoring this issue and entering the UK into a post-EU settlement that does little or nothing to help control immigration. However, as I advocated before the vote, it is necessary for the new Government to legislate on behalf of all the electorate not just the 52% who voted for Brexit.

That means that already almost half of the population would probably be relieved with a  solution that maintained the single market and freedom of movement. But what of those who voted Leave?  We do have some indications of their views. A Yougov poll on 8th June showed that 42% of Leave supporters would prefer the EFTA/EEA route post-Brexit with 45% opposing. I would contend that this would indicate that overall there would be a clear majority of the country that would choose EFTA/EEA over complete separation from the Single Market.

2.      Parliament. Whatever deal is brought forward has to get through both houses of Parliament. We know that the members of both houses were strongly in favour of remaining in the EU and I find it hard to believe that they would block the alternative that would assuage many of the concerns that were held about Brexit.

Both of the above points make a series of assumptions that would need to be firmed up prior to actually attempting a deal. As a result I believe that it would be necessary for the new Conservative Leader to make the case for EFTA/EEA membership and then put it to the electorate in a General Election after first having invoked Article 50. Imposing such a deal without being clear what the view of the British public is would be unacceptable and I seriously doubt anyone has the stomach for any more UK wide referendums in the near future.

Finally I mentioned three potential barriers to such a deal. The third of course is EFTA itself which is why I hope someone from the Leave campaign is already in discussions with Kristinn Árnason, the current General Secretary to discuss the attitude of the four current EFTA members to the possible arrival of a fifth member in the near future.

Richard Tyndall


Might Balls be Labour’s answer at 100/1?

June 26th, 2016

Will one of Labour’s Big Beasts return and run?

As the extraordinary episode in Labour’s history that is Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership enters what looks like a chaotic death-throw, eyes and minds inevitably turn to what – and who – comes next.

Various names have been suggested: Watson, Benn, MacDonnell, Jarvis, Nandy and others. Some have ruled themselves out but with events so fluid, I’d be inclined not to take any such statement too categorically.

None of those names comes without serious shortcomings. Some are of the same wing of the party as Corbyn and even if more competent as a leader, will struggle to connect with the crucial swing voters. Others have the opposite problem and are viewed with at best deep suspicion by many of the members and supporters who propelled Corbyn to victory last year. Many are untried and untested. Others have been tried and have been found to be lightweight.

So in such circumstances, might Labour look to a King over the Water? The name of Ed Miliband was tipped by Alastair Meeks some months ago but what of an arguably even more improbable option, the other Ed: Ed Balls?

Critics might point to the apparently insuperable problem that he’s not an MP (and indeed, he appears to be enjoying life outside Westminster). All true. However, these are extraordinary times. That David Miliband – also a non-MP – is as short as 6/1 and no longer than 12/1 as next Labour leader tells you that. Those odds are, however, strongly to be avoided.

Why might Balls be different? Firstly, his odds at 100/1 are quite literally a different order of magnitude but in terms of merit, Balls landed blows on the coalition government. He was an effective opposition front bencher and after a year of the precise opposite, Labour might be a bit more inclined to someone with a track record there. Whether he still has the fire for that fight is one question that does admittedly need to be asked.

The hurdle of being outside Westminster? There is of course the Batley & Spen by-election coming up. Balls was MP just down the road in Morley & Outwood prior to the election and while he wasn’t a great constituency MP, he knows the area well enough. It’s not a rock-solidly safe Labour seat but that won’t matter for the by-election. The opportunity is there should he want it and be allowed it through the selection process. Were a ‘Draft Balls’ campaign to gather momentum, the process is there to enable his eligibility for nomination.

I grant that it’s not likely. There are any number of things that could trip the scenario up. However, if Balls were in parliament now, he would undoubtedly be being talked of in the first sentence as a potential replacement for Corbyn. And he wouldn’t be the first long shot to come in these last 18 months.

David Herdson


David Herdson says the post-Corbyn chapter opens

June 26th, 2016

For once, Labour might actually be doing a coup properly

Jeremy Corbyn has never been loved as leader by the Labour MPs. He didn’t have enough support to be nominated without the horribly misguided nominations of backers of other candidates, he’s neither looked nor acted like a leader once in place, and he’s never sought to reconcile the gap between his personal mandate in the party and his lack of one in parliament. Those shortcomings will now be fatal.

Corbyn had no choice but to sack Benn, though in all probability he only pre-empted Benn’s departure from the Shadow Cabinet by a matter of hours: the Shadow Foreign Secretary could not have remained in it once it was known that he was complicit in a plot to oust Corbyn. What’s now clear is that not only have those shadow ministers who joined in an attempt to create a unified team between the Corbynites and the mainstream failed but that they recognise it and are prepared to act.

So far (at the time of writing), Hilary Benn and Heidi Alexander are the only two confirmed departures. Which others will follow is the next key question. I imagine that top of the list of members that journalists will be currently scrambling to contact will be Andy Burnham, who has been about as visible as George Osborne since Thursday. A declaration there either way will give a good pointer as to where the careerist wing sees their interests as heading (though I expect he’ll do everything possible to avoid making comment).

Corbyn now faces three immense hurdles if he’s to hold on. I do not believe that he can clear all three and it’s quite possible he won’t try. They are:

Firstly, he needs to see out this day. In one sense, all he needs to do is exhibit serene fortitude. Front benchers can be replaced (probably) and storms can be ridden out. In another, this storm will be like no other which he’s faced, nor any other I can think of which any other party leader has survived. But then Corbyn is a leader like no other.

Secondly, he needs to survive the No Confidence motion which will presumably be voted on by the PLP on Tuesday if events haven’t intervened before then. If it does go that far, he’ll probably lose. Technically, that vote is only advisory – it carries no constitutional weight within the Labour rule book – but that’s like saying that the Brexit vote was advisory: you’d need to be David Lammy to think that you could credibly ignore it. (It is ironic that what will finally bring Corbyn down is his being closer to the Labour voters than the MPs).

But if he does survive or more likely, ignore events within parliament, Labour is now in a position from which a formal leadership challenge can be launched. There hasn’t been one of these since 1988, when Benn snr challenged Neil Kinnock and lost by more than 7:1. By another irony, it’s Benn’s son who is now best-placed to challenge his one-time colleague.

The problem up until now was that unlike with the Tories, there was no mechanism by which a Labour leader could be forced out without electing someone else at the same time – and the realistic alternatives were within the shadow cabinet so wouldn’t allow their names to be nominated. No longer. If push comes to shove, there is now the candidate, mechanism, support and moment for such a bid to be launched.

Push probably won’t come to shove. Corbyn must know now that the game is up to such an extent that his continuing in office would damage the causes he believes in. He – and by extension, they – would become a laughing stock if two-thirds or more of the PLP were beyond the whip. I don’t see how he can last the week. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t last the day.

As for who will replace him, Watson seems best-placed. If Corbyn does resign, Watson would act as leader which would give him the chance to impress in office at a time when he would not be overshadowed by his predecessor. He’d also have the advantage of being seen to be a unifying candidate. Of the others, Benn has clearly shown leadership capabilities but I suspect his actions have damaged him too much in the eyes of too many. MacDonnell has already ruled himself out but I can’t see there not being a full-on continuity-Corbyn candidate: after all, it’s not the policies of the leader which have brought about his downfall. The Shadow Chancellor may yet be persuaded; if not, a protege is likely. And similarly, after ousting Corbyn, the mainstream must nominate one of their own unless they’re willing to forego that privilege and swing in behind Watson in a stop-the-left move. For now, it’s advantage Deputy.

David Herdson


A very British coup as another shadow cabinet minister resigns, and more are expected

June 26th, 2016

What odds on an autumn election with May and Watson leading their parties?

What an interesting few hours where Labour are trying to look even more split than the Tory party, but I do think the plotters inside the  Labour party are doing the right thing, I’ve said many times Jeremy Corbyn will lead Labour to an epochal defeat at a general election, whereas someone vaguely electable might actually defeat the Tories at the next general election. As I speculated last night this appears co-ordinated, with Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander, quitting this morning, with more expected to follow.

If Allegra Stratton’s tweets are correct, the best option should be to back Tom Watson as next Labour leader at 8/1, my only concern is if there’s an effective unilateral declaration of independence by the Parliamentary Labour Party then Tom Watson won’t be leader of the Labour party, but leader of a new Labour party.

The other impact from these events is that it might change the dynamics of the Tory leadership contest. There’s been a belief that whomever the Tories elect they win a general election against Jeremy Corbyn, so they might choose someone with gravitas and experience. Which doesn’t help Boris Johnson but does help Theresa May, who you can still back at 3/1 as next Tory leader, or you might consider like the many mistresses of Boris, should you be laying him?




Is this the start of the Saturday night/Sunday morning massacre by Corbyn?

June 26th, 2016

From this I’m concluding a coup is being implemented by the opponents of Corbyn and how long will the reshuffle take ?



Bunco makes the case for Liz Truss as next CON leader and PM

June 25th, 2016

Liz Truss

She’s behind you! Boris needs to look over his shoulder

A couple of months ago I promised OGH that I’d write a piece on why I thought Liz Truss would be the next Prime Minister. With other things to do and three years to 2019, I put it on the back burner but events mean I need to nail my colours to the mast.

She’s not an obvious choice and certainly not in the front runners but we need to remember that, in the Conservative Party, he who wields the knife never wears the crown. So we need to look in the second rank and Truss ranks alongside Crabb, Hammond, Morgan, Harper, Soubry, Stewart, Truss, & Fallon for the longer-shot who may offer value at the bookmakers.

Back in 2009 when PB had a Channel Two, I wrote a series of guest articles over three weeks about how she was selected from my ringside seat with direct access to the participants.These were: All Trussed Up and Nowhere to Go; We’re Going Into Extra Time; and Cinders Shall Go to the Ball

The circumstances of her selection in South West Norfolk were a torrid and bruising time played out in the national media complete with snidey remarks on Have I Got News For You. Playing to metropolitan prejudice about life in Norfolk, the selection got caught up in a national controversy about All Women Shortlists, Cameron Cuties & Open Primaries as a method of doing away with the smoke-filled-room appointment of Parliamentary candidates. The old buffers and blue-rinses hated the modernisation.

The media lapped up each new twist and turn raking over details of her private life characterising the debate as one between the Cameron modernisers and the Golf Club Turnip Taliban with Jeremy Paxman’s credibility as a neutral commentator on Newsnight was undermined when it was revealed that he was a regular *SHOOTING PARTY* guest on ‘Turnip Taliban’ Leader Sir Jeremy Bagge’s estate near Downham Market.”

A lesser person would have walked away. But she didn’t and insodoing has since won the admiration of local people for her grit, determination and plain talking. It was no surprise to those who saw her at first hand when she became one of the first 2010 intake to reach Cabinet rank, albeit to the poisoned chalice of DEFRA, the graveyard of many political careers

But why does this qualify Liz to be leader?

Her selection demonstrated her personal and mental toughness. Her background growing up in in Paisley and in Leeds, attending a Comprehensive before carving a career as an economist is as much a story of ‘The British Dream’ as the untried Stephen Crabb’s rags-to-riches tale.

DEFRA is the department with most contact with Brussels so she has more experience at dealing with the EU at first hand and has developed an enviable reputation for getting the British view accepted from an evidence-based perspective, which hasn’t always endeared her to the pressure groups, who prefer to make emotional arguments unsupported by fact. Brexit is going to require experience and guile if we’re to get the best deal and she’s served her apprenticeship here.

She founded the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs and is soundly ideologically on the right, which will play well with the members and, whilst being a Remainer, has been measured in her interventions during the EUDebate and has avoided the vitriolic and divisive mud-slinging indulged in by others. She’s had a good war even if she ended up on the losing side.

She’s a woman and many in the party think that the Conservatives need to change the perception that the party is all about men of a certain age. And the party needs to look forward to 2020 and beyond. That she is from a Northern left-wing household and has made her own way can only help the Party shake-off the Bullingdon labels.

So for me, Liz Truss should be more widely considered. I don’t know whether she’ll put her name forward. But I hope she will. The combination of Northern Grit, Economic Soundness and experience in hand-to-hand fighting in Brussels ticks all the boxes. That she is a deep political thinker is the icing on the cake.

Bunnco – Your Man on the Spot


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