CAN MAY POSSIBLY GET HER DEAL THROUGH?

 

PLEA TO EU ON BACKSTOP?

I still expect The Prime Minister to eventually find a majority for her vision of Brexit in the next two months. But having been right on the 2016 Referendum, I am probably heading for an “egg on my face moment”.

After all the government have been defeated twice this week and are dealing with a Speaker who is bending the rules against them.

Next week the government are likely to accept an amendment that would give MPs the right to limit the infamous backstop to 12 months. This violates the Withdrawal Agreement. But if it gets her deal through, she could go back to Brussels and say that is the only thing that stands in the way of an agreement that they want.

Democratic Unionist support for this move is vital, because if the DUP can be brought on board, Tory opposition may largely collapse.

 

Mrs May’s deal already has more support than any of the other options. She is currently well short of the 320 she needs. However, her opponents are not close to agreeing an alternative whether that be, delaying our departure, a hard Brexit, hard Brexit with side deals, second referendum, Labour or a national government renegotiating the terms, Norway or Canada options.

The only other thing, apart from Mrs May’s deal commanding strong support is opposition to a hard Brexit. However that can only be stopped by changing the law, and laws can only be changed by a government not the House of Commons.

 

A recent survey suggested the Prime Minister could rely on 150 MPs in the Brexit Delivery Group. It also identified 65 waverers who will probably support the government as the crunch approaches. Then there was a 20 strong group described as nervous Tory Remainers. If the DUP are on board, how many of them will actually vote against their government?

It is to Labour that we must now turn.Given that the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid and the Green’s Caroline Lucas are going to vote against May’s deal, the largest bloc in her way is the 257 strong Labour Party. Some of them, especially in seats that voted to leave will come under increasing pressure to support the May deal. Some,like John Mann, already seem prepared to offer their support to the Prime Minister on the basis of assurances about workers rights.

Nevertheless, a majority will stay loyal to the Corbyn strategy which is to cynically get us out of the EU whilst having no part in the Brexit deal and thus being able to criticise it from March 30th.

Labour will probably be joined by a group of Tory diehard Brexiteers. 117 Conservative MPs voted against her in last month’s leadership election but that does not mean they will all vote against her EU deal. The argument that their hard line could lead to Brexit not happening will erode their numbers to the point where I think Mrs May will squeak home, but it will be close.

OTHER THINGS WILL HAPPEN!

Let us hope that if we get through the immediate Brexit crisis that other things can be attended to this year like social care, housing and a boost for devolution. The Northern Powerhouse project has taken a credibility blow because of the chaos on road and rail. We need a renewal of the debate around regional government and in the meantime devolution agreements for Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Warrington/Cheshire.

We will see what the public have made of our departure from the EU in the local elections in May. A third of the seats are up in our metropolitan and unitary councils with all out polls in the two Cheshire authorities and Blackpool.

We won’t be taking part in the democratic elections to the European Parliament in May because we’ve decided not to have a say anymore in the EU laws that will continue to affect our lives one way or another.

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A NEW YEAR FULL OF UNCERTAINTY

BREXIT.

I still expect The Prime Minister to just find a majority for her vision of Brexit in the next three months. But having been right on the 2016 Referendum, I am probably heading for an “egg on my face moment”.

My prediction is based on the parliamentary arithmetic which suggests that Mrs May’s deal has more support than any of the other options. She is currently well short of the 320 she needs. However, her opponents are not close to agreeing an alternative whether that be, delaying our departure, a hard Brexit, hard Brexit with side deals, second referendum, Labour or a national government renegotiating the terms, Norway or Canada options. Before Christmas there seemed to be a majority to stop a hard Brexit if Mrs May’s deal was voted down. That can only be done by changing the law and laws can only be changed by a government not the House of Commons.

A recent survey suggested the Prime Minister could rely on 150 MPs in the Brexit Delivery Group. It also identified 65 waverers. I think the eerie calm that descended on the Brexit debate over Christmas may have led many of those into the May camp. Then there was a 20 strong group described as nervous Tory Remainers. As the clock ticks down, they may well head into the government’s camp.

Then we come to the Democratic Unionists, only ten of them but much more influential. If they can get the sort of annex of assurance over the backstop that the European Commission has a track record for producing, they could be brought on side. If this were to happen it would be hugely influential on Tory waverers and some Labour MPs. It is to Labour that we must now turn.

Given that the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid and the Green’s Caroline Lucas are going to vote against May’s deal, the largest bloc in her way is the 257 strong Labour Party. Some of them, especially in seats that voted to leave will come under increasing pressure to support the May deal as the government plays for time.

Nevertheless, a majority will stay loyal to the Corbyn strategy which is to cynically get us out of the EU whilst having no part in the Brexit deal and thus being able to criticise it from March 30th.

Labour will probably be joined by a group of Tory diehard Brexiteers. 117 Conservative MPs voted against her in last month’s leadership election but that does not mean they will all vote against her EU deal. The argument that their hard line could lead to Brexit not happening will erode their numbers to the point where I think Mrs May will squeak home, but it will be close.

OTHER THINGS WILL HAPPEN!

Let us hope that if we get through the immediate Brexit crisis that other things can be attended to like social care, housing and a boost for devolution. The Northern Powerhouse project has taken a credibility blow because of the chaos on road and rail. We need a renewal of the debate around regional government and in the meantime devolution agreements for Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and Warrington/Cheshire.

We will see what the public have made of our departure from the EU in the local elections in May. A third of the seats are up in our metropolitan and unitary councils with all out polls in the two Cheshire authorities and Blackpool.

We won’t be taking part in the democratic elections to the European Parliament in May because we’ve decided not to shape anymore the EU laws that will continue to affect our lives one way or another.

Follow me @JimHancockUK

 

 

 

 

MIXED MESSAGES LIKELY IN NORTH ELECTIONS

 

THE POLITICS.

What will people make of the last year in politics when they cast their votes in local council elections across the North next Thursday?

Labour are already in a very strong position as you’d expect having been out of power at Westminster for eight years. However they should be miles ahead in the opinion polls one year after a General Election. The fact that they are just in front suggests continuing doubts about the direction Jeremy Corbyn is taking the party in. The recent meltdown over anti-Semitism will affect local contests in London and Bury.

Being in government nationally since 2010 has taken its toll on Tory representation in our Town Halls. Of the councils up for election this time only Trafford is still in Conservative hands. So, there are no easy targets for Labour. Indeed, in some places voters might want to reward the Prime Minister for an improving economy and her skilful handling of her party in respect of Brexit. However, there are headwinds for the Tories. Some councils are running out of reserves having been squeezed between years of austerity and the remorseless rise in care for the elderly. The years of cuts are now having dramatic effect. Our roads have never been riddled with so many potholes.

The Windrush row has come at just the wrong time for Mrs May. She identified her own party once as “the nasty party”. That’s how it is being seen over Windrush, although the tougher line on immigration certainly began under Labour.

Most of the seats coming up for election this year were last fought in 2014 when the political scene looked very different. The Lib Dems were still part of the Coalition government and were suffering their fourth year of punishment. UKIP were on the march taking 160 seats in places like Bolton and Oldham. Now they are a joke.

THE BATTLE GROUNDS.

CONSERVATIVES.

As is often the case, all eyes will be on Trafford where the Conservatives hold a slim three seat majority. Jeremy Corbyn launched his national campaign there and will face criticism if 14 years of Tory rule isn’t ended with a council in no overall control. But the Conservative leader of Trafford Sean Anstee has gained considerable stature from his work on the Greater Manchester devolution deal and is standing on a platform of low taxes and defending the grammar schools. It’s worked in the past.

The other hope for the Tories is Pendle Council where they are the largest party but in opposition to Labour who are supported by the Lib Dems under the leadership of Tony Greaves. This veteran of five decades of Pennine politics has lost none of his campaigning zeal as he attempts to stop the blue flag from flying in the Nelson and Colne area.

LABOUR.

Labour control virtually all the councils up for election, and many with massive majorities. But are we seeing signs of decay and infighting from within when the opposition is so weak?

Every seat is up for grabs in Blackburn with Darwen and Manchester where, going into these elections, a solitary Lib Dem faced 93 Labour councillors. But are there signs of growing unrest over issues like housing policy as Sir Richard Leese completes 22 years of leadership? There are rumblings that the city needs more affordable homes not luxury flats.

In Rochdale one Labour leader (Richard Farnell) has resigned after being called a liar over his handling of child abuse in the borough. Now his successor, Allen Brett, is in trouble for implying a vote against Labour would mean your potholes wouldn’t be filled in. The Lib Dems could be on the way back after all this.

St Helens has also seen Labour leadership turmoil with Barrie Grunewald standing aside after a period of infighting in the group.

LIB DEMS.

For Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, the question is has his party turned the corner after eight years of punishment at the hands of the voters over tuition fees and getting into bed with the Tories in the Coalition?

Possibly not, the only council under their control, South Lakeland is having an all-out election. Such fluidity might threaten their 12 years in power. The local MP, Tim Farron, saw his majority reduced to 1.5% last year.

On a more optimistic note, the Lib Dems are hoping to restore their leadership of Stockport Council where Labour are currently in minority control.

In conclusion, the focus will be on the London borough elections, but the north will still provide some interesting contests next Thursday.

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WHERE IS THE BRITISH MACRON?

 

THE EU STRENGTHENED.

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.

 

 

BACK IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.

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.

MAYORS.

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.

 

GENERAL ELECTION POINTERS.

 

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.

 

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