Archive for the 'CON Leadership' Category


Boris vacillated on Darroch because he’s weak, not because of Trump

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

His verbal grandiosity is a mask for a lack of self-confidence

Boris Johnson has always had a facility for a briefly memorable turn of phrase. Whether referring to table tennis as, archaically, ‘whiff-whaff’ or describing Brexit talks extending into further rounds beyond October 31 as the ‘hamster wheel of doom’, Johnson’s words have the capacity to amuse and distract. For a politician, that’s a useful skill up to a point.

The problem is that the phrases, like Johnson himself, tend towards daftness and absurdity. They are memorable at the time because while they might pithily sum something up, they also reduce its seriousness. How can a No Deal Brexit really be all that bad if it’s like a hamster? That lack of seriousness is also why the words are ephemeral: the genuinely great quotes of history are anchored to, and enhance, real endeavour – whether that already achieved or that being exhorted.

Johnson has of course played the clown for decades and rarely has it done him harm. Certainly, there’ve been failures – sackings, failed marriages and so on (if he becomes PM, he’ll have been divorced as many times as all previous 54 prime ministers combined once his present marriage is dissolved) – but always he’s bounced back. It’s hard to fall too far if no-one takes you too seriously to begin with, including yourself.

However, here’s an unanswered question: why doesn’t Boris appear to take himself very seriously? Is it all a tactic to slide to the top, under the radar or is there more to it than that? After all, he’s an intellectually capable man. He could have, had he wanted to, pursued a much more conventional route to the top. Granted, it wouldn’t have been as colourful but nor might it have suffered the pratfalls.

The simple answer though is that it would have been too much hard work. Theresa May’s predecessor had something of a reputation of an essay-crisis prime minister but it’s nothing compared to the reputation for disorganisation and lack of respect for expectations and norms of behaviour that her likely successor has amassed over the years; one which goes back to his school days. Far easier to not bother and then claim exemption with a smile, a bon mot and puppy eyes.

Those behaviours might be the result of laziness but they could well be – and I think are – the consequence of something else too. I don’t think that Boris trusts himself (and indeed, why should he?). I don’t think that he has confidence in his judgement and that’s why he tends not to make judgements – or at least, when he does, he does so on whims and without any great forethought.

All of which suggests a different answer to the question as to why he didn’t back up Sir Kim Darroch, after the latter suffered a tirade of abuse from Donald Trump (unlike Jeremy Hunt, who was clear and robust on the matter).

The conspiracy theorists have it that Boris is in Trump’s pocket and failed to back Darroch because he was doing the president’s bidding, presumably in the hope of some trade deal. This misreads the situation, to my mind. If Johnson had wanted to appeal to Trump’s vanity on the issue, he would have called directly for Darroch to be replaced; he didn’t. It would have been easy enough to make the case: ultimately Darroch himself did so. But Boris vacillated and avoided addressing the issue at all. Rather than take a stand on either side, he failed to take a decision or offer a lead. This rather implies that the problem with Johnson here is not that he’s in Trump’s pocket but simply that he’s weak: incapable of assessing the situation, forming a policy and clearly stating it. Make of that what you will as regards any attempt by him to negotiate with the EU.

Quite how Johnson’s inadequacy for the premiership will play out in practice is another matter. For all the talk of proroguing parliament in order to facilitate No Deal, I don’t think he has the spine needed to carry through such a radical action (which, in any case, I expect that parliament would frustrate via a Vote of No Confidence were it to be tried). Perhaps his natural laziness might prove a blessing in disguise, if surrounded by a talented cabinet who could be left to get on with their jobs – a sizable ‘if’. That at least would be a welcome improvement from the hyper-control of the May ministry.

More likely though is that on the crucial issue of the day, the government’s policy will be marked by drift, high-level verbiage without detail, unsubstantiated optimism and an inability to reconcile conflicting promises made without having understood the consequences at the time. Which is to say, it will ultimately be marked – like him – by failure.

David Herdson


What it takes to be a good leader

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

At one of his RoryforLeader rallies, Rory Stewart paid a heartfelt tribute to David Gauke and the three things he learnt about leadership from him. (1) Gauke communicated his values to his team, which they respected him for; (2) he genuinely listened to them and their arguments; and (3) finally, he had courage and was willing to make tough choices.

It is rare to see politicians pay genuine tribute to each other, at least while they are still practising.  Rarer still for politicians to pay tribute to those who work for them while it still matters (as Gauke did last week), let alone to the many public servants, from the most junior to the most senior, in the many different public sector entities providing services to us.

It is these individuals who try to make government work, who enact the policies proclaimed with great fanfare, who do all the (often) unloved, unseen but essential behind-the-scenes work which ensures that politicians can strut on the public stage for the plaudits they feel they deserve. In an age which seems to value charisma, image and personality, it is easy to forget that government is above all a collective endeavour.  Those at the top can achieve nothing without the hard work of the unsung.  It’s a lesson many at the top of companies would do well to learn too.

It is for this reason that those in positions of leadership – or aspiring to them – know (or ought to) that the one thing they need from those they lead is their trust and that to earn that they need to take responsibility.  That is what being a leader, whether it is of a team of 6 or a company employing hundreds or a government, means: “The buck stops here.”  

It is something which politicians of a certain vintage seemed to understand instinctively.  One striking example was Lord Carrington, Foreign Secretary 1979-1982, subsequently Nato Secretary-General and the last politician to have served in Churchill’s post-war Cabinet.

Much of the commentary on him when he died focused on his resignation following the Falklands invasion.  Though absolved of personal blame by the Franks Report, he explained his decision to resign thus: “It did not seem to me a time for self-justification and certainly not to cling to office.  I think the country is more important than oneself.”  In his autobiography he wrote: “The nation feels that there has been a disgrace. Someone must have been to blame. The disgrace must be purged. The person to purge it should be the minister in charge. That was me.”  

Those 7 sentences admirably summarise what it means to be in charge and to take responsibility when something goes wrong on your watch.

It was not the first time Carrington had offered his resignation.  As a very junior minister at the time of the Crichel Down affair in 1954 (a landmark case on the rights of individuals vs the interests of the state and the standards to be expected of Ministers) he had offered to resign but had been refused.  It was the senior Minister in charge who resigned following findings of severe maladministration in his department, the first such Ministerial resignation since 1917.  The civil servants got it wrong; but it was the politicians who took responsibility.

Most surprisingly of all, despite being awarded the Military Cross in 1945, Carrington never mentioned it in his autobiography, stating that he only got it because of the good men he had under him and that it was “all such a rough raffle. Pot luck – nothing to do with me.”  Well, hardly.

Still, that is what marks out leaders: recognising that being senior means taking responsibility even when you are not to blame and having the humility to know that your own achievements rest on the hard work of others (and a fair amount of luck) at least as much as on your own efforts.

And how might trust be earned?  Well, by being trustworthy, by being a person of moral courage, by having a character which inspires confidence, by those working for you, whether directly or indirectly, knowing in their bones that you will have your team’s back.  As General Sir Patrick Howard-Dobson puts it in the Leadership Guide for Sandhurst cadets:

 “Some day you may have to lead men into battle and ask them to do their duty, and you will do it through Love.  You must always put them first……… If you do this you’ll find that you never have to worry about yourself, because as you look after them, so they will look after you.  As they come to know that you love and care for them, so they will love you, and through love for you and for one another they will be the best soldiers the world has seen.”    Easier to describe than do, of course.

Still, it is striking how often in recent years the default reaction of people in positions of responsibility, particularly in politics, is to find someone else to blame. Public servants are expendable or there to be attacked if some greater cause requires it: winning battles with journalists (Dr David Kelly), attacking an unloved agreement (Oliver Robbins), not wishing to hear hard truths (Ivan Rogers), judges ruling that Parliament must be involved before Article 50 is triggered (pushing Brexit through).    This has become more marked as politicians have found it harder to reach decisions on difficult and divisive issues.  As Gauke put it: “Those grappling with complex problems are not viewed as public servants but as engaged in a conspiracy to seek to frustrate the will of the public. They are ‘enemies of the people’.”  

Rather than accept that it is for politicians to find a way through, however hard that may be, the finger is pointed at others, often those who cannot answer back or who have a greater sense of public duty.  Words such as “traitors” and “enemies” and “true believers” are used and poison the national conversation.  So it is not so very surprising that someone might think that the destruction of the career of an experienced, hard-working and distinguished Ambassador is acceptable collateral damage in the greater cause of whatever the leaker and those behind him or her wanted to achieve.  Nor is it very surprising to find politicians mealy-mouthed about supporting those who are doing their job.  

Johnson’s equivocation about Sir Kim Darroch was as contemptible as – and followed in the same dishonourable tradition of – Liz Truss’s failure, despite being Lord Chancellor and having a legal duty to do so, to defend the Court of Appeal  (until far too late and far too feebly) when judges were attacked for making a ruling on Article 50 which some politicians and commentators found inconvenient.  Boris allowed or wanted people to believe that, to him, his friendship with Trump was more important than defending British public servants

What lessons might be learnt?

First, if Boris becomes PM, those who work for him know that they cannot expect him to have their backs if it does not suit him, that he is a politician who does what he wants, not what he ought.  He will have to work hard to earn their trust and loyalty and starts with a considerable deficit.  It may not be just fractious MPs he needs to worry about most but civil servants who know how he has treated one of their own.

Second, there are those who seem to think that the politicisation of certain parts of the civil service is necessary, that rather than have civil servants serving the government, whatever its political flavour, certain roles should be filled by those who explicitly support the government’s political aims, not as professionals doing their jobs but as political partisans.  This necessarily downgrades the importance of independent advice and speaking truth to power.  Those who push this agenda seem not to care whether this will serve the country well.

Third, one policy (Brexit, enacted in one particular way) is seen as so important that virtually anything is acceptable to achieve it, including proroguing Parliament.  That this might undermine the very institutions and conventions which any democratic and stable society requires to function, especially if in the hands of political opponents, seems irrelevant.  No-one seems to ask themselves the question: “Would I want my opponent to have this power?  If no, I should not have it either.”

And finally the EU knows that, for all Boris’s talk about wanting the EU to see the whites of his eyes on a No Deal exit, he is a politician who caves in to bullies.    In seeking to enhance his personal relationship with a US President, Boris has made Britain, if led by him, appear weak.  Other countries too will have noted this, China and the US above all.  Rather than ape Churchill, Boris would do better to reflect on Carrington’s words: “the country is more important than oneself.”




A 16/1 tip to start off your Sunday morning

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Graphics: top one is from Paddy Power, the bottom one is from Ladbrokes

Why I’m backing Boris Johnson to receive between 80% to 89.99% of the vote.

If the YouGov polling is accurate then Boris Johnson is going to win a landslide in the leadership contest, yesterday’s poll had him winning 74% to 26%.

My view is that polling for these leadership elections is a lot easier for YouGov than most of the other political polling they carry out. The electorate for leadership elections are much more homogenous and smaller than for national elections. With only two candidates there’s less need for adjustment for things like tactical voting. YouGov’s very large panel has managed to get the 2005 Tory leadership contest right, as they did more recently with Labour’s leadership elections in 2015 and 2017.

With most of the ballot papers being sent back I think the result has been already decided so it only takes a little bit of overperformance by Boris Johnson and a little bit of underperformance by Jeremy Hunt coupled with a minor sampling error for Boris Johnson to receive 80% to 89.99% of the vote which makes the 16/1 Paddy Power offer very attractive.

The only thing that might make me nervous is if Boris Johnson starts tacking away from the Jonestown Brexit at all costs wing of Tory membership. His comments over the weekend might see a few Tory members who prioritise Brexit over the Union decide Boris Johnson isn’t the man for them.



Johnson looks a certainty as YouGov CON members’ poll has him leading 74-26

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Get ready for PM Johnson

One thing that we’ve learned over the last two decades is that we can rely of YouGov CON members’ polling to give a pretty accurate picture of the outcome of a leadership ballot. Before IDS and Cameron’s victories in the postal ballots the firm had the final outcomes to within a point both times.

So tonight’s news in the Times that Johnson is ahead by 74-26 leaves us in little doubt about the outcome. That margin is overwhelming.

A new question might be whether he actually gets the keys of Number 10 if his election actually leads to a few prominent CON MPs quitting the party and threatening to vote against him in a Commons no confidence move.

The betting is swinging even further to the ex-Mayor.

Mike Smithson


The harsh facts that the leadership contenders need to face

Friday, July 5th, 2019

Lawyers are rarely regarded with affection.  Lawyers-turned-politicians even less so.  Nonetheless David Gauke’s speech at this week’s Lord Mayor’s banquet is worth a careful read, not least for its defence of the rule of law as a critical element underpinning democracy (a word never off the lips of some politicians wholly ignorant that something more than shouting “The people have voted” repeatedly is needed to sustain a democracy).  Gauke’s quiet praise for the unfashionable virtues of public service, intellectual rigour, a serious determination to grapple with complex problems, the wish to reach “a decision based on what is right and not necessarily what is superficially popular”, for the value of experience and evidence was doubtless welcomed by his audience.   But its applicability is wider, as he recognised.  He cannot be the only person who wishes that politicians would deal “with the world as we find it, not as we imagine or represent it to be.”

 “We must face facts.” he said, calling it his guiding political principle.  Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the two Tory leadership candidates also tried to do so, at least when they pause for air in between breathlessly promising more and more spending, tax cuts and all sorts of other goodies (Cheaper sugar! The freedom to hunt foxes!)? It’s like a political summer sale, each more desperate than the other to get voters to buy their offering.  Johnson channels his inner Labourite, insisting that there is plenty of money for his spending promises.  Hunt too promises more cash for favoured causes.  That is when he’s not saying that bankruptcies and unemployment are the necessary price others must pay for Brexit.  Perhaps he was repurposing Thorpe’s acid comment on Macmillan’s dismissal of Cabinet Ministers (“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his business and job for a no-deal Brexit.”).  Each is delighted to be talking about something other than Brexit. This will be done, without question, they solemnly assert and, on 1 November, all will be for the best in the best of all EU-free worlds.

So here are some facts and one assumption for our leadership candidates.  Let’s assume that it is not possible to agree a different Withdrawal Agreement with the EU and get it passed by Parliament by the witching hour.  On Halloween, Britain’s treat will be to leave the EU without any sort of agreement with the hated colonial oppressor(© Miss Widdecombe MEP).

An end state?

A No Deal exit is not an end state.  The absence of an agreement does not mean that Britain reverts to its original Eden.  It means that Britain moves from what it has been used to (laws, regulations, cases, customs, assumptions about the future) to, well what, exactly?

WTO Rules

Ah yes, those fabled WTO rules. (Let’s set aside the delicious irony of escaping from EU-imposed rules to ones imposed by a world body.)  They too are not a clear option.  Choices have to be made.  Will Britain charge tariffs on imports and, if so, on what and at what level?  What are the consequences of these choices? Low or no tariffs will severely harm a number of sectors, make imports cheap for consumers but provide little incentive for countries to enter into FTAs.  What could Britain offer if access to its markets was already open?  High tariffs increase costs for businesses and consumers here.  How will these costs and trade-offs be explained to voters?  How will they be decided?  How long will Britain be in this WTO state?  Businesses, investors, consumers would like to know.  Plans do, after all, need to be made.  Not everyone has the luxury of making it up as they go along, surprising as this may seem to those used to doing their job at the last possible minute.  After an essay crisis Prime Minister  must we now endure one with the same lax and lazy approach to his columns?

Not Made in Britain

When WTO rules are discussed it is invariably in relation to goods.  And almost invariably tariffs are seen as the only real issue, at least by those keenest on a no deal Brexit.  (Certificates of Origin wave frantically trying to get attention.  Let’s ignore them.  Most Tory politicians have, after all.) But manufacturing is no longer the principal way Britain earns its living.  Services are and here Non-Tariff Barriers matter very much more and are much less amenable to WTO jurisdiction or resolution.  A country which sells services needs to think much harder than Britain has done about how to do so in a world where other countries are able and may – in order to increase their bargaining power vis-à-vis a Britain desperate for FTAs – be very willing to erect NTBs against Britain’s service sectors.

No special status

Being an ex-EU member confers no special status. We won’t get invited to family events for the sake of the children.  Britain will be a third country.  That is a new state, one very different to what we had before 1973.  Whatever the nostalgic impulses of some Brexiteers, there will be no return to the past. No-one aiming for power seems to have thought at all about what being a third country outside of all the agreements it has with the EU and, through it with others, will be like.  Canada’s politely brutal dismissal of Britain’s request to roll over its existing EU-negotiated trade deal is a portent of what trade negotiations will be like.  It would be foolish to assume that Britain will get any favours, whether from the EU or Commonwealth countries.

An FTA with the EU

The EU has often been accused of hiding its true intentions, of lying even.  And yet it has repeatedly made clear that if the Withdrawal Agreement is rejected, the same issues (citizens, money and NI) will need to be addressed before a FTA can be contemplated.  A hard Brexit does not remove these; it merely postpones them to a time and in circumstances considerably less favourable to Britain than now. The EU has also repeatedly said that any short-term agreements to mitigate the effects of a no deal departure will be less favourable to Britain than now.  Why wouldn’t that be so?  A no deal departure will cause disruption to the EU, considerably so in some countries.  Why wouldn’t this lead to annoyance and a desire to recoup the costs from the party causing these problems?

Why would the EU rush to start talks on an FTA or rush to conclude them? It has the luxury of time, a united front and expert knowledge about how to negotiate trade agreements.  Britain does not. 

The EU may even see an opportunity to weaken and take advantage of a country which is now a competitor.  The scoundrels!  As if Britain wouldn’t do exactly the same in the EU’s position.  As if it hasn’t done exactly that in the past.  Ask the Chinese.

There is a curious dissonance about No Deal Brexiteers.  Brexit without any sort of deal is deemed essential even if the costs to the economy are high.  These are costs that absolutely must be borne.  And yet at the same time both Hunt and Johnson blithely assume that Britain’s economy will continue much as now, even as the legal, regulatory and commercial basis on which much of it depends is torn up, and that even following a damaging no deal exit it will be able to support their tax and spending promises. Perhaps unshackled by EU rules Britain’s economy will boom. Perhaps. Just as likely – perhaps more so – is that the costs of change will place an additional burden as the country adjusts to new realities.  (See the early 1980’s for how difficult and divisive such adjustment can be.) It is certainly not safe to assume that tax generating sectors (finance, say) will continue to be as lucrative as before.

Even more curious is the way both candidates offer up their negotiating skills as a selling point as if it weren’t July 2019 but July 2016 or 2017 and there was still time to negotiate an agreement, as if red lines hadn’t been drawn, as if we were starting from scratch.  Maybe either might have been better negotiators than May, though if Johnson has such talents he kept them well hidden while in Cabinet. But we are not starting from scratch; the time provided by Article 50 is nearly at an end; an agreement is on offer; and it is unlikely to be changed in any meaningful way in the time available. It is not negotiating skills that are needed but those of a magician.

Or perhaps if the Lord Chancellor’s words are heeded – “Change comes with urgency sometimes, but must always be approached in a considered way to avoid negative unintended consequences.” we could have an “honest, respectful public debate that lays out all the options and all the consequences” and politicians who “relentlessly focus on reality”.

We could.  But we won’t.  We’re not yet ready to face facts.



A taste of PMQs with PM Johnson? How he handled City Hall question time while London Mayor

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

And what did over a sugar tax when Mayor

Mike Smithson


Robert Peston suggesting that the battle between Hunt and Johnson much tighter than anybody thought

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Johnson supporter: “Right now I would say it is only 60:40 Boris wins”

With voting now taking place amongst CON members ITV’s Politcal Editor, Robert Peston writes on the Coffee House blog

According to one of Johnson’s more senior and respected supporters, the questions raised about whether he treats women with proper respect and has the powers of concentration and grasp of important detail necessary for any PM have been gnawing at the consciences of more Tory members than is evident from the adoration of him they manifest at hustings.

‘Right now I would say it is only 60:40 Boris wins’ says one veteran.

So there is more of a game on than would have been anticipated when Johnson won the backing of more than half of Tory MPs and Hunt fewer than a quarter.”

Clearly this is just based on one person’s impression and we need to see new member polling to get a handle on whether this is on the right lines. Numbers from a CONHome survey put the split at 66% to 30% which is some way off what Peston’s source is telling him.

As well as Brexit the big issue on the minds of members surely is whether their choice would help the party to do best in a general election. At the end of last week YouGov found thst Hunt was rated ahead of Johnson as “Best PM” although CON supporters have the edge to Johnson. But in a general election the blue team need converts.

There’s little doubt that Hunt has far exceeded expectations in the campaign and he seems totally focused on getting the top job. He appears to believe he can snatch a victory.

In the betting Johnson remains the 87% chance favourite to win the leadership and an 84% chance of succeeding TMay as next PM.

Mike Smithson


The looming fork in the road and the path many MPs will have to make

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

You need to watch politics in split-screen at the moment. In both Labour and the Conservatives, a group of politicians has come to a fork in the road. In both cases, there is no shortage of fellow party supporters telling them to fork off.

Conservative Remainers have had a desperate few years. The referendum result was not the start of it. Well before they lost the referendum, they had lost their party. They have spent the last three years seeking to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit and hunkering down until the delirium has abated.

The delirium is not abating: the fever is getting worse. MPs are being threatened with deselection for opposing Brexit despite having voted for the withdrawal agreement three times. During the early stages of the leadership election campaign, there were dark whispers that Michael Gove was the preferred Remain candidate. That’s Michael Gove, leader of Vote Leave.

Both of the leadership candidates to be presented to the membership have committed to a no deal Brexit if necessary and neither has come up with a remotely plausible plan for avoiding that. When Ruth Davidson optimistically praised Jeremy Hunt for putting the Union first, Julia Hartley-Brewer, one of the high priestesses of the Brexit cult, pronounced that: “Any Tory leadership candidate who puts the Union first has absolutely no intention of delivering Brexit”.

Boris Johnson, the runaway favourite, has committed to leaving the EU deal or no deal on 31 October 2019. It does not seem possible either to enter into negotiations with the EU or to pass the relevant legislation by that date, and the warnings about what it might mean in practice continue to pile up. He is not ruling out either ignoring Parliament or proroguing it: democracy itself might be sacrificed to no deal Brexit.

Any Conservative who regards no deal Brexit as disastrous has to accept that he or she is now fighting against mainstream party thinking on what all sides regard as the central question of the age. The party is about to elect a leader and give whoever wins a mandate to force through Brexit by hook or by crook.

There is going to be no place in the Conservative party for MPs who oppose that mandate. Such Conservatives need to decide whether they are going to take arms against a sea of troubles and if so how. Or they can decide to go quietly and acquiesce with a policy that they consider disastrous. A decision to wait and see is a decision to go quietly.

That dilemma is paralleled within the Labour party. The readmission of Chris Williamson to the party so that he can stand for re-election as a Labour MP, against the recommendation on his case at a time when the Labour party is being investigated in relation to anti-Semitism by the EHRC, gives the lie to the idea that the current leadership has the slightest intention of reining in its outriders. Jeremy Corbyn and his coterie have played grandmother’s footsteps with the rest of the party on the subject, creeping back to their own ways the moment they think that backs are turned.  

To be fair, they are right to be confident. Large numbers of MPs who have condemned anti-Semitism in the party campaigned for the Labour candidate in Peterborough who during the campaign had to apologise for her past actions. As with Republican senators after school shootings, it seems that thoughts and prayers are the preferred policy prescription to avoid repeats.

Any Labour MP who is serious about opposing anti-Semitism in the varieties found on the hard left has to accept that the Labour party under its current leadership will not reform on this subject. Either in essence they accept that getting Labour elected is more important than eliminating this anti-Semitism or they leave Labour. Expressions of outrage on Twitter without further actions are simply a decision that Labour getting elected is the most important thing.  Kvetching is just a smokescreen.

Politics is about priorities and both of these groups need to think what their priorities are. Conservative MPs who think a no deal Brexit is going to be bad, maybe even terrible, for the country, might nevertheless conclude that a Conservative government even under someone as unsuitable as Boris Johnson is better than the alternative. But if they do, they have to accept the compromise that they have made, to accept that they have willed what they see as a looming disaster. If they believe that no deal Brexit must be stopped, they must act now. Later is too late.

Labour MPs appalled by the anti-Semitism permeating through the party might similarly conclude that for all its flaws a Labour party committed to redistribution and improving the lot of the poorest in society is better than the alternative. But if they do, they have to accept that they have by necessary implication downgraded the need to oppose racism. If they believe that is a compromise too far, they must act now. There is nothing to wait for.

In both cases, meaningful action is going to require a break with their party. In both cases, this would mean breaking lifelong allegiances with the high probability of ending their political careers sooner rather than later. All of them will look at the unhappy year the TIGgers will have and shudder. But they have to ask themselves, really ask themselves, what they are in politics for. Better to fail with integrity than to fail without even trying to succeed. On that basis, the TIGgers have so far all done better than those who did not follow their lead.

In life, all of us from time to time are faced with times when there is an easy choice and a difficult choice. In the longer term, the difficult choice is almost always the right one. Time for quite a lot of MPs to start making some difficult choices.

Alastair Meeks