The Chequers’ Brexit deal after December 11

The media are replete with references to deals in the context of Brexit. Given that there is just over a week to go before our lawmakers gather for one of the most significant and fateful votes to be held in parliament since the vote in May 1940 which brought about the fall of Neville Chamberlain and his replacement by Winston Churchill, I thought that I would glance back at a few other occasions which triggered the frequent use of the word deal.

So – A brief look at previous deal skirmishes before we then turn our attention to the formidable array of deals available to our anxious lawmakers as they strive to identify that option which gives them the best opportunity to hang onto their cushy political numbers.

A couple of starters – deals that made the headlines in the good old days. Both originated with members of The Roosevelt family

“We demand that big business give the people a square deal”
Quote from the Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt.
A robust clarion call, strong in sentiment but vague in content.
The general idea of idea of fair play is there, but my idea of a square deal may not square with your idea of a square deal – if you see what I mean.

“ I pledge you , I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”
Franklin Roosevelt accepting the democratic presidential nomination in July 1932

Election result on November 8, 1932:-
Electoral votes secured by FDR – 472
Electoral votes secured by Herbert Hoover – 59 votes
Well done FDR

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
From FDRs first inaugural address in 1933.

It was noted at the time that FDR had campaigned against Hoover in the presidential election by saying as little as possible about what he might do if elected.
Would he get away with studied evasiveness today? – probably not.
Both Roosevelts promised deals, Teddy with his square deal and FD with his new deal.
Which offer would go down best in the current climate – you tell me.

Of deals and dealers.

The notion of deals came quite late to the Brexit debate.
In the beginning the key words and phrases were:-
“Control of our borders”
“Government by Westminster rather than by Brussels”
“Trade with who we like when we like.”
“ An end to the tyranny of the EU bureaucracy”
You get the picture.

Then – and rather late in the Brexit day – the emphasis changed to making the best of a bad job via dogged negotiation and steadily eroding lines in the sand as the interminably protracted debate went on and on — and on.

And so it came to pass that the word deal began to feature more and more in the various arguments. We had an avalanche of references to the Chequers deal, otherwise known as The May deal and, in due course, we heard references to the need for a better deal from Mr Corbyn, we heard whispered references to the appalling possibility of a no deal exit, some troublemakers referred to the May deal as a bad deal, some other troublemakers referred to the May deal as a pie in the sky deal and some even more troublesome participants referred to is as being a for the birds deal.
HF is not really clear about the meaning of the final description and we found the whole climate of acrimony entertaining rather than informative.

This blog – Holdenforth – maintained its consistent position of asserting that the UK has had a deal with The EU for several decades, and moreover a deal arrived at after patient discussions with full and active participation by UK politicians and Officials.
What’s all this nonsense about Brexit?

“Tory remainers should keep quiet … For now. “
Headline above the Matthew Parris column in The Times. December 1

I am indebted to Mr Parris for doing a lot of the leg work for this Blog. His core theme was to consider the tactics to be employed by Tory MPS as the fateful date -December 11 – approaches.

In a column of 1100 words he uses the word deal on 10 occasions- this from a normally thoughtful and perceptive writer. To be fair to Mr Parris he raises most but by no means all of the main issues.

I would sum up his column by saying  that he was and is too concerned to assuage the delicate sensitivities of Tory MPs and too little with raising his voice to attack the guilty people who got the UK in this appalling mess in the first place.

My dear Mr Parris – why not climb down off the fence and state unambiguously what you know to be the case – that the Chequers deal is a recipe for disaster and that the simple and obvious policy is to abandon Brexit as quickly as possible.

Holdenforth has consistently sought to pass the responsibility to jettison Brexit back to where it belongs – The House of Commons.

We would welcome an outcome of a general Election which would be a referendum on Brexit in all but name and in addition would put the issue back where it belongs – to the spineless parliamentarians.

Sadly Mr Corbyn is still sleeping on the job and thus what should be a simple job for a newly elected Government committed to kill off Brexit and to remain in the EU may well be referred back to the voters for them to do the job.

We could well have 12 months or more of an open season for mendacity, and the same period for those who create wealth to reflect on their uncertain prospects in an uncertain world.

Excerpts from the Mail on Sunday on December 2:- an issue bursting with good deals

Why Mrs May must tell MPs:- Support my deal or I quit”
Headline above the column of Dan Hodges

There are some who will ponder if the latter half of the headline is a threat or a promise.

“ Theresa May last night warned the country she had nine days to save Brexit – as her allies fumed at the betrayal by a Government minister who quit over her deal with Brussels”
Glen Owen Political Editor

You can’t accuse Mrs May of modesty in the face of an assertion like this. Worrying echoes of her strong and stable phase.

“MOS calls on readers to tell their MPs: Save us from Brexit chaos”
Harry Cole – Deputy Political Editor

Holdenforth has listened to this call and we will beg our MP – Mr Nick Thomas-Simmonds – to save us from Brexit chaos. However our remedy may not be what Mr Cole has in mind. Instead we will implore the House of Commons to deposit Brexit in the dust bin of history and simply arrange for the UK to maintain its membership of the European Union.

“ Send them this letter …. to persuade them to make the right decision in the national interest”
The MOS also goes the full ten miles by printing the letter to be sent to wavering or merely reticent MPs.

A key sentence reads  “I understand that you, like many who voted either leave or remain in the 2016 referendum have reservations about the deal the PM has negotiated.”

All the reader has to do is to sign it and send it off. Job done.

HF will indeed be in touch with Mr Thomas – Symonds – but as noted – only to entreat him to vote to remain in the EU.

“They (the UK voters) can see what so many in politics cannot grasp, that Theresa May’s deal is far better than any practical actually existing alternative.
Taken from the MOS leader – a splendid example of pure drivel.

For a far more sensible alternative – see the previous paragraph.

From a proud Brexiteer and top businessman a passionate cry – “This deal’s far from perfect but”
Lord Wolfson -CEO of Next

At one point in his heart felt article Lord Wolfson notes that:- “As things stand, the UK has only 3 choices:- to crash out of the EU, to crash back into it or to accept Mrs May’s deal.”

The second listed choice is nonsense and for accuracy it should read – to remain in the EU.

“Sorrell on brink of notching up second big deal since departure from WPP”
Headline above a piece by William Turvill.

Whoops – not sure how this one crept in. Possibly HF, like millions of others, is suffering from a touch of the Brexits.

I have no doubt that all the Sunday papers will today be bursting with deal references but HF, like Mrs May, is mindful of a looming deadline with regards to deals and dealers.

“They ( the British people) should know that we are approaching an awful milestone in our history…” 
WS Churchill on the Munich settlement. House of Commons. 1938, excoriating the Chamberlain settlement with Hitler.

I have put his words into a future tense to highlight the urgency and imminence of the December 11 parliamentary judgement on the various options said to be available.

The comparison with the Munich settlement should not be pressed too hard. Chamberlain did his best to avert a conflict with the most ruthless tyrant of the past millennium.

Brexit, by contrast, might be said to represent the last spent dregs of a movement committed to a return to all the worst features of the Nation State, the posturing of a handful of nonentities as they drenched the UK in mendacity to promote their absurd aims.

It is the view of HF that Brexit is the most lamentable case of wounds inflicted by a rump of the those in government upon those that they govern in modern times.

HF remains confident that that the common sense of the British electorate will prevail and that by whatever means, the voters will opt to remain in the European Union.

An optimistic note on which to end.

The house in which I have lived these past 50 years is located a mile or so from the house occupied by Roy Jenkins prior to his departure to Oxford. Possibly the Jenkins residence and its most famous resident are transmitting an appeal from the next world to those below to stay true to his beloved European project. Who knows?

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The UK and the EU – are we leaving or are we staying or what?

In a previous blog on this controversial topic published on November 10th, Holdenforth suggested that there were just three possible outcomes to the Brexit project, namely:

1. A UK  exit with the agreement of the EU – shall we describe this outcome as “A good deal exit”  or, more accurately, as a Brexit acceptable to Mrs May.

2. A no deal Brexit  – oh dear oh dear – please God, not this outcome.

3. The UK decides, somehow or other, to remain in the EU. Regular readers of Holdenforth  will know that this is the outcome recommended by and fervently hoped for by Holdenforth.

So – two weeks later and with much verbiage under the bridge – what is the likely outcome?

Are we to leave or are we to stay, and, if the former, with a deal or without a deal?

Where have we got to?   A few preamble points in no special order.

The easy bit: as of today there are just over 120 days to go.

Let us hope that the rapidly dwindling amount of time available will serve to concentrate the minds of the major players.

Just to remind ourselves – who exactly are the major players, who are the bit players and who are the onlookers?

Firstly, the major players. Here we have the UK government led, at least for the time being, by Mrs May, and the senior managers in the various EU institutions.

We also have a group currently lurking in the shadows – those in this group may be described as Potential Major Players and consists mainly of politicians who were thought to have had their day but are now thought by those in the know to be watching from the touchline and poised to intervene. The word is that this group includes Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John Major, Michael Heseltine and, as of last week, Peter Lilley. Members are  by no means singing from the same hymn sheet, but all are thought to be pondering anxiously about the exact timing of their move onto the field of play. Move too soon and they risk a speedy return to oblivion. Move too late and, as Neville Chamberlain said of Hitler in a different context – they will have missed the bus, and, as with the early members,  they risk a speedy return to oblivion.

All the members of this group  could do worse than study the words of Brutus to Cassius (as set down by Shakespeare) ahead of the Battle of Philippi: 

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
W
hich, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune:
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures”

The minor players are too numerous to list in full but they include:

  • The official Opposition in Parliament as represented by the Shadow Cabinet.
  • DUP MPs
  • All other members of the House of Commons.
  • The more influential parts of the national media
  • Those driving  The Peoples’ Vote policy

Finally the spectators – the likes of you and me. As always we await the outcome, some of us anxious, some of us indifferent, and most of us weary of the interminably protracted cascade of  mendacity.

As I mentioned in my blog of November 10, the possible outcomes are as follows

 1. An agreed agreeable  exit. A good deal exit.

2. The no deal exit. The outcome if there is a failure to agree between the two parties.

3. The third possible outcome – the UK opts to stay in the EU.

I take it that no one seriously contests the Holdenforth assertion that any general election held before March 29, 2019  would be a single issue general election and we will refer to this development, should it occur, as a Brexel. 

*Mrs May showed commendable resilience and endurance when she met the House of Commons to explain the massive tome which purported to provide details about the minutiae of the agreement reached with Brussels.

*Her fellow MPs did not appear to be persuaded of her stance which was, in a nutshell, that hers was the only plausible outcome, fashioned, as it had been, to comply with the outcome of the referendum and of the need to be in the best interests of the British people. She appeared from the remote Headquarters of Holdenforth to have worn down some at least of her adversaries by sheer obduracy.

*It should be noted that a couple of her ministerial colleagues took the opportunity to make their excuses and vacate what they perceived to be a sinking ship – in the best traditions of the reporters on the old News of the World.

*The public has been given to understand that a group of 5 senior ministers are collectively considering their positions – sound timing on their part but hardly a ringing endorsement of their leader.

*Some suggest that Mr Rees-Mogg rather overestimated the strength of his position and is now nursing his wounds in the shadows, wishing that he had had the foresight to turn round to check if he had any followers. Holdenforth can help him on this point – he doesn’t. Indeed one of his constituents wrote to the Times to enquire about the procedure to trigger his deselection.

*A significant number of Tory MPs are rumoured to be making discrete enquiries about what possible ascents up the greasy pole of politics might be available to them should they opt to support this option or that candidate.

*To the outsiders such as you and me – these manoeuvrings resemble the circling of vultures, an accurate but unseemly description.  

(Just a thought:

“Openness and transparency are considered cardinal virtues. Yet Tory MPS have, since 1991, been permitted to demand a confidence vote in the leader in secrecy. This encourages deviousness and skulduggery.”
Lord  Lexden, Letter to The Times, November 19, 2018

Why should the UK voters trust the Tory party to deliver a democratic outcome to the Brexit fiasco given its transparent inability to organise its own affairs?)

 (Another thought:- 

Holdenforth sent the following letter to The Times – it did not make the cut.

To The Editor, The Times

Sir,

One worrying aspect – not the only one – about the frenzied Brexit negotiations between the UK team and the  EU team about a possible deal  is that both sides are working tirelessly against the clock to arrive at a mutually acceptable Brexit agreement, one which would be a lowest common denominator outcome designed to assuage the more raucous and belligerent of the various factions. 

It is a matter of considerable regret that the current EU arrangements arrived at after at several decades of patient discussion may be jettisoned and replaced by measures conjured up on the night shift by the exhausted teams from both sides.

The suggestion of Gordon Brown that the present arrangements be allowed to remain in force pending an enquiry by a Royal Commission has much to commend it. I would suggest that any such Royal Commission be chaired by Sir John Chilcot, our most experienced professional procrastinator. This action would allow the UK and the EU to settle down to a welcome Business as Usual basis in the intervening years.)                       

Back to the matters in hand.

A few observations from the lofty remoteness of Holdenforth HQ.

*Most MPs – from the Tory right across the spectrum to the Labour left – grasp that that Brexit has been, is and will be a national disaster.

*Most MPs defend their reluctance to express this view in public by timidly whispering that they respect the democratic verdict of the UK voters.

*Holdenforth has argued from the start that:

  • Brexit is the shameful outcome of the cowardice of Mr Cameron and the mendacity of BoJo.
  • There is a sound managerial precept – when you are in a hole, stop digging. 
  • If  the UK does leave – with or without a deal – things will go from bad to worse, but rather more quickly in the event of a no deal exit.

* A gloomy feature of recent weeks has been the endless procession of political mediocrities from studio to studio as they seek to make the most of their moments in the spotlight.

* What can we expect of the Labour Party?  On present form – not much.

 “The Labour Party missed a great opportunity. From beginning to end it raised no distinctive voice… The Labour Party has too much reverence.”
This was Nye Bevan writing about the abdication farce in January, 1937.

This criticism would be equally valid in the context of the Brexit farce in 2018.

So – what happens next?

“Brexiteers have left the road without a map”
Lord Finkelstein in The Times, November 21

Lord Finkelstein used his column in Wednesday’s Times to make excoriating comments about:-

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Moggies.
  • David Davis.
  • Jeremy Corbyn.

As always with Lord Finkelstein his comments were infuriatingly reasonable to just about everyone apart possibly from those on the receiving end.

And yet – I detected a slight flaw in his reasoning. He rightly draws our attention to the wide range of possible developments in the coming weeks but at a critical point in his column he notes that “In a situation where there are many different possible outcomes…. “

It seems to Holdenforth that Lord Finkelstein is confusing the many different ways of arriving at a decision with the fact that there are – as noted – only three possible outcomes, and that the distinction between the route and the outcome is of considerable importance.

To repeat:- The only plausible outcomes are:-

1. A no deal Brexit

2. A Brexit secured via an agreement between HMG and the EU

3. Oh joy – a remain outcome. 

In our previous Brexit blog Holdenforth expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved via a General Election in which traditional party allegiances would be put on hold and replaced by two groups – the Remainers and the Leavers.

This outcome would allow the matter to be sent back to Parliament – where it belongs and from where it never have been allowed to leave – for a final decision.

It now appears that this outcome is unlikely and so Holdenforth will press for a second referendum.

So – in these swiftly changing times what does Holdenforth think will happen?

“Where do we go from here? I haven’t a clue.”
Richard Littlejohn,
Daily Mail, November 20

If the legendary Littlejoin hasn’t a clue, what chance does Holdenforth have?

It is formidably difficult to predict what will happen, how it will happen, and even why it will happen in the next 5 months, given the sheer complexity of the factors involved.

However, Holdenforth remains confident that the UK will remain in the EU.

Notes on Immigration

Immigration and the mid term elections in the USA

It was reported that the sensitive issue of illegal immigration was a key issue in these hard-fought elections. The fighting between the competing parties continued after the results had been announced and both sides had claimed victory. Mr Trump engaged with the mostly hostile media in a protracted bout of boisterous badinage – all good knock about stuff but not exactly illuminating.

Mr Trump vigorously defended his policy on the contentious issue of what to do about the caravan of people making its way via Mexico to the southern border of the USA in order to gain admission.

The Democrats argued that Mr Trump’s approach was out of all proportion to the perceived threat and that the measures currently available to control illegal immigration, and, for that matter, legal immigration, were adequate.

The furious, raucous debate continues to generate more heat than light but Holdenforth would like to make a few points.

* There are very few people in authority in the USA who argue for the removal of all frontier controls with a full right of admission to anyone who turns up at the border. The days of unconditional welcomes to incoming masses are long gone.

* Mr Trump argues – and he has a point – that the caravan project is an attempt to jump the queue of those who have waited their turn patiently over months and even years as they seek to enter the USA. In his view to wave them through would be to replace an orderly system with chaos.

It comes down to what additional measures, if any, are required to restore confidence that effective controls are in place.

* Mr Trump selected as one of his presidential campaign policies the construction of a wall to protect the vast length of the Mexico – USA border.  

* The news of the advancing caravan prompted him further to protect the border with troops and barbed wire fences. His relish for the latter type of deterrent caused understandable dismay in liberal circles – and to Holdenforth.

* One sensible Democrat suggested in the aftermath of the mid-term elections that it might well be both more civilised and more effective to cancel the costly defensive wall plans and divert the resources thus made available to assist Mexico and its southern neighbours to develop their economies.

Please Mr President – consider this helpful suggestion for a latterday version of Marshall aid. If our civilisation survives, this approach will do more for your place in history than will rusting barbed wire fences.

 Immigration and Brexit

I am indebted to a friend for a snappy précis of the core issue:

“The EU authorities have simply drawn our attention over and over again to what the EU simply IS, namely a union of nations based on four unbreakable principles – freedom of movement of people, goods, services, and capital. Breach of any one would inevitably weaken and quite possibly unravel the entire institution.”

A key factor in the UK decision to vote leave in June, 2016 was said to be immigration, although it also has to be said that the debate verged on the confusing. 

To give just one example: immigration to the UK from elsewhere in the EU – all perfectly legal and in accordance with EU rules, indeed, not even immigration according to the usual definition –  tended to be conflated with immigration from outside the EU, where there was no right of entry and acceptance or rejection was based on different criteria,

The issue was further confused by the even more contentious issue of illegal entry, for example those seeking entry into the UK via the camps in and around Calais.

How many people came to the UK in this latter category? Estimates varied from 400,000 at the lower end to 800,000 at the higher end. Estimates continue to be made about the number living in the UK and said for whatever reason or reasons to be “off the books.”

Holdenforth has no idea about the number – rather like today’s Home Secretary and his predecessors.

Suffice it to say that the Leave campaign argued from the outset that one consequence – a major gain in their view – would be that the UK would regain control of its borders.

Put more prosaically, Brexiteers have made two broad commitments in this sensitive area.

1. Would-be immigrants to the UK from the EU would face the same selection criteria as all other would-be immigrants to the UK and these mainly require that those wishing to come here would have to satisfy the authorities that they would be self-financing and that they would do jobs for which there were vacancies and skill shortages.

2. Measures – not specified – would be put in place to stem the alleged ongoing flow of illegals.

There has been no talk of barbed wire but doubtless the English Channel will continue to provide the protection that it has afforded throughout the past millennium.

Immigration into EU countries, including the UK, from the war zone that is the Middle East

A few points to note here.

* Mrs Merkel agreed to allow up to 1 million asylum seekers from the war zone to enter Germany. This was a noble decision but one which has caused more problems that it has solved.  It undoubtedly played a part in the recent decline in her political standing in Germany.

This outcome is especially distressing in that Germany bore less responsibility than most large western countries for the appalling proxy wars that have disfigured the Middle East in the past two decades.

* Sadly another irony is that UK, which bore considerable responsibility for the chaos – Think Blair and Iraq , think Cameron and Libya, for Heavens’ sake think Mr Benn Junior as he advocated yet more bombing in Syria – has accepted very few of the many thousands that have sought and are continuing to seek refuge from the daily destruction of their lives.

* Holdenforth urges the adoption of the policy urged earlier on Mr Trump – cut out the proxy wars and put in place a latter day Marshall aid plan designed to enable the warring factions to work together to rebuild the shattered region.

* The argument in favour of using American funds to help rebuild the Middle East is even more applicable here given the USA’s responsibility for many of the root causes.  

* Holdenforth has been accused of being too sympathetic to the Russian case in the Middle East and insufficiently supportive of that vague entity – The West . I trust that Holdenforth will not be accused of taking Russian bribes. Our arguments are based much more on geography than on ideology.

(Oh by the way: Holdenforth was not persuaded by the recent revelations that Michael Foot was a paid agent of the Russians – we take the view that Mr Oleg Gordievsky is not the most reliable of sources given that a key feature of all espionage is mendacity.)

Immigration from sub Saharan Africa – largely but not entirely made up of those seeking asylum – for wholly understandable reasons

What drives these people to move?  A wish to improve their lives.

Are they economic migrants or are they seeking to escape persecution and exploitation? The distinctions are important to those charged with the responsibility for enforcing border controls but less so to the millions seeking to escape the various unpleasant regimes that exploit and tyrannise them.

It might be useful to shine a rather bright light on the conditions which persuade these people to move. Start by asking the question – why do the people of Surrey not seek to relocate to say Somalia?

What about the contribution of the various regimes in sub Saharan to the flight of their citizens?

It would help if they were to put their respective houses in order and thus reduce the pressure for their peoples to leave.

Holdenforth suggests that a useful step forward might be to replace the existing shaky overseas aid arrangements which have incurred widespread obloquy and replace them with effective action to improve the lot of everyone rather than the lot of senior charity workers and corrupt local officials.

 A few more observations

* People will continue to try to move from one country to another in order to achieve better lives for themselves and for their families.

I take it that no one disagrees with the truth of this statement and with the reasonableness of the objective – no one should be blamed for seeking to improve their lives.

As water flows via gravity from a higher level to a lower level so people will seek to move from poverty to affluence – and who shall blame them.

* The possible control arrangements available to control borders range from the abolition of all frontiers at one extreme to the establishment of forbidding fortresses at the other.

* It has been reported that the UK is one of the most popular countries  of choice, if not the most popular country of choice, for asylum seekers.

To give just one example: as Holdenforth understands the position would be asylum seekers seeking asylum in the EU  are required by the regulations to register their request for asylum in the whichever country they first enter.

However it has been reported that some would be asylum seekers see the initial entry as merely the first fence and that they plan to proceed to allegedly more hospitable countries.

Might it be the case that the range of benefits available to new comers outweighs the disadvantages of being the target of a variety of perceived hostile receptions?

*  Those charged with the responsibility for managing these tricky problems need to balance the understandable wish of the poor to escape poverty with the need to establish arrangements that enable the interests of the host communities to be recognised and safe guarded.

*  Some argue for the abolition of all border and passport controls with the result that everyone would be allowed to move freely across and around the world. A world run on similar principles to the EU but on a mega – global freedom of movement of peoples.

Splendid in theory but in today’s harsh world this is not going to happen.

Accordingly we progressives must identify and put in place arrangements which combine practicality with humanity to establish a global maximum of harmony and freedom.

 A word on the rules which are in place regardless on whether or not they are being complied with

As of now there is free movement of peoples within the EU, including the UK. That will change at the end of March if Mrs May gets her way.

Holdenforth hopes that she will NOT get her way, that the UK remains in the EU, that the other 27 EU countries together with the UK get back to a business-as-usual state of affairs and that we all go on to live happily ever after.

 In conclusion

* For the reasons given – People WILL seek to migrate to improve their lives and living standards

* The only question to answer is – what arrangements should be put in place in order to reconcile the wholly understandable aspirations of the globally disadvantaged with the equally understandable wishes of the globally affluent to ensure that this agreeable state of affairs is not put at risk?

* Holdenforth believes that the future should be based on cooperation rather than confrontation, and on civilised discussion rather than of on the swapping of angry slogans.

In short let us have less talk of barbed wire at the borders and rather more focus on taking effective steps to lift people and nations out of poverty.

The USA showed the way forward in 1947 by funding the Marshall Plan and by helping to set up the 16 nation Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, measures which contributed enormously to the post war recovery of Europe.

 For this approach to succeed it would be helpful if:

* a second EU referendum resulted in a comfortable remain outcome – and it would.

* The raucous Trump bladder of wind were to burst and be replaced by a combination of effective progressive measures coupled with the adoption of a more emollient and more civilised tone from the leaders of the USA.

As of right now – it is easier to see progress in Europe rather than in the USA – but hope springs eternal in the human breast.

11.11

To The Editor, The Mail on Sunday

November 11th , 1918 will be a day of considerable significance for millions of people in Britain and across the world, marking as it does, the centenary of the end of four years of appalling slaughter in WW1. 

It will be a day of especial significance for me because my father served in Royal Engineers from 1915 to 1919.  He had been a plate layer before the war and served in that capacity during the war. He spent the last few months of the war and a few months of the subsequent peace in the relatively obscure Caucasus theatre, which was then, as in all the subsequent years, a cauldron of warring factions.

He was more than happy to return to his job as a platelayer on the tranquil line between Bolton and Lostock Junction after his service on the rather more boisterous line between Batuum on the eastern shore of the Black Sea and Baku on the western shore of the Caspian sea.

He was one of the fortunate ones in that he returned to Britain in good health. He became the father of eight children of whom I was the youngest, born in 1940.

John Holden

The UK and the EU – Are we to leave or are we to remain?

There are now less than 150 days to go to Brexit day. So – where have we have got to and what is the likely outcome – stay or leave –  and, if the latter, with or without a deal?

 Where have we got to?   A few preamble points in no special order.

The good news – from a Remain point of view. The marvellous October 20 rally to support the case for a second referendum – a date that will take its place in UK history

Well done – you urban ramblers. 

The Tory party is split from top to bottom or if, you prefer, from left to right.

How can a mere blogger summarise chaos?  There have been reports of lynching groups made up of disgruntled Tory MPS with their malevolent eyes focused on Mrs May.

She is on her way out! Oh no she isnt! Oh yes she is. For this aged blogger it brings back the carefree pantomime performances of the late 1940s.

 Mr Hammond does his best to steady the Tory ship of state as it flounders in stormy seas.

His budget performance brought to mind the tricks of the conjurers of yesteryear – now you see it – now you dont see it. Skint one day – rolling in money the next.

Mr Hammonds budget had just two objectives – a pain free exit from the EU and a Tory victory in the next election. The Chancellor acting his capacity of a ventriloquist’s dummy for Mrs May and presumably instructed by her set out to  promise the voters something, anything, everything to secure these two objectives. (Note – his budget must therefore be regarded as a conditional budget – see later notes.)

The Labour Party – to this observer it gives all the appearance of sleeping on the job.

The Holdenforth blog is very disappointed by what has, or rather what has not, been going on in the Labour camp. Torpor prevails and an Asquithian policy of wait and see appears to the policy. As a nation in rather less than 150 days we face the most critical decision to confront us since the end of WW 2 and Mr Corbyn appears to have assumed the role of Little Sir Echo to the Tories.

Holdenforth message to JC – shape up or move over.

 Most MPs – from the Tory right across the spectrum to the Labour left – grasp that that Brexit has been, is and will be a national disaster.

The fact is that if we do leave of our own volition or if we get expelled – it doesnt much matter which –  things will go from bad to worse.

Both of the main political parties are split internally as to the preferences of their Members of Parliament. 

Remainers and Leavers, passionate or passive according to temperament, are to be found in both parties. Reports suggest that the Brexit cause is more popular among Tory MPs than among Labour MPs but this will be determined rather more by personal electoral considerations than by concerns for the future of UK citizens.

Holdenforth has been given to understand that powerful non-political groups are gathering in the shadows ready to act in the interests of their preferred outcome as the day of reckoning draws ever closer.

These big shots range from fiercely partisan Brexiteers to equally fiercely partisan Remainers.

To the former group Holdenforth asks –What the hell has it got to do with you?

To the latter group Holdenforh says – Welcome to the cause.

What about the EU 27, gathered in their various institutional EU fortresses, commendably speaking with one voice, and resolved not to offer the UK an easy way out?

How can I put this next point delicately? Just as Mrs May endlessly and raucously proclaims that a bad deal would be worse than no deal, so the EU 27 appears resolved to tell us to get out and stay out if we insist on exit terms that are better than those applicable within the EU.

 For the record, Holdenforth is fully behind the EU here. This Blog has consistently argued since this issue first became THE issue that we would support an EU move to grasp the UK by our national collar and by the seat of our national trousers and propel us out of the nearest exit.

Old timers like me grasp that whilst Brexit will entail the transfer of power from Brussels to Westminster, it will not mean that  we – you and I – the great majority of the untouchables in our society – will be more powerful in a post Brexit UK than is the case now.

We will be no nearer to power than we have ever been or are ever likely to be.

 A few definitions

The democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions which realises the common good by making the people itself decide issues through the election of individuals who are to assemble in order to carry out its will.
The Classical doctrine of democracy. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy

The democratic method is that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples vote
Schumpeter: the classical theory developed to reflect changing conditions.

Democracy is always essentially the same. There is first the mob theoretically and in fact the ultimate judge of all ideas and the source of all power. There is second the camorra of self seeking minorities each seeking to inflame, delude and victimise it. The political process thus becomes a mere battle of rival rogues. But the mob remains quite free to decide between them.
HL Mencken,
Notes on Democracy: a somewhat jaundiced view of the political process

It’s no use to start talking unless youve made up your mind what youll do if the other fellow says no.
Ernest Bevin talking to Francis Williams in 1951. A sound point made by possibly the most accomplished negotiator  produced in the UK in last 100 years. 

 Holdenforth takes a Mencken view of the struggle for Brexit in recent years. We suggest that Brexit is largely the outcome of an unseemly love – hate affair between two ex Etonians. To develop the metaphor – Mr Cameron played the part of the jilted bachelor whose appeal to the people fell on stony ground and the scheming opportunistic BoJo who played a leading role in securing the rejection of the Cameron appeal.

And then – further to develop the metaphor – enter Mrs May playing the role of a latter day Mrs Gamp, the less than accomplished midwife in Dickens’  Martin Chuzzlewit. Mrs May has worked tirelessly but ineffectively  to bring the illegitimate Brexit embryo into being.

Mrs May resembles a non swimmer struggling on the surface of the unplumbed profundity in the Sundam trench of the Pacific exceeding 8,000 fathoms.

Holdenforth has no wish to be associated with the hanging wing of the Tory party but it does seem to us that she is suffering from the eff syndrome -she is faltering, floundering, foundering, failing, flailing, frustrated, fulminating, festering, furious & fractious.

What happens now?

In our previous Brexit blog Holdenforth expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved via a General Election in which traditional  party allegiances would be put on hold and replaced by two groups – the Remainers and the Leavers.

This outcome would allow the matter to be sent back to Parliament – where it belongs and from where it never have been allowed to leave – for a final decision.

It now appears that this outcome is unlikely and so Holdenforth will press for a second referendum

 So – in these swiftly changing times what does Holdenforth think will happen? 

It is formidably difficult to predict what will happen and how and where and why and how it will happen in the next 5 months, given the sheer complexity of the factors involved.

Like you – dear readers – I hope that there are a few of you out there – Holdenforth studies the media in the hope of being enlightened about what might happen and what might  not happen. We have not been impressed by what we have heard and seen and read. Much more a matter of A tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Thus Macbeth on Life, thus Holdenforth on Brexit.

 However we must try to make progress and Holdenforth will not shirk its responsibilities – so here goes.

 Possible outcomes.

 An agreed, agreeable  exit. A good deal exit.

Agreement is reached between the UK government and the European Union about arrangements between the two parties post Brexit.

This is the preferred outcome for Mrs May – she will have responded to the all-important democratic decision taken back in 2016 and she will have succeeded.

Well – up to a point.

The odds on this outcome are lengthening daily as Mrs May tries to reconcile the various contending forces within her party and the uncompromising positions being adopted by the EU 27.

It is not looking good for this outcome and the prospects are likely to get worse.

Mrs May, possibly unwisely, proclaimed that we were 95% there is terms of resolving the various issues – but she is also aware that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

As of today and on that basis – nothing is agreed.   

 The no deal exit. The outcome if there is a failure to agree between the two parties.

An outcome acceptable to the Moggies and the BoJo supporters but viewed with considerable apprehension in most areas. 

We would be in uncharted waters but, to pursue the metaphor, waters likely to turbulent and storm tossed. Dont we have enough problems as it is.

Mrs May would be in serious trouble if this were to be the outcome and, rather more to the point, so would the UK.

The EU is aware of this and this awareness makes them all the more resolved not to make things easy for the Brexiteers.

A no deal exit remains a strong possibility and Holdenforth suspects that the prospect will persuade the Remainers to fight to the end to achieve the remain objective, either by a decision from a newly elected remain government or following a remain outcome to a second referendum.

 The third possible outcome – the UK opts to stay in the EU.

This could be the outcome of a second referendum or a decision taken by a new Government following the Brexel – the Brexit general election.

Both of these outcomes are the same for Holdenforth purposes and we are quite relaxed as to how the remain objective is achieved.

Suffice it to say that the chances of a victory for the remain cause are shortening on a daily basis.

How are matters likely to develop?

Holdenforth suggests that we imagine that Brexit can be compared to a difficult horse race – one full of formidable obstacles and challengers like say the Grand National – which coincidentally will be held at around the time that as things stand the UK is to leave the UK

Currently there are three entries under starters orders. 

  • The agreed deal exit  – Horse No 1
  • The no deal exit – Horse No 2
  • The remain in the EU outcome – Horse No 3

 Race notes:

We will not discuss the identities  of the riders and owners and trainers and pundits – and punters – at this point.  

Holdenforth will be taking professional advice about the odds as events develop. At this stage our view is that UK voters are in for an exciting 5 months and that we may well be in for photo finish.

We suggest that the odds which currently favour the first two horses will steadily lengthen and that the odds in favour of the UK remaining in the UK will steadily shorten – from being a rank outsider to a popular winner.

Holdenforth will argue the case for a win for Horse No 3 until the very last moment.

Holdenforthis apprehensive about the insidious growth of a new factor – a delay factor or shall we say, The Chilcot factor. This is the fear that the matters will be delayed – and delayed – and delayed – as Mrs May twists and turns to achieve her over-riding objective – to cling onto her precarious occupation of Number 10.

Readers with long memories will recall that Sir John Chilcot took the best part of a decade to produce his report on the invasion of Iraq. Holdenforth will suggest that a languid approach is all very well but the voters will be looking to see the matter brought to a speedy – and sensible – conclusion- obviously a decision to remain.  

To end on a prosaic note – interested punters should check the odds on each of our three outcomes frequently as the drama approaches its climax.

Will Labour’s New Policies Be Effective?

It was always going to be the case that the Labour conference would be long on slogans and short on specifics. The leadership was understandably more concerned to produce an upbeat mood rather than a manifesto. This was especially so given the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, the chaotic conditions prevailing in the Tory party and the need to smooth over, to the fullest possible extent, the divisions within the Labour Party. What was needed – and what was achieved – were some soothing references to a broad church, and shared values – all good stuff.

However, some policies were unveiled and some commitments were made. We at / in Holdenforth will consider some of these, but first, a few generalities.

* The general thrust of the policies was sound. Those announcing the policies, notably Mr McDonnell, had done their homework – or someone had done it for them – but what of that?

*  As for the details, these were a collection of curate’s egg: good in parts, but shaky in others. Too much shotgun scatter and not enough work done by the precision rifle support team.

* Holdenforth was and remains decidedly uneasy about the views coming from the top Labour table about Brexit. In so far as any policy was discernable, it was that Labour would play Little Sir Echo to the Tories, a dubious approach given that the Tories are driving the country Lemming fashion to and over the cliff edge.

Let us go further:  when the General Election sought by Labour is called (when, not if), it will be Brexel Mark 2, the second general election to be held with just one significant issue – to leave or to stay

Brexit will dominate everything and Labour should frame its strategy and tactics around this all too evident fact of life.

Europe

Holdenforth begs The Labour Party to grasp both the absurdity and the lack of electoral appeal posed by its fence sitting stance over Brexit. The leaders of the Party know only too that if Brexit goes ahead the resultant chaos and confusion will drag down in the UK those least able to defend themselves.

Please please please Mr Corbyn – don’t take your cue from the apologies for politicians in the Conservative Party. On this key issue, take your cue from Sir Keir Starmer. He has obviously read the small print.

Let’s hear it from the Labour leaders: let it be, “Bye bye  Brexit” and then proceed to unfurl and fly the Bremain flag – it’s not too late.

Planned return of the Privatised Utilities to public ownership.

A sound policy, but why was Labour so much on the defensive? Why not just rely on Roy Jenkins – not noted for his Marxist views.

“I think the privatisation of near monopolies is about as irrelevant (and sometimes worse than) were the Labour Party’s proposals for further nationalisation in the 1970s and early 1980s”
A Life at the Centre”, Roy Jenkins

The strongest argument against the privatised utilities is the fraudulence of the assumption that there can ever be true competition in monopolies and near monopolies.

There is insufficient recognition in Labour’s proposals of the need to replace the present generation of spivs and chancers masquerading as senior managers with managers who are able to combine competence and integrity.

It appears to be case that the sector has, for wholly understandable reasons, attracted a plethora of mediocre managers from the Arthur Daley Business school lured by the certainly of high rewards regardless of performance.

The present arrangements are simply a way of enriching managerial mediocrities operating in monopolies or cartels to exploit the consumer and loot the system.

Rail

Our policy for the UK rail network is as follows:

* Campaign vigorously for a Labour victory in the inevitable Brexel that is on its way.

* One of its priorities to be to bring the UK Rail network back into the public sector.

Mr McDonnell please note: this to be done in months, not years. We don’t want the Chilcot factor to rear its languid head: the Labour Party timing plan to return the railways to public ownership is far too leisurely; get on with it from day one.

* State that no more work will be done on HS2 and no more cost will be incurred until most of the existing team of senior managers have been given the P45 treatment and replaced by competent managers. It may be the case that the HS2 project currently employs managers who are up to the job of bringing back the existing network to the required standard. If so – identify them and bring them on board.

 Water

“Mr Wooster … Do you yearn for the Revolution?”
“Well I don’t know that I exactly yearn. I mean to say as far as I can make out the whole nub of the scheme seems to be to be to massacre coves like me; and I don’t mind owning I’m not frightfully keen on the idea”
Comrade Bingo by PG Wodehouse

“Water chief disturbed by Labour plans”
The Times, October 1, 2018

Steve Robertson of Thames Water described as “disturbing” Labours plans to sack water company bosses. Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Thus Bertie Wooster, thus Steve Robertson.

Holdenforth is philosophical here – Into each life some rain must fall – a splendid sentiment sung beautifully by Ella FitzGerald.

What about taxation?

The Mail on Sunday argued on the same lines as had many at the Labour conference in demanding that large corporations pay  far more in tax than they do at the moment.

Let me suggest an action plan for Mr McDonnell on this vexatious matter.

* Do NOT appeal to potential tax payers that they play the game and pay their fair share of the national tax bill.

* Mr McDonnell to grasp that, once installed in No 11 Downing St, it is his responsibility and his job to spell out who will pay what taxes – this rule applies to individuals and to companies.

It will also be the responsibility of Mr McDonnell to ensure that the tax levels so  defined are collected in a timely and transparent manner.

 “And then I received a big brown envelope from a whistle blower who worked as a lawyer in HMRC.”
“Called to Account” by Margaret Hodge.

In this splendid book Mrs Hodge gave a vivid account of the unfortunate combination of ineptitude (as demonstrated by Lin Homer) and sharp practice (as demonstrated by Dave Hartnet) as they attempted to extract tax from members of the UK affluent society.

The case of Mr Hartnet was especially poignant in that he was in danger of bursting at the seams as he did battle with a series of reluctant tax payers over fine meals washed down with fine wines.

Hartnet and Homer were both very senior officials at HMRC.

Let us repeat – it will be responsibility of Mr McDonnell to spell out who pays what and that the amount demanded – their words, not mine, is paid on time.

A couple of tips from Holdenforth:

* Simplify the regulations – you know it makes sense.

* Do not hesitate to extend tax bands for the super-rich to at or close to 100%. This approach might just persuade some in this category to focus on their jobs rather than on looting the funds of their employers. I noted that in a recent interview Sir Martin Sorrell stressed that he had returned to the fray that is life at the top because he just enjoys working. This accuracy of this assertion would be put to the test were Sir Martin to be faced with a tax demand of shall we say 95% of his income (in excess of £250,000). A newly elected Corbyn administration should hit the acquisitive senior managers easily and quickly and where it hurts the most – in the pocket.

Another policy unveiled by Labour was that companies employing more than 250 individuals would be required to hand over 10% of the company to employees and all employees would then share equally in annual payments from the new inclusive ownership funds – with any excess taken by the state.

Holdenforth argues that this measure would create a paradise for lawyers and spivs (often the same people).

However, we do advocate compulsory measures to appoint employee directors to ensure that the Executive Directors are focusing on their jobs rather than on maximising their reward packages.

This approach would be a more effective way of securing the same objective.

So:

* Avoid a share grab as this would confuse matters.

* Appoint Worker directors to keep an eye on any fellow directors minded to the loot company funds.

“I have enough faith in my fellow creatures in Great Britain to believe that when they have got over the delirium of the television, ………when they realise that the money lender has been elevated to the highest position in the land, when they realise that the refinements for which they should look are not there, that it is a vulgar society of which no decent person could be proud ………then when we say it and mean it, then we shall lead our people to where they deserve to be led!”
Nye Bevan – speaking in 1959 after the Tory victory in the general election.

Other Matters

Holdenforth was disappointed to note that large segments of the UK which are currently the happy hunting grounds of an unseemly band of thieving and lying and bungling senior managers were scarcely mentioned at the conference.

Let us list a few areas where it would be a simple matter to curtail the sharp practices that currently prevail, indeed abound.

In no special order of importance – and there are plenty more where these came form – here are a few starter candidates. We have looked at all of them in recent blogs so herewith a brief word on our selections.

Vice chancellors:

Members of this group has drawn attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons. They specialise in maximising their reward packages, admittedly a demanding activity and one which leaves little time or energy to tackle the more time honoured duties of their profession.

Holdenforth suggest the imposition of an immediate salary cap of £150k and an absolute ban on bonus payments.

That should do the trick.

Academy schools:

A splendid scheme for those spivs anxious to loot our cash strapped education sector.

Holdenforth – return those schools currently controlled via academies to local authority control.

Housing bosses starting with Persimmon:

It has been distressing to note the alacrity with a variety of crooks have invaded this sensitive sector and, under the pretence of providing housing for those struggling to get on the bottom rung of the housing ladder, have siphoned off huge amounts of the funds intended to help those in need.

The Persimmon example is only the most highly publicised – there are plenty more at the top helping themselves.

Holdenforth suggests that a key priority of an incoming Labour government would be to nip the activities of those prospering at the sharp practice end of the sector in the bud.

The charity sector.

Until recently we all thought of the charity sector as above suspicion, of selfless toilers in a bleak vineyard as they strove to alleviate the problems of poverty and deprivation.

Sadly, the sector did not emerge with flying colours from a detailed scrutiny of its activities by the media.

Their transgressions included:

* Very high pay for senior charity managers

*  Unscrupulous method being employed to extract donations

The situation got worse as the investigations were extended to cover charity work overseas – all the problems located on the home front plus some unseemly findings about supplying much needed supplies only in exchange for favours of a sexual nature.

* One way and another it appeared that a significant amount of the cash donated by the public for charitable purposes was never received by the intended recipients.

HF suggests that:

* Effective transparent controls be put in place to record the performance of our charities.

* Senior managers still on charity payrolls found to be guilty of unacceptable behaviour to be given the P45 treatment.

The planned merger between Sainsbury and Asda

Holdenforth would like a Labour government to appraise this plan, not from the point of view of the board members of the two giant retailers but rather from the standpoint of their employees and of the general public.

Rich pensioners:

As an old timer I am anxious to ensure that the frail and the aged are protected to the fullest extent possible from those that would exploit them.

This anxiety does not extend to affluent pensioners.

There is a ready source of extra revenue to assist our new government here – simply jack up the tax rates for those in receipt of large and in many cases inflation proofed pensions.

It is unlikely that this group would pack up and leave and if they did – so let it be.

The pay day lenders:- the Wonga sector.

Nye Bevan spoke disparagingly of this group in the passage quoted earlier.

By definition, they prey on those least able to cope with the most minor disruptions.

Holdenforth suggests that Labour squeeze the pay day lenders, those who get rich via usury, as an early priority.

The Gambling Sector

Signs of gambling are ubiquitous  and reach into the very core of our economy. The activity enriches  managers and adds to poverty of the desperate the punters.

The gambling sector is a strong candidate for the activity featuring the most anti social elements of a decaying society.

So – Holdenforth to Mr Corbyn, copy to Mr McDonnell – get after this sector, curb its activities using whatever powers you have at your disposal to do so.

Conclusion

By way of conclusion, and given that the catalogue of candidates eligible for inclusion in this section is depressingly long, Holdenforth suggests that the new Labour Government focus on the trees with low hanging fruit and harvest the easy pickings

We noted that one policy of a Labour Government will be focus on developing the use of green energy and that this initiative would create 400,000 new jobs.

Holdenforth is uneasy about this – we are concerned that the Green movement is closer to a religious movement than practical political force. We at Holdenforth are frackers – nice, easy to extract, more likely to keep the lights on.

We old timers are more concerned about keeping warm than being green.

There – we said it!

 

 

 

Will the UK be leaving the EU or remaining in the EU?

 

By the end of the Tory Party Conference which is to end in a few days’ time, we – the UK electorate – might be a little clearer as to the most likely answer to the question posed in the blog title.

I was tempted to adopt an Asquithian position – wait and see – but I overcame my reservations in order to have my say now, and then compare my predictions and forebodings with the actual outcome.

I noted that Peter Kellner, when interviewed during the Labour Party Conference, was most reluctant to be drawn either on the outcome of a second referendum, were there to be one, or on the outcome of a General Election, again, were there to be one.

Why should Holdenforth walk where the sharpest of our pollsters fears to tread?

I’ll tell you why: Holdenforth has no reputation for prescience to lose – so here goes.

(Before we move on – readers of Holdenforth – assuming that are any – may recall that the wife of Peter Kellner, Catherine Ashcroft, was at one time the Foreign Secretary of the EU. That relationship would surely have given Mr Kellner an insider view of the workings of the EU. What chance has Holdenforth got, operating as it does on the fringe of the border of the periphery of events?)

Will the UK be exiting the EU or will it be remaining in the EU?

A status report on the stances currently held by the two main parties and by other interested parties.

 The Labour Party

“Senator Muskie said that policy had to be democratically decided. Dean Acheson turned on him… ‘Are you trying to say, Senator, that United States foreign policy should be determined in a series of little town meeting? Don’t ask them, Senator, tell them.’”
Portrait of Dean Acheson” by Roy Jenkins

Jeremy Corbyn said during the conference that if the wish of the Labour Party is for a second referendum then he will accept that wish in the true democratic spirit, and, if the opportunity to implement it presents itself – he would implement it.

Holdenforth suspects that Mr Corbyn is confused in his thinking: we would prefer him to adopt the robust approach of Dean Acheson and tell us what ought to happen.

A shaky start to the resolution of not just a crucial issue by Mr Corbyn: it is THE crucial issue.

 The Tory Party

“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is the Russian national interest.”
Winston Churchill.

I think that the Churchillian view of Russia expressed in 1939 might reasonably cover the view of Holdenforth about the Tory party as it gingerly approaches its annual conference to be held in the coming week.

Uncertainty prevails but perhaps the key here is the sum of the personal prospects of the current Tory members of the House of Commons – as perceived by themselves. What, they will ask themselves, is the best outcome for me in terms of my political prospects?

Holdenforth believes that this is the unspoken but all-pervasive sentiment among Tory parliamentarians.

 Any others?

“Without Tony Blair there can be no new party. If a centrist regrouping is to shake up British politics it will have to be led or at least guided by the former prime minister”

Lord Finkelstein The Times, September 19, 2018

In his column, Danny Finkelstein was at his brilliant, infuriating best as he set out the case for any plausible third party to be led or, at the very least, strongly influenced by Tony Blair.

 Where does Holdenforth stand on this crucial issue?

Here is our preferred outcome in our preferred sequence of events.

* We want an immediate general election that will be, like the last general election in June 2017, a single issue election – to leave the EU or to remain in the EU. We will call this general election Brexel.

* We forecast that the pressures created by and following the calling of Brexel will effectively force all the competing parties to spell out their positions – in or out?

* We further forecast that common sense will prevail and that the Brexel will be won by the Remainers regardless of their appeal or lack of it on other policy areas.

* We further insist that in the highly probable event that Brexel is won by the Remainers, there would be no need for an in-out referendum because the Brexel victory would be a sufficient democratic outcome to overturn the 2016 referendum.

* The final step could not be more simple – a short note from the newly elected HMG to the EU authorities to inform them formally that they should regard Brexit as dead, and please to cancel our earlier application to invoke article 50.

* At this point – Goodbye Brexit – Job done – back to business as usual.

 Why exactly does Holdenforth want the in-out decision to be taken by The House of Commons?

Because the decision to hold a referendum ought never to have been taken in the first place.

The in-out decision was an ill-judged decision by David Cameron, and one which ended a promising political career.

The solution put forward by Holdenforth returns the in-out decision back where it belongs: Parliament.

A glance back on how we, the  UK people, got to be burdened by Brexit.

I have previously written at length on the background to this fiasco: on the contribution of Mr Cameron, and his decision to use the ludicrous option of a referendum to put the allegedly sensitive EU membership issue to bed when he had no need to do so. The referendum device is a clumsy and wholly inappropriate tool for the resolution of most political issues, and especially so for issues with major long-term consequences. To put the charge against Mr Cameron more bluntly – Mr Cameron took a wholly unnecessary and reckless gamble in which he put narrow party interests above the national interest.

In the UK, as in most democracies we elect politicians to take major decisions on our behalf.

Sadly Mr Cameron, by his misjudgements and failures, triggered the worst of all outcomes, that is a Brexit outcome. The Brexit outcome quickly triggered his own resignation and a period of unprecedented political, economic and social turmoil; he snatched a UK defeat from the jaws of victory.

There can also be no doubt that the dubious duo of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove bears more responsibility for the outcome than any of the other participants. It has to be said, not necessarily in their favour, that their relaxed and flexible attitude to the truth aided their assertions about the bleak prospects facing the UK in the event of a remain outcome.

It was ironic that at the very moment of their triumph, Mr Gove made a dash to join the contenders for the Tory leadership following the resignation of Mr Cameron, taking care to trip up Boris Johnson whilst doing so. A short time later Johnson fled the field leaving others to deal with the wreckage that he had thoughtfully bequeathed.

However, one of Mrs May’s earliest moves as PM was to announce a thought provoking division of labour with regard to the politicians charged with arranging the small matter of the departure of the UK from Europe, the unedifying trio of  Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and David Davis: the appointment of BOJO as Foreign Secretary caused the most surprise given his erratic and eccentric track record.

It soon became apparent that Mrs May and the Brexit Three had been so preoccupied with positioning themselves for a favourable personal outcome to the referendum that individually and collectively they had no idea about what to do next.

After a while the gap between aspiration and a plausible Brexit plan became so obvious to the public that Mrs May announced magisterially that “Brexit means Brexit.”

Quite So – and F*** All means F*** All!

 “It (the oratory of Stanley Baldwin) lifts the discussion on to so abstract a plane that the minds of the hearers are relieved of the effort of considering the details of the immediate problems.
Nye Bevan in a less than flattering portrait of Stanley Baldwin.  Tribune 1937

Likewise the oratory of Mrs May.

“It seems entirely possible that saying nothing at all comes naturally to Mrs May.”
Iain Martin, The Times.

However, as I wrote in an article published by Tribune in January 2018, the bulk of Parliamentarians remain keen to reverse the result of the referendum.

For our part, we assert that the sheer enormous scale of the output bellowed out from our traditional media and from our ever-expanding social media have done little to clarify the complexity of the in-out debate for the general public.

The unedifying spectacle of the interminable 24/7 yapping about the pros and cons of Brexit with every pontificating political and media Tom, Dick and Harry galloping from studio to keyboard results only in triggering yet further confusion.

(A word on a pet Holdenforth dislike from the wide world of UK media. I refer to the Andrew Marr show – the great political showpiece of the BBC. It beggars belief that anyone can take seriously the sight and sound of Andrew Marr – the great suppressor of investigative reporting when he was under the spotlight – attempting to grill a passing politico. Evidently in the view of the BBC – it takes one  impostor to know one.

How is the political re-grouping outlined by Lord Finkelstein going to come about and why does Holdenforth assert with jaunty confidence that it will come about?

Broadly along the following lines.

  1. We will have a Brexel in which a serious Bremain party is formed to campaign on the single issue of in-out. This will be the Remain Party.
  2. “ Joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth , more than ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” Luke, 15,7

Holdenforth will welcome to the Remain fold all who see the errors of their ways, and, more guardedly, those who opt to join the Remain cause solely to save their political careers.

As the In-out general election gathers momentum – sorry about that term – no double entendre intended – current and would be Members of Parliament will  desperately scuttle hither and thither to identify the likely winners, and then reluctantly cosy up to and embrace the party they perceive as emerging as the winners.

  1. The Remain Party will secure a majority in Brexel and immediately kill off Brexit.
  2. The Remain Party will assume office and get on with the mundane but essential job of governing the country.

 Who are the votewinning heavyweights that Holdenforth would like to see recruited to the remain cause?

As well as Blair, and in no special order:

From Labour ranks:- Brown, Mandelson, Lords Hattersley Kinnock and Adonis, Hutton, Miliband D and Miliband E,

From Tory ranks:- Major, Cameron (yes, Cameron  – a repenting sinner if ever there was one), Lord Heseltine, Osborne.

Holdenforth worries that our list may be top heavy with members of the House of Lords but then – beggars can’t be choosers.

No need to welcome the current Tory Remainers with Anna Soubry – they are there already.

What happens next

* The Tory conference holds out the promise a uniquely entreating combination of farce and tragedy.

* We at Holdenforth have said what we want to happen and what we think will happen. Our view as to we want to happen will not change – we are committed Remainers.

* Holdenforth will follow events at the Tory conference closely and get back to you as to what we think will happen when the dust has settled on the Tory bloodbath next week.