Hancock’s Half Page



It is essential that the North West sends a strong anti-Brexit message in next Thursday’s European elections. The only way to do this is to vote Liberal Democrat. They have a familiar reliable person at the head of their regional list in Chris Davies. He is a former MEP and MP in the North West, and is supported in second and third place on the Lib Dem list by good Stockport councillors Jane Brophy and Helen Foster-Grime.

I have much respect for the Greens, but on this particular occasion the stakes are too high and it must be a vote for the Lib Dems. ChangeUK have had a baptism of fire, have little support and have engaged in arrogant centrist sectarianism suggesting the Lib Dems are a spent force instead of seeking constructive ways to work together.

Sadly, Labour are not clearly a Remain party in this election and most of the Tory membership want to merge with Nigel Farage.


The need for solidarity behind the Lib Dems is because the region faces an onslaught by the Brexit Party. Their simplistic message on just getting out of Europe will have strong appeal despite the deficiencies of their leading candidate. Claire Fox was once a Revolutionary Communist. The party defended the Warrington bombing outrage and according to Colin Parry, who’s son died, Fox has failed to disavow the dreadful deed. Second on the Brexit list is a Danish dentist Henrik Overgaard Nielsen, a veteran opponent of the Maastricht Treaty. Third is TV doctor David Bull, born in Farnborough.


These elections were last contested in 2014 when the Coalition was in power, UKIP were rampant and the Lib Dems on the floor. Labour got three MEPs elected from the North West and Theresa Griffin from Merseyside heads their list again. Julie Ward, who has had a very low profile is second with Wajid Khan third. He replaced Afzal Khan when the latter was elected Westminster MP for Gorton in 2017.


This is the most extraordinary election for the Tories. Their distaste for the contest is palpable and a drubbing is expected. Feel some sympathy then for Saj Karim who is seeking re-election. With Jackie Foster retiring, Eden council leader Kevin Beaty is second on the list.


The ex-head of the Liverpool FC Foundation, Andrea Cooper heads up the team for the new kids on the block with former Warrington Labour councillor Dan Price second.


The Greens will be hoping to ride the surge of alarm over climate change to improve on their 1989 performance when they won over 2 million votes. Long standing Lancashire and Lancaster councillor Gina Dowding tops their list, followed by former Salford mayoral candidate Wendy Olsen.


Five years has certainly been a long time in politics for UKIP’s North West MEPs. They came a strong second behind Labour in 2014, but look what happened to the three elected MEP’s. Paul Nuttall briefly became leader, joined Brexit and now isn’t standing. Louise Bours became an Independent and Stephen Woolfe, who would have been a good leader, had a punch up with a fellow Ukipper, and isn’t standing.

Top of UKIP’s list this time is party secretary Adam Richardson.


Sadly Stephen Yaxley-Lennon otherwise known as Tommy Robinson is standing as an independent. One would like to right off the chances of the former head of the English Defence League, but remember the North West elected the British National party leader Nick Griffin in 2009.


A reminder that the whole North West is the constituency for this election. Voting is on Thursday, counting is on Sunday evening. The eight winners will be allocated from the party lists on a proportional basis depending on the percentage of the vote they get. A Belgian gent called Victor d’Hondt devised this form of proportional representation.


Expect Fox and Neilson to be elected for Brexit, Griffin Labour, Karim Con, Dowding Green and Davies for the Lib Dems.

The remaining two will be a toss up between Ward Lab, Brophy Lib Dem and Bull Brexit.

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The Liberal Democrats are back as a credible force in British politics following last week’s local elections. Because of this it is vital that everybody who opposes Brexit or at least wants the people to have a final say, votes Lib Dem in the Euro elections. Support for the Greens or Change UK will confuse the issue and allow leavers to point to Farage’s vote (that could be 30%) as effectively a second national vote to Leave.

The Green Party deserves support in subsequent elections as concern about the environment rises, but on May 23, the future of the country is at stake and there needs to be huge support for the Lib Dems with their clear, principled and long-standing commitment to remain.

Change UK are a major disappointment. They are engaging in sectarian politics in the centre ground claiming the Lib Dems are still tainted with the austerity agenda. Well some of their Labour MPs voted for the Iraq War so two can play that irrelevant blame game. They have no infrastructure to fight elections compared to the Lib Dems and should not be supported in these Euro elections.

The Conservative and Labour parties should be rejected as their leaders are in favour of leaving the EU.


Shadow Cabinet member Barry Gardner let the cat out of the bag the other day when he told the Tories, Labour was trying to bail them out over Brexit. So, there we have it, hard left Jeremy Corbyn saving the Tories who are in their biggest crisis since the Corn Laws.

As I write the Lab/Con talks haven’t reached a conclusion but Corbyn is desperate to get back to the domestic agenda. I was in the Commons Gallery for PMQ’s on Wednesday where Corbyn didn’t ask a single question on Brexit preferring to concentrate on the health service. Don’t rule out the Labour leadership deciding to take the hit from their People’s Vote MPs and, insofar as they are able, letting May’s deal go through.


It was the worst result for the Tories since 1995 when even the old Macclesfield Council went into no overall control. The successor authority Cheshire East followed suit last Thursday along with Pendle and South Ribble. In fairness the Conservatives were coming off the high base achieved on the day David Cameron (remember him?) won his General Election and more importantly the Brexit shambles has been deeply damaging for the Tories.

Although the losses were less, it was a bad night for Labour, with the important exception of Trafford. Their 1995 local government performance was a springboard for Blair’s landslide two years later. Losing control of Wirral, Cheshire West and Chester and Burnley and losing ground in places like Bolton shows Labour is not on course to win the General Election, Jeremy Corbyn says he wants. Further afield Labour’s showing in the North East is truly dreadful.

Labour are paying the price for their ambiguity on a People’s Vote and on internal splits, particularly on Merseyside. The loss of Wirral is down to Momentum activity but in Liverpool it is perhaps more to do with personalities. The attempt by council deputy leader Ann O’Byrne to abolish the elected mayor post of Joe Anderson revives memories of the dark days of Liverpool politics.

The Lib Dems improved their position across the North West but only came close to taking a council, apart from South Lakeland, when they drew level with Labour in Stockport.

Independents had their best showing in decades. They benefitted from a growing disillusionment with conventional politics and a desire for more power at the grassroots level. I would only say that if all the small communities in a council area elected people demanding special treatment for their area, coherent government would be difficult. There is a view, however, that council politics should be less political, so perhaps it is a healthy trend.

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I will write about the local elections next week when all the results are in.


40 years ago, Britain was weary from an era of high inflation, unemployment and rampant union power. The Labour minority government was being defeated far more frequently than Mrs May’s outfit.

It was time for a major change in direction and Margaret Thatcher was the woman of the hour. Her remedy was unnecessarily harsh, especially for the coal mining communities of the North but overall, she made Britain face the modern world. The subsidising of lame duck industries was ended, inflation was brought under control and in the biggest social revolution, tenants could buy their council houses.

There was no suggestion that leaving the European Union would be a remedy for any of the country’s ills, indeed Margaret Thatcher was a keen supporter of the introduction of the Single Market. Only in her last years did she put on the cloak of Euro scepticism but by then she was making other mistakes like the poll tax which brought her down.

John Major lived in her shadow and Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did not challenge the fundamentals of the Thatcher reforms of the 1980’s.


Now let’s fast forward to the present. Britain has a government who’s lack of authority can be compared to the position of Jim Callaghan’s in 1978/9. The economy is superficially in much better shape, although many forecast a drastic post Brexit reckoning to come. Despite low inflation and high employment there are major problems. The young can’t get houses, local government is stripped of cash, job insecurity is high and the proliferation of food banks shames us all. The trade unions are generally weak, and people are vulnerable to bosses who offer uncertain hours and no pension rights.

The global capitalism that began to manifest itself in the Thatcher years is now under attack from right and left, so it is time for the socialist alternative proscribed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell?

Wages have hardly grown in a decade and productivity remains a major problem. Is it time to strengthen union power to give back to workers collective strength, with more say over conditions and incentives? Perhaps productivity would improve if McDonnell had his way.

The problem is that there is widespread suspicion that McDonnell has a wider vision than giving more power to the unions. The fear is that a Labour government under Corbyn/McDonnell (or the rapidly rising Rebecca Long Bailey) want to turn Britain into a place where a strong economy takes second place to a socialist state of high tax, low defence spending, a relaxed attitude to immigration and hostility to America.

Even in their darkest hour, never underestimate the Tories. They could emerge from the Brexit crisis as a right-wing party full of ex UKIP people calling the shots. But if you look at what the May government is doing in other policy areas, you will observe a much more pragmatic, centrist approach. The effects of the austerity policy will take years to correct but the government is turning the corner and starting to increase spending budgets. If they have any sense, the Conservatives will see this approach as the way to see off Labour.

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As you are putting candles in the Halloween pumpkins this autumn, don’t be surprised if Mrs May is in Brussels asking for a further extension of Article 50.

The new October 31 deadline is a recipe for a slackening in the pace of trying to sort out a deal and to hell with business begging for certainty.

In the immediate future we have the Easter Recess, then the argument may be made that sensitive talks between the Conservatives and Labour can’t take place while they are contesting the local and European elections. So, it could be June before serious attempts are made to resolve the issue.

The other cause for delay could be a Tory leadership election. Mrs May is determined to see her deal through but such is the unhappiness with fighting the Euro elections that pressure may become unbearable, particularly if a sizeable number of Cabinet Ministers resign. This would bring efforts to settle the Brexit deal to a standstill. There is very little prospect of the Tory grassroots allowing a new leader to be agreed amongst Conservative MPs. They are going to want to choose and this could take twelve weeks.

On the subject of a Tory leadership contest, it could lead to a hardening of attitude amongst those Labour MPs minded to vote for Mrs May’s deal. It is almost certain a hard-line leaver will be chosen to be the next Prime Minister by Conservative grassroots members whose ranks have been swelled by UKIP returnees. Any assurances given in the current talks about a customs union and single market in the political framework document could be swept away.


Having outlined how we may be in for a period of kicking the Brexit can down the road, Mrs May remains convinced her deal, with some softening of the political framework document, could assemble a coalition of Tory and Labour MPs who have deep fears about the European Parliament elections on May 23.

They will be an opportunity for Remainers and Brexiteers to rerun a form of the 2016 Referendum. There is a real chance that the Conservatives and Labour will do really badly while UKIP and Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party on one side and the Lib Dems and ChangeUK on the other battle it out. It could have profound effects on the future

prospects of the two parties that have dominated British politics for 100 years.

She may try to use this prospect to get her deal through which would see the European elections called off in mid campaign.


By October 31, the 2016 Referendum will be three and a half years away. Its authority is fading by the day, that’s why Leavers are so keen to cling on to that snapshot of public opinion. We know much more about the complexity of leaving, the electorate has changed, and parliament has showed itself incapable of decision.

What is needed now, particularly in the European elections is for a grand coalition of parties opposed to leaving. Lib Dems and ChangeUK in particular should divide the regional constituencies up with only one party fighting in each region.

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