The French people have turned the tide on the 2016 populist surge which led to reckless Brexit and reckless Trump in the White House.

Opponents of the European Union were forecasting it would break up following populist success in Hungary, Holland and France. All three countries have rejected a return to a nationalist Europe with all the potential consequences that could bring. With the UKIP style implosion of the Alternative for Deutschland Party in Germany I predict a victory for Angela Merkel this autumn. Then we will see how strong and stable Mrs May will be when faced with France, Germany and the other 25 European countries insisting that if you are out of a club you must have a worse deal than if you are in.

I saw a report this week on a Shropshire company that makes engine blocks. They must cross 5 European borders in ten days and time is vital. They are desperately worried about how they are going to operate outside the EU. That’s the reality facing business. Let’s hope Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to rule out staying in the EU wasn’t just another blunder, although the Lib Dems offer the clearest policy on a second referendum.




Geoff Driver is the great survivor of Lancashire politics. After a controversial reign as Chief Executive of Preston Council, he made a successful change to politics leading the Conservatives to victory in the county in 2009. Thrown out of office in 2013, he survived a leadership challenge, police dropped an investigation into him over the One Connect Ltd issue and last Friday I was in County Hall for his return to office.

He faces big challenges to soften the cuts that Labour reluctantly made. Driver insists there will be no sweetheart deals with his government. A final word on this. Jeni Mein, the outgoing Labour leader was one of the most decent hard working politicians I had the pleasure to meet. Good luck to her successor, Nelson councillor Azhar Ali. He will prove a lively opponent for Geoff Driver.


After snubbing Jeremy Corbin at a victory celebration, Andy Burnham was quickly down to work making two good deputy appointments. Sir Richard Leese is taking on the business portfolio. Does this show Leese is preparing to end his long tenure as leader of Manchester? Anyway, from Burnham’s point of view…..(fill in the tent and urination metaphor here). The other key appointment is Bev Hughes to look after crime and the police. The former Stretford and Urmston MP will be taking over from the ex-Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd who hopes to win the Rochdale seat.

That choice by a panel of Labour’s National Executive has been welcomed by the constituency whereas in Liverpool Walton the choice of a Unite placeman, Daniel Carden, at the expense of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has caused outrage. These panels should have the constituency chair as a member and certainly should not have a Unite member as was the case with Walton. But if a party is so dependent on one source of funding, this is what you get.

Joe heading for Westminster was a neat way of solving a

 potential conflict between him and newly elected City

 Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram. We’ll have to see if grown

 up behaviour prevails to the advantage of the city region.




The local elections showed Labour’s fragility in the North

outside its urban heartland. A spectacular defeat to the

Tories in Derbyshire was followed by the loss of

Lancashire and largest party status in Cumbria. There are many marginal seats in these areas for the Conservatives to target.


The Lib Dems had a standstill election and will be hoping

for more support when the Brexit issue comes centre

stage in the General Election. UKIP had to rely on a

popular taxi driver in Padiham for their only council

success. They should have developed policies on non-EU

issues to offer a real alternative for blue collar Labour

voters in the North. Instead they squabbled over who

should be leader.


In Scotland, the Tories have become the rallying point for

opponents of a second independence referendum, and

even though the fall off in support for the SNP was slight,

that irresistible tide has peaked.


Follow me @JimHancockUK









Brexit has overshadowed every other political activity in the last 12 months, but in three weeks time a series of important elections in the North will remind us there are other things to concentrate on apart from Europe.

City Region mayors will be elected in the Liverpool City and Greater Manchester regions, there is a parliamentary by election in Gorton and full council elections in North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the key contest for Lancashire.


Lancashire had been a Labour fiefdom for 28 years until 2009 when the growing unpopularity of Labour under Gordon Brown saw the Conservatives take control under the colourful leadership of Geoff Driver. The former Preston Council Chief Executive enjoyed four years in office before narrowly losing out to Labour, supported by the Lib Dems in 2013.

Many expected Driver to be deposed as Tory group leader but resilience is in this politician’s DNA. Back in the 1990s as Chief Executive of Preston he had a bitter clash with the then leader of the council Valerie Wise. After losing out to Labour in 2013, Driver was subject to a two year investigation by Lancashire police into the council’s One Connect venture with BT. The investigation into his role was eventually dropped, he had a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission upheld and is now calling for the “removal” of Lancashire Chief Constable Steve Finnigan as the cost of the probe nears £2m.

In the campaign, Lancashire Conservatives are attacking Labour for their cuts in services as being too harsh. This has attracted a sharp response from the ruling party leader Jeni Mein who points to the massive cut in government grant over the last few years.

Mein has done a sound job in very difficult circumstances and in the mid-term of a Tory government should be looking to gain an overall majority for Labour. “Should” is the operative word because Mein is being constantly let down by party infighting at Westminster. A row over Ken Livingstone’s alleged anti-Semitism is just what you need when you are trying to win the marginal wards that litter the county.

Mein might be helped by an anticipated revival of the Liberal Democrats in local government this time around. Their distinctive stand on a second EU referendum and fading memories of their involvement in the Coalition could make them significant players when the votes are counted at County Hall on May 5th. That said the Conservatives lost votes to UKIP in 2013 and UKIP’s support is set to fade at these elections.


Labour has been trying to focus voters’ attention on their policies in recent days but one leading pollster is forecasting the worst performance by an opposition party since 1985, excluding General Election years. Apart from Lancashire, Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in Cumbria where there is a Lab/Lib Dem coalition and Derbyshire will be watched closely.

Anything other than a Labour victory in the Gorton by election would be a total disaster, although it is worth recalling that in the depths of Harold Wilson’s unpopularity in 1967, the Conservatives reduced Labour’s majority to 557.





The Scottish independence vote and immigration into the UK were dominant themes in 2014, but for all the talk little has been resolved. The Scots voted no but the Scottish National Party could soon be holding the whip hand over a weak minority government at Westminster.


Then there’s the issue of our national identity. It is becoming clear that we are not going to be able to stop free movement of labour within the EU. So do we feel so passionately about immigration that we want to risk our economic future outside the EU?


Both these questions remain unresolved at the end of a year which has seen much debate on how we should be governed both nationally and in the North. Even before the Scottish vote Chancellor George Osborne had launched his northern powerhouse concept. It was the beginning of a period of extraordinary activity by Osborne on this subject. There can be few hi tech or manufacturing plants in the north of England that has not had a visit from George. It culminated in the devolution deal done with Greater Manchester and his insistence on imposing a mayor for the conurbation to be elected in 2017. Similar deals for Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool have not been concluded as wrangling continues about elected mayors and leadership.


The prospect of a powerful Scotland to our north has stimulated debate on what happens outside the city regions. There are signs that Lancashire’s fourteen councils may be getting their act together to bid for a county region and a Yorkshire Party has been formed. I remain of the view that a council of the whole north is the answer. It is already in embryonic form in organisations like Rail North and One North but it should have powers beyond transport.


The economy has continued to recover with unemployment falling along with inflation to the point where people are asking if a 1% inflation rate is a bad thing. Strange days indeed for those of us who lived through the roaring inflation of the 1970’s. But issues like low wages, the budget deficit, low growth in Europe, China and Russia remain dark clouds on the horizon.


Politically the year has been dominated by the rise of UKIP. In the North West and Yorkshire they secured six MEPs in the European elections, ending the long European career of Lib Dem Chris Davies in the North West. Tory Sir Robert Atkins also left the stage whilst Labour have a completely new team in the region, although little has been heard from them so far. In Yorkshire two stalwarts Richard Corbett (Labour) and Tim Kirkhope (Conservative) survived the UKIP surge.


Labour held its two by elections in the North West (Wythenshawe and Heywood) but UKIP’s John Bickley stood in both and came second, indeed he nearly won in Heywood and Middleton. UKIP also got councillors elected, spectacularly so in Rotherham. People keep asking if they have peaked. Not yet it seems.


So where do the parties stand at year end. The Conservatives have had a better year because of the economic recovery but still show no sign of getting enough support to win outright in 2015. David Cameron remains unloved by many of his backbenchers.


Ed Miliband has had a poor year as Labour leader, but may have picked on a gem of an idea in suggesting the Tories want to make deep cuts for ideological reasons to create a smaller state. However the people’s minds are largely made up against him and the party will have to try and win despite him.


There has been little comfort for the Lib Dems in the north. They did hold on to their councillors in places like South Lakes, Southport and Stockport but look set for the day of reckoning nationally in May. The Greens have begun to benefit by attracting disillusioned Labour and Lib Dem supporters particularly on the issue of fracking.

We marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War this year. Our horrors are on a smaller scale than theirs but ISIS and the Taliban remind us that we live in a world where we can land a probe on a distant comet but still resolve our differences in ways little changed from the Dark Ages.


Have a peaceful Christmas.







While the Lib Dems implode after their disastrous election results, let us look forward to the implications for next year. I have thought for some time that the Tories would be the largest party after the General Election. Labour’s under performance in the North last week has strengthened my view. Therefore there is a reasonable prospect that David Cameron will be in a position to try to renegotiate our treaty arrangements with the E.U.
Up to now I had thought that his demands would be unacceptably high even for our German and Swedish allies. This is because the Better Off Out wing of the Conservative Party is exerting increasing pressure on him. The result would be that Cameron would come back with a weak package of concessions that he would try, and fail, to sell in an in/out referendum in 2017.
However the scale of hostility to the E.U project across a large number of countries is such that the impetus for change has grown and Cameron may be able to get meaningful concessions. These could cover immigration controls, the working time directive, benefit tourism and the “ever closer union” clause of the Treaty of Rome. If all this happens, then the chances of the British people making the disastrous decision to come out of the E.U may be avoided. But don’t hold your breath. Hostility to the E.U is running high in this country.



In the North West it was sad that Lib Dem Chris Davies lost his seat and that the Green’s able candidate Peter Cranie just failed to secure a position. The region would have been better represented by a wider range of MEPs.
Of those who were elected, I have to say the UKIP team impress me. I don’t agree with their policies but Paul Nuttall from Liverpool, the party’s Deputy Leader has developed well as an articulate and friendly spokesman for his party. Then there are the new North West UKIP MEPs. Louise Boers, the former Brookside actress, has a very warm personality and gave her best on the BBC’s Question Time this week alongside Piers Morgan and hard tackling footballer Joey Barton. Finally Steven Woolfe, the party’s economics spokesman will have a hard task when UKIP’s right wing policies on cuts and the health service come under scrutiny.

Labour’s team in the North West are all new and untried. Teresa Griffin has been preparing for this moment for four elections and said all the right things in her victory speech in Manchester Town Hall on Sunday night. Afzal Khan is a very pleasant man, let’s see if he can make a practical difference for the region in Brussels.
The big question mark centres on Julie Ward who has not held elected office before and hails from Bishop Auckland in the North East. She was originally in fourth place on the Labour list and thus very unlikely to win a seat. But the late decision by Arlene McCarthy to withdraw pushed her up to third place. There are fears in Labour circles that she may defect to the Green Party
For the Tories the feisty Jackie Foster starts her third term representing the North West and Saj Karim just held on to his place.
Labour topped the poll in the North West but in Yorkshire and the Humber, it was UKIP. With the controversial Godfrey Bloom gone their brand new MEPs are Jane Collins, Amjad Bashir and Mike Hookem. The other MEPs are all experienced Brussels hands. Linda McAvan and Richard Corbett for Labour and Tim Kirkhope for the Conservatives.



Labour underperformed in key parts of the North, raising serious questions about their ability to win next year. Even the unambitious “35%” strategy to just get across the line is undermined with their 31% projected national vote share in these elections.
Failing to take Trafford into no overall control and to win in West Lancashire where the Mayor will keep the Conservatives in control, were major disappointments. Targets were also missed in Kirklees and Calderdale, although Bradford was won. In Leeds there were no Labour gains to strengthen the party’s majority.
UKIP found the North West hard going with a smattering of seats in Oldham, Hyndburn and Bolton but east of the Pennines the nine gains in Rotherham caught national headlines.
The Greens are now the official opposition in Liverpool, although their leader John Coyne tells me he may not occupy the Town Hall office reserved for him on cost grounds.
Let’s finally turn to the Lib Dems. There has been much reporting of their implosion in Manchester, Rochdale and Liverpool but in Stockport they will still run the council with ratepayers support and in South Lakeland they had no losses at all.
Next stop, the Newark by election on Thursday.