Brexit update – EU have agreed to a ‘Flextension’

From Missy:

The EU have agreed to a ‘Flextension’ up to three months. If the WAB is passed in that time then the UK can leave earlier.

The main dates are 30 November, 31 December, and 31 January.

Also, note the Benn Act is no longer relevant as it was for a specific event and specific time period, so if nothing agreed by end of January then there is still the possibility of leaving with No Agreement, unless Parliament plays fast and loose with the rules to again undermine the Government.

Further update: Parliament are debating an early election now. It is expected that the Lib Dems and SNP will support an election, but for 9 December not 12 December, and they are also expected to support a clean bill and vote down any amendments. The Government have said that they will support their motion to have the election on 9 December.

On the amendments, it was expected the opposition was going to try and introduce a lot of amendments to slow the bill down, including votes for 16yo, votes for EU citizens (they currently are unable to vote in a General Election, though Commonwealth citizens can), a second referendum, and extending the eligibility for non-resident UK citizens (it is currently 10 years living outside the UK).

Labour are expected to abstain from the vote, but the Government require 2/3 of Parliament to agree, so it should be able to pass with SNP and Lib Dem support.

Some highlights I have picked up from twitter:

* Boris Johnson has called Corbyn a chicken (again)
* Corbyn said he can’t support a 12 December vote as it will be too dark too early to vote, but he can possibly support a 9 December vote. The difference in sunshine hours between 9 December and 12 December is approximately 3 minutes.

 

Boris Johnson and European Commission agree on Withdrawal Agreement

…but the Democratic Unionist Party has refused to support it.

From Missy:

Boris Johnson and the European Commission have agreed a Withdrawal Agreement, it now has to be approved by the European Council tomorrow, and then the UK Parliament. The Government have called a Saturday sitting to debate and pass the Withdrawal Agreement, however, reports suggest that the opposition will vote against this sitting, despite going to court to ensure that the prorogation was overruled in order to debate Brexit (which they haven’t done at all).

I haven’t had a chance to read into the details of the deal, but my understanding is that the backstop has been removed and changed to an alternative arrangement keeping Northern Ireland in the Single Market, but not the Customs Union, with the biggest change being that there is reportedly a 4 year time limit which can be extended with permission of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It will be interesting to see what the new Agreement says, and how it compares with May’s deal.

Gezza: “Aljaz tv reporter says the DUP’s not happy with it?”

Missy:

No-one seems to be apparently. DUP want WTO Brexit so they won’t be happy with anything. However, it is expected the DUP are playing politics but will come around to voting for it.

Apparently Jean Claude Juncker has said no more extensions which nullifies the Benn Act if he is speaking for the EU. The Government motion for Saturday is apparently that a no in this means no deal, this is it for the UK.

Corbyn is also in a difficult position, he is reportedly doing a three line whip to vote against the deal, has said he won’t agree to a General Election until there is an extension, and he wants a second referendum before a General Election on the deal.

On point 1: he heavily criticised Conservatives for removing the whip from those that voted against the Government so either looks weak or a hypocrite.

On point 2: he has not said what he will do if the EU refuse an extension, just continually that he will agree an election when the extension has been agreed to.

On Point 3: he has given mixed messages regarding a second referendum. He is certainly under pressure to have one from his party, and his sudden support seems to be half hearted and in the view that Boris would lose in a referendum.

This seems to be the end of Corbyn, he has not held a consistent or stable position on Brexit for three years, and he gambled that Boris would not get a deal and have to extend and would subsequently be blamed for the delay. It is a gamble that has not paid off.

BBC: New Brexit deal agreed but DUP refuses support

In a statement, the Democratic Unionist Party, which the government relies on for support in key votes, said: “These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union.”

People vs Parliament

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9881074/election-choice-johnson-corbyn-majority/

A report from Missy in the UK


At the beginning of September Parliament returned from summer recess and boy has it been interesting. First of all is the news that after a summer of threatening a Vote of No Confidence Jeremy Corbyn, (as I predicted), bottled it and failed to table a Vote of No Confidence, however, it doesn’t mean that Parliament has been short of drama.

The opposition managed to take control of the order paper with the assistance of a number of Remain supporting Conservative MPs, and they passed the Withdrawal Act 2 (also known as the Benn Act), immediately after this passed in the House of Commons the PM tabled a motion for a General Election to be held on 15 October which was defeated.

This Act states the PM must ask for an extension to Article 50 by 19 October, and that it has to be until 31 January at the earliest, however, it also states that if the EU offer a longer extension he must accept it unless Parliament rejects it within 3 days. At first many thought it would be defeated as the Conservative Lords were heading for an epic filibuster on the Thursday and Friday, however, all of a sudden the filibuster was called off amidst reports that Corbyn agreed to vote for a General Election if the bill passed. The bill duly passed and the motion for a General Election was tabled again, however, Corbyn reneged and voted against it, prompting accusations of him being a chicken, the reality is most likely that Corbyn is aware of how badly he is doing in the polls and that Boris Johnson would get a good majority.

Whilst the Party Conferences were taking place after Prorogation, a number of court cases were taken out against the PM for the proroguing of Parliament. In Scotland a number of MPs went to court, and the Scottish High Court found in favour, ruling not only that the Prorogation was illegal but that the PM had lied to the Queen, though how they could say he lied to the Queen without actually calling the Queen as a witness to know what he said to her I don’t know. In England Gina Miller took a case to the High Court, which ruled that proroguing Parliament is a prerogative power making it a political process and therefore non justifiable. Both cases were appealed and last week the Supreme Court ruled that the proroguing of Parliament, whilst legal in itself, was prorogued for an excessive period of time and was therefore unlawful (as opposed to illegal). This means the Supreme Court have set a new legal precedent, and have made the proroguing of Parliament for excessive length of time unlawful.

So, last Wednesday Parliament resumed and despite the MPs saying they had to return to urgently debate Brexit they didn’t spend any time on Brexit. MP after MP lined up to have a pop at the PM and Attorney General, Boris however managed to still get the better of them. On a day that the Leader of the Opposition should have been able to have the PM on the ropes, it was the Leader of the Opposition that was on the back foot and the PM that came off the best.

Corbyn kept saying that the PM should resign, and called on Boris Johnson to resign several times, the response of the PM was to refuse to resign and tell Corbyn that if he wanted to get rid of him to agree to a General Election. The PM gave a one time offer that he would accept a Vote of No Confidence from any party that had the courage to call it, many were hoping the DUP would gazump Corbyn and call the vote, they didn’t however. Despite all opposition MPs saying that Boris Johnson should resign and wasn’t fit to be PM they stopped short of calling a Vote of No Confidence to trigger an election. The Government tabled a motion to recess Parliament for their Party Conference next week, they are the only party who have yet to have their Conference, and predictably the opposition spitefully blocked it, however, the Conservatives will go ahead with their conference in spite of it, but it is rumoured that the opposition will do everything they can to disrupt it.

It was reported today that the SNP have come to an agreement with Labour whereby they will support a Government of National Unity with Jeremy Corbyn as PM in return for Corbyn approving a second independence Referendum. This Government will be formed for a period time to gain an extension, have a second referendum which they hope will vote Remain so they can then revoke Article 50 before holding a General Election. This of course will have to depend on rebel Conservative MPs (who have mostly indicated they would abstain or vote against the Government, some even saying they would prefer a hard left Marxist Government to leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement), and the Liberal Democrats who have indicated they wouldn’t support Jeremy Corbyn as PM, but would support someone else. And here is where we get into the most likely campaign strategy for the Government if they can force a General Election in the next couple of months. Whether or not they extend Article 50 the Government’s strategy is most likely going to be the people vs Parliament angle, with Boris Johnson and the Conservatives on the side of the people and the rest the elitist establishment who want to tie the UK into the EU Empire.

This strategy could work, and I am sure those working in Number 10 are gathering the soundbites, videos etc to use, and the most useful for them will be from the Liberal Democrats. Jo Swinson, the Lib Dems leader, has already stated on the record that she would not accept a second referendum outcome for Leave, which most are using as justification for not supporting a second referendum as they believe she would not implement such a vote if she was leader, further the Liberal Democrats have voted to revoke Article 50 if they become Government without a vote, (so this contradicts their previous policy of a second referendum), lastly Guy Verhofstadt spoke at the Liberal Democrat Conference and his speech talked about the future EU Empire, now it is hard to know if the words were chosen incorrectly due to English being his second language, but regardless it does play into Leavers hands on the future empirical ambitions of the EU.

Boris Johnson’s reference to the Benn Act as the Surrender Act is, I believe, part of them positioning for a General Election campaign, it angers the opposition and the more it angers them the more that the PM uses that phrase and the more support he gets. Surrender Act was trending on Twitter when Boris used it, and many Leavers (not just Conservatives) are using the phrase. That is a key thing, May did not have the ability to bring together people from different political views, Boris however is managing to do that, a number of voters in the North of England who are being interviewed are saying they have never voted Conservative, but will vote for Boris.

All in all, I believe that sometime in the next 2-3 months there will be an election in the UK, and the Conservatives will be using the People vs Parliament strategy, it won’t be a formal or official slogan (that is most likely to be Get Brexit Done – which has also been trending on Twitter) but everything said by the Conservatives will be underpinning that message.

 

Queen has approved suspension of UK Parliament

From Missy in London:


It’s all on now! The Government has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament shortly after they return from Summer recess with the Queen’s speech to be delivered on 14 October.

All eyes are on the Leader of the Opposition to see if he will call a vote of No Confidence next week, or bottle it again.

BBC:  Parliament to be suspended in September

Boris Johnson said a Queen’s Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

But it means the time MPs have to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October would be cut.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was a “constitutional outrage”.

The Speaker, who does not traditionally comment on political announcements, continued: “However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of [suspending Parliament] now would be to stop [MPs] debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Suspending Parliament is not acceptable, it is not on. What the prime minister is doing is a smash and grab on our democracy to force through a no deal,” he said.

He said when MPs return to the Commons next Tuesday, “the first thing we’ll do is attempt legislation to prevent what [the PM] is doing”, followed by a vote of no confidence “at some point”.

The Privy Council have announced that the Queen has approved the suspension of Parliament.

Note, this is a long overdue suspension of Parliament, the current session is the longest Parliamentary session (time Parliament has sat without a speech from the throne) since the civil war, and is not that unusual.

There is some debate on social media regarding the suspension time, some suggest that it will only be an extra 3 or 4 days as Parliament would have been suspended for the Party Conference season in a couple of weeks, however, others suggest that this close to Brexit Parliament would have voted to continue sitting and not suspend Parliament. It seems the PM has gazumped those that may have tried to sit through the Conference season.

 

Johnson adamant UK will withdraw from Brexit by 31 October, EU not negotiating

Since becoming Prime Minister last month Boris Johnson has been working towards getting the United Kingdom out of the European Union by 31 October.

Negotiations between the UK and EU are at a stalemate, with the EU saying the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for negotiation, .

Attempts are being made by Europhile MPs to stop an exit without the Withdrawal Agreement or to stop an exit altogether.

“It seems all the attempts by Remainers to stop Brexit, or at least dilute it, have been what has led to the likelihood of a clean break.”

From Missy in London:


As everyone knows, Boris Johnson became PM about a month ago, and he has moved full speed ahead. As well as a number of domestic policies, he has been adamant that the UK will be out of the EU by 31 October, to this the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, has released more funds to spend on preparation for leaving with no Withdrawal Agreement, and all departments have stepped up planning.

Johnson has told the EU he is willing to talk with them, with a view to re-negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement, but not until the EU commit to the removal of the backstop. The EU refuse to budge and have stated that the Agreement is not up for negotiation, and only the non legally binding political declaration can be tweaked. So on negotiations they are currently at a stalemate. Whilst some officials, and the Brexit Secretary, have been to Brussels and Europe, Johnson has firmly refused to go, instead he has travelled the country and talked to politicians and people around the UK.

Meanwhile, in the UK Europhile MPs are stepping up their actions to stop an exit without a Withdrawal Agreement, or stop Brexit altogether. Among the actions they have taken is a court case, this has been filed in Scotland as the Scottish courts don’t close for the summer like the English courts do. The court case is to stop the PM from proroguing Parliament in October to force through a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU.

Other actions being looked at include Parliamentary processes, law changes. and a Vote of No Confidence. The last is the most likely action they will take, and is a bit of a gamble on both sides. Johnson currently has a majority of one with the DUP support, and a number of Conservative MPs have indicated they will either abstain or vote against the Government in such a vote, (though some Labour MPs have indicated they would break whip and vote for the Government so it could be balanced out).

If Johnson loses a Vote of No Confidence many are saying he should immediately step aside and let Jeremy Corbyn form a Government, however, by law he has 14 days to try and gain the confidence of the house, after which he can call a General Election, though the opposition also has 14 days to try and gain a majority in Parliament as well. The suggestion put forward yesterday by Jeremy Corbyn was for the Liberal Democrats, SNP and some Conservative MPs support him as a temporary PM to stop Brexit, and then call a GE or second referendum.

The issues with this proposal are threefold:

  1. He requires Conservative MPs to essentially support the installation of a Labour Government, and a hard left Labour Government at that, this will be unpalatable to not only other Conservative MPs, but also Conservative Members and voters. If any Conservative MPs did do this they would essentially be ending their careers. Further, as the Labour Party are currently under investigation for their handling of anti semitism claims, and the accusation that anti semitism is being enabled by the leadership team and their staff, so any Conservative members who vote for Corbyn will be tainted by the anti semitism scandal, (some already are being connected to it by just suggesting they will consider the idea).
  2. Corbyn does not have majority support within Parliament, and a number of his own MPs have said publicly they would not back him in this scenario, it is expected that more Labour MPs won’t back him than potential Conservative MPs will back him, so he won’t have the numbers to pull this off.
  3. Many of the public are more sceptical of a second referendum, with the exception of the hard Remain extremists, most don’t believe it will solve any issues, and even less so after a number of MPs, including the leaders of the Greens and Liberal Democrats, said that unless the vote was in favour of Remain they would not accept or respect the vote. With an attitude like that fewer people actually believe that any vote, except Remain, would be accepted, leaving the country as divided as it is now. On the General Election, there are some that believe Johnson is gearing up for one, and it will most likely be just after 31 October.

Of course, this depends on Corbyn actually calling a vote of No Confidence and not bottling it again. During the Conservative Leadership campaign Corbyn kept saying he would call a No Confidence vote on Johnson’s first day in Parliament, he didn’t because apparently he said he would not have the numbers, nothing has changed in Johnson’s stance, so I am not sure if he would have the numbers still.

One other action that was suggested this week, and whilst not a serious proposition it did come under fire for a lot of ridicule, and that was the suggestion by Caroline Lucas, (Green Party Leader and only MP), for an all Women cabinet of Unity to stop Brexit. Apart from her suggestion amounting to a coup and being unconstitutional and sexist, there was the issue that her Cabinet of Unity was entirely made up of women that think the same as she does, not making it very unifying. Interestingly despite all these issues about it one of the main criticisms was that all of the women were white, and she was heavily criticised for leaving out women from ethnic minorities, and it was this she apologised for whilst doubling down on her idea. For many however, this idea just came across as silly season stuff from an increasingly irrelevant MP during the summer recess.

It has been suggested that the reason the EU has not reached out to the UK, and is not taking Johnson seriously, is because Remain MPs have convinced them that they will win in Parliament and that the UK will not leave the EU, or will leave under the EU’s terms. Of course it might just be that it is August and the EU (and much of Europe) shuts down over August and nothing gets done.

On the other side of the Brexit argument, the Brexit Secretary is set to sign the commencement order to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 within days, bringing it into effect after 31 October, thus ending the supremacy of EU Law, thus meaning that the EU’s rule over the UK will end on 31 October. This has led to some speculating that Johnson might remove the UK from the EU earlier than 31 October, and some have suggested he could do it by the end of August so it is done and dusted by the time Parliament returns in the beginning of September, though I do not think this is the case, I believe that if he is aiming for an earlier date it is likely to be the end of September, but this is also unlikely.

The irony in all of this is that if Gina Miller hadn’t taken the Government to court, to the cheers of Remainers and Remain supporting MPs, and secured a legal ruling that any Withdrawal Agreement had to be ratified by Parliament, the UK would have left under May’s deal and the prospect of leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement would not have entered into play. It seems all the attempts by Remainers to stop Brexit, or at least dilute it, have been what has led to the likelihood of a clean break.

The Secretary of State for Brexit has now signed the Commencement Order which repeals the supremacy of EU law in the UK.

Brexit will happen on 31 October 2019.

Boris Johnson now PM of UK

In the increasingly less united United Kingdom the Conservative Party has chosen Boris Johnson to take over as Prime Minister from Theresa May.

Missy reports:


Anyway, as you will know Boris won the leadership election as expected, today he was officially sworn in as PM by the Queen and immediately set about doing his cabinet reshuffle.

24 July 2019 is becoming known as the summer’s day massacre as Boris culls the cabinet.

So far he has sacked 18 from cabinet.

The big appointments so far are:

Chancellor – Sajid Javid
Home Secretary – Priti Patel

Expected: Dominic Raab to be named Foreign Secretary


Financial Times: Sajid Javid picked as chancellor in first Boris Johnson appointment – latest news

Guardian: Boris Johnson cabinet: Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab given top jobs – live news

An interesting lineup of names with just ‘Johnson’  being of English origin (the new Prime Minister’s multi-cultural full name being Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson).

Guardian: In full: Boris Johnson’s first speech as prime minister – video

First vote on UK Conservative Party leadership

Missy reporting from the UK:


On Monday the Conservative Party leadership campaign officially began. Ten MPs officially entered the race, they were:

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Rory Stewart, Esther McVey, Andrea Leadsom, Matt Hancock, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Mark Harper.

This morning was the first round of voting by the Parliamentary Party, after a change of rules a couple of weeks ago candidates must get more than 16 votes from fellow MPs in order to progress with the candidates with the lowest number of votes being eliminated if all are over 16 votes, as opposed to previous rules which stated that only the candidate with the lowest number of votes was to be eliminated at each round regardless of number of votes of second lowest. The new rules mean that multiple candidates can be eliminated at once.

In today’s voting Boris Johnson received a higher number of votes than originally expected, this could be due to some polling this week which shows that Boris is the candidate most likely able to win a General Election.

The results from today’s vote is:
Johnson: 114
Hunt: 43
Gove: 37
Raab: 27
Javid: 23
Hancock 20
Stewart: 19
Leadsom: 11
Harper: 10
McVey: 9

The odds for Johnson winning have been slashed to 1/5.

Gove’s campaign suffered a bit earlier this week after he admitted over the weekend to using cocaine about 20 years ago. The admission came ahead of an unauthorised biography due to be released that details his drug use.

Citing fake excuse Trump cancels UK visit

President Donald Trump has cancelled a visit to the UK that had been planned for next month, blaming it on Barack Obama (in a factually incorrect tweet). Reactions in the UK had caused ructions between the Foreign Secretary and the Mayor of London, and applause from a number of Labour MPs.

It is claimed that Trump is avoiding protests that had been promised.

The Telegraph: Donald Trump cancels UK visit, blaming Barack Obama for a ‘bad embassy deal’, as Sadiq Khan says he ‘finally got the message’

US president Donald Trump has confirmed he will not travel to the UK to open the new American embassy next month, blaming the decision to relocate the building to an “off location”.

Hitting out at former US leader Barack Obama, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter early on Friday that he thought the embassy’s move from Grosvenor Square in the prestigious Mayfair district of central London to Nine Elms, south of the Thames, in a 1.2 billion dollar (£886 million) project was a “bad deal”.

So if it was something already known why did Trump agree to open the embassy in the first place?

In December, US Ambassador Woody Johnson said he was looking forward to welcoming the president when he visited, adding: “I think he will be very impressed with this building and the people who occupy it.”

Mr Trump’s decision not to head across the Atlantic comes despite Mrs May saying that a future visit was still on the cards last week.

In typical fashion Trump made his (factually incorrect) excuse  via Twitter.

Seems like he is using Obama as a scapegoat. And getting things wrong.

Despite Mr Trump publicly blaming his predecessor Obama, the US announced its plans to move to the new embassy site in October 2008 – when George W Bush was in the White House. The new building will open on January 16.

It is being widely surmised that Trump wants to avoid protests promised during his visit.

Mrs May controversially extended the offer of a state visit – officially on behalf of the Queen – when she became the first world leader to meet Mr Trump in the White House following his inauguration last year.

Since then, however, the president has indicated he does not want to take up the invitation if he is going to face mass demonstrations and it had been expected he could make a low-key working visit rather than a trip which involved all the trappings of a state occasion.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, welcomed the decision and claimed it showed Mr Trump had “got the message” that he would not be welcome in the capital.

But Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, attacked Mr Khan’s response and accused him and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, of putting the special relationship “at risk”.

Mr Johnson described Mr Khan as a “puffed up pompous popinjay”.

But others also applauded the visit backflip by Trump.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Jo Swinson said: “News that Trump has thrown his toys out of the pram and cancelled his trip to the UK will be welcomed by all of us who reject his abhorrent views.

“But it’s a disappointing sign of how weak May’s leadership is that she wasn’t brave enough to call the visit off herself.

“The Prime Minister should be ashamed that she was so keen to roll out the red carpet to a man who spreads hate and division at every turn, and goes out of his way to undermine British values.”

Ex Labour leader Ed Miliband:

Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy:

Labour MP Stephen Doughty:

Chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat:

“While I think it’s a shame, I think – if I’m honest – it more reflects the fact that other people criticise in French, Italian, Korean and other languages and we criticise in English, and it’s much easier for him to read English.”

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage:

“It is disappointing. He has been to countries all over the world and yet he has not been to the one with whom he is closest.

“I would say it is disappointing. Maybe, just maybe, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party planning mass protests, maybe those optics he didn’t like the look of.”

Whatever triggered the late withdrawal it has highlighted the unpredictability of Trump, reinforced his reputation for making fake excuses, and caused some division in the UK.

Fox News reported on this briefly – Trump: London visit canceled over Obama administration decision

President Trump has cancelled plans to visit the United Kingdom next month, according to reports out of London on Thursday.

He later blamed a move by former president Obama for the decision to cancel.

That reported quoted Trump’s tweet blaming Obama, but did not mention that the decision to move the US embassy was made while GW Bush was president.

The Nation: interview with Boris Johnson

I’m not sure what the point of his visit was.  He isn’t in a position to commit to anything on NZ trade with the UK, nor with visa conditions.

So Owen doesn’t bother spending long on NZ related issues and goes on the the Middle East, arms supplies to Saudi Arabia and the civil war in Yemen.

That’s a novel approach – that should sort things out pretty quickly.

TRP Adviser 28 July 2017

This week we learned many things.

Boris Johnson is not a complete buffoon, the Greens may come to regret Metiria Turei’s confession and one man party Peter Dunne may be over and out in Ohariu.

The likely next leader of the UK Conservative party has been here for a brief visit. Boris Johnson managed to complete the trip without any major gaffes, though comparing a kiwi hongi to a Gorbals kiss might be considered offensive by some here and by some North of Hadrian’s wall.

The perceived wisdom in the UK is that Johnson is biding his time, waiting for the inevitable coup against Theresa May to begin and trusting that there will be a knock on the door as the hopeful party calls on him to lead at their time of need.

I’m not so sure.

Leading a Government that is going to limp along until the next election is an unenviable task. Whether that vote is called early or the Tory/DUP Government lasts the full term, whoever leads the Conservatives to the polls can expect to lose.

I think that if asked, Johnson will say ‘No, thanks’. It’s all too much like hard work and swanning around the world being witty with the locals is much more fun.

Metiria Turei’s confession to an easily understandable and perfectly forgivable benefit rort is still in the headlines, well past the usual news cycle of a day or two.

I reckon it marks the high tide in the Green’s polling. It’ll be all down hill from here.

It won’t affect their die hard voters, but it will have an impact on waverers in the middle who might have been tempted to go green. If there is one thing about the New Zealand middle class that really stands out, it’s a broad streak of sanctimony.

They’ll forgive the likes of Key and English for their many, many rorts because that was just business. But a beneficiary who bends the rules to survive? To the workhouse with her!

I hear from usually reliable sources that Peter Dunne is in big trouble in Ohariu.

Labour have a near perfect candidate for the seat in former police union boss Greg O’Connor. Ohariu is a fairly conservative, middle of the road electorate and both Dunne and O’Connor fit that mold.

O’Connor has the advantage of being brand spanking new and earnestly keen. Too keen, in fact, having been snapped putting up election signs way too early.

That was an embarrassing start for the Labour candidate, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt him in the electorate. I’m told he has built up a convincing polling lead over Dunne already.

And that’s why Bill English felt the need to publicly tout for Peter Dunne. No coy cup of tea, this time. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

National know they are going to need every scrap of support they can get if they are to form the next Government without having to grovel to grumpy old uncle Winston.

Ohariu could be the seat that decides the very nature of the next Government.