Hancock’s Half Page

WHAT WILL THE LEFT DO NOW…PROBABLY NOTHING

JUST JIM 380.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN.

The line from the Corbynistas is that the problem was Brexit. Without that distraction, in 2024 the lost northern voters will return in droves to back the neo Marxist programme that was on offer this time, along with promises to broadband users and WASPI women that were not budgeted for.

This is mendacious nonsense from the London clique that surround Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader was as big an issue as Brexit on the northern doorsteps. Ignoring this has all the hallmarks of 2016 when London was unaware of the left behind feeling in the North that triggered Brexit.

Corbyn’s failure to deal with antisemitism, his past associations with the nation’s enemies and security concerns were big factors in leaving Labour with the fewest MPs since 1935.

Installing Rebecca Long Bailey won’t hack it, but Momentum won’t listen, so let’s leave Labour to stew in its Marxist juice and look at what ought to happen but won’t.

The Lib Dems had a bad campaign when such hopes rested on their shoulders to keep us in the EU. The Revoke promise was too drastic and Jo Swinson’s style grated. Her defeat has avoided the Lib Dems making an awkward leadership decision.

But they have a much more fundamental question to answer. Is the Lib Dem brand a busted flush? Would they be prepared to look at the wider picture and help create a truly new centre party to stop endless Tory governments?

This would require a mass defection by moderate Labour MPs and an equally dramatic decision by the Green Party to subsume its identity to a new party. It would aim to capture the growing concern about climate change, believe in a progressive economic agenda, voting reform and a return to the European Union.

This party would crucially need the support of big trade unions who must realise that a Labour government is a very distant prospect. No party has come back from such a heavy defeat in one go.

Unite are beyond the pale, but what about the GMB and Unison. After an election when Labour voters have broken with loyalty stretching back to their grandfathers, is it too much to expect moderate unions to put their money and organisation behind a party that actually could get elected?

WHAT WILL HAPPEN.

Labour will elect someone like Rebecca Long Bailey. The next leader won’t have the damaging baggage of Corbyn, but they will retain a devotion to a socialist programme that will never win over middle England. I also suspect that the antisemitism stain will be hard to remove. Moderates will grumble but bide their time hoping that after a defeat in 2024, the party will be desperate for a leader with New Labour values. Don’t count on it.

The Greens and Lib Dems will put their own party identities before brave strategic rethinking.

The net result will be that the left remains hopelessly split whilst the Tories win time after time.

HAUL THE EU FLAG DOWN.

England, and I mean England, has voted much more decisively than in 2016 to leave the EU. I still believe it is profoundly the wrong decision, but English people believe their NHS, social care, policing, immigration, schools and sovereignty will all be helped by being out of the EU. We shall see, but we are out on Jan 31st and that’s that.

The only hope now is that the Prime Minister will negotiate as soft a Brexit as possible as he will be free of the influence of the Tory Brexiteer extremists.

Johnson’s upbeat campaign was well fought and brought a smile to people’s faces in this gloomy winter election.

He now leads a party with lots more northern MPs. The Tories say they are committed to more public spending and devolution to the left behind north.

Let’s hope they deliver because nobody else is going to help us, certainly not Labour sitting in endless parliamentary impotence.

SCOTLAND AND IRELAND.

Politics could get a lot duller now as Brexit will be all about endless trade negotiations rather than the high drama of recent years.

The flash points could be Scottish demands for an independence referendum after the SNPs good showing.

Northern Ireland returned a majority of non-Unionist MPs for the first time. Johnson’s Brexit deal with its border controls in the Irish Sea plays into the hands of those wanting a united Ireland.

Before long the Tories could be ruling just England and Wales, cut off from Europe and dependent on Trumps America and Chi’s China for deals. That could be the reality of Election 2019.

SUPPORT ANOTHER VOTE ON BREXIT.

THE TORIES MUST BE STOPPED.

If the current polls are right, the UK will next week give the go ahead for this country to become a diminished force on the global stage. Spurning our friends and neighbours, we will begin a desperate search for trade deals with the autocratic Chinese and an American President on the brink of impeachment for his behaviour.

As a big player in the EU, our voice is listened to in Europe and around the world. Detached, what have we got? The special relationship with America? Not very special with President Trump in the White House. We’ll see how the trade talks go when we lack any real bargaining power.

Our economy is likely to take a blow making the ludicrous spending promises in this election campaign undeliverable.

The integrity of the country will be under enormous strain. There are reports that the election campaign in Northern Ireland has seen community tensions exacerbated. Johnson’s deal with its custom requirements in the Irish Sea will only make the position worse.

BREXIT WON’T BE DONE.

The biggest fallacy of this election campaign has been the notion that when we leave the EU, Europe goes away as an issue. Let’s look at the facts.

The Brexit crisis this year has been worsened by the Tories constantly setting deadlines for No Deal which they missed in March and October. But the next “deadline” is waiting just over the horizon if we leave on Jan 31st. We are already being told by these tough Tories that if our future trade relationship with the EU is not done by Dec 31, 2020, we will leave with No Deal. Threats are all these continental chappies understand is Johnson’s arrogant and ignorant thought process.

The 2020 deadline was set last March allowing 21 months for negotiations of great complexity. We now have 11 months. Trade talks won’t start on Feb 1st. The Commission has to get a negotiating mandate from the 27. That has to be approved by the European Parliament, so don’t expect substantive negotiations to begin until the summer. Then as the talks progress, business and industry will demand their say as sectoral interests become bargaining chips.

Meanwhile we will see how foreign investors in this country that depend on just-in-time deliveries react to the certainty that we are out.

HOW TO VOTE.

Because of our voting system, Remainers have a pretty unpalatable choice following the disappointing showing of the Lib Dems. It must be a vote for Labour because that is the only pathway to a second vote.

I am fully aware of Corbyn’s unpopularity having talked to key Labour candidates in the North West in last few weeks, but he is not going to be able to force through his agenda. Corbyn would only be in power by the favour of minor parties that can check his excesses. Meanwhile a soft Brexit deal, that respects the narrowness of the Referendum result would be negotiated and put alongside Remain.

Many things were responsible for the North’s decline over the last forty years, but the European Union was NOT one of them.

JOHNSON COULD SWEEP NORTH WEST

“SAFE” LABOUR SEATS IN DANGER

A reliable source has told me that Labour seats with a majority of 8000, like Wirral South are becoming vulnerable as all the worst fears about Jeremy Corbyn come true. A worst-case scenario could see up to 15 Labour held constituencies fall to the Conservatives, hence the desperate change of tactics by Labour to emphasise that leaving the EU will be an option under Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader was turned on the spit by Andrew Neil last night, but he could have had answers ready. Apologise for antisemitism. On the charge that many people not earning £80,000 would pay more, here is a serviceable answer. “Labour will be mostly asking people with the broadest shoulders to pay for our programme, but some people will be affected by our plans on the married allowance and pensions. However, they will benefit from many other aspects of our fairness programme.”

The antisemitism row shouldn’t let the Tories off the hook on Islamophobia. Concern has been raised for three years. A promised inquiry has never materialised until now when a probe into all prejudice will take place. That muddies the water nicely.

Against this background let’s look at the battlefield in the North West.

CUMBRIA.

The most interesting seat in Cumbria is Barrow. The guy who was elected with a tiny Labour majority in 2017, John Woodcock, now poses in front of a poster urging people to back the Tories. His wish is likely to come true in a town bound up with our nuclear deterrent.

Workington is a Tory target and they would love to remove former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron in the South Lakes.

LANCASHIRE.

Labour could be vulnerable in four Lancashire seats with frontbencher Cat Smith in danger in Lancaster and Fleetwood which she took from the Tories in 2015. Gordon Marsden’s long tenure in Blackpool South looks likely to come to an end with the startling prospect that Burnley and Hyndburn could be the scenes of Leaver wrath. Burnley hasn’t had a Conservative MP since 1910.

MERSEYSIDE.

The big question on Wirral is whether we are going to see the end of Frank Field’s 40 years representing Birkenhead. He had a 25,000-majority last time. He is now standing as an independent against the Momentum backed Labour candidate Mick Whitley. Independents rarely prosper but that is a hell of a buffer for a man who’s fought the hard left all his life.

I am told Labour are really worried about Alison McGovern in Wirral South. This is partly because she is a high-profile member of the centrist Progress Group and also because Momentum activists are not putting in the groundwork. The Tories are still smarting from the 2015 defeat of Esther McVey in Wirral West and may get Laura Evans in this time.

Southport is seen as a three-way marginal, but it doesn’t look as if Labour are going to take it for the first time. With the Lib Dems fading, this could be another seat that swells Boris Johnson’s majority.

Liverpool is a city which clearly shows how the Labour Party is changing. Two moderate Jewish women MPs, Luciana Berger and Louise Ellman have gone claiming antisemitism and Stephen Twigg has retired. In their place will come the city’s first black woman MP Kim Johnson in Riverside and Momentum supported candidates Ian Byrne (West Derby) and Paula Barker (Wavertree).

CHESHIRE.

The Tory tide is likely to sweep through Cheshire taking the Labour marginal seats of Crewe, Weaver Vale and Warrington South.

The Lib Dems were hoping that Antoinette Sandbach, who switched from the Tories over Brexit, could take Eddisbury for them but the Conservatives have cannily chosen the well-respected former Crewe MP Edward Timpson to fight, and probably win for them.

GREATER MANCHESTER.

With the Lib Dems performing disappointingly in this campaign one has to look hard for any potential success in the North West. Cheadle seems their best hope with local councillor Tom Morrison.

Former Labour MP Angela Smith has moved over to Altrincham and Sale West. Despite being a Remain area, expect senior Tory Sir Graham Brady to hang on.

Greater Manchester, normally a bastion for Labour, could be breeched. Although the city was for Remain surrounding areas were Leave and their anger could take out Labour in the Bury seats and Bolton North East. Heywood and Middleton was Brexit’s best chance, could the Tories now benefit from the fading of Farage.

CORBYN’S CREDIBLE POSITION ON EUROPE

…BUT REMAINERS AT EACH OTHERS THROATS.

Jeremy Corbyn is to stay neutral on Europe if Labour is able to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the EU and put it alongside remain in a People’s Vote.

At least this long term leaver won’t campaign against it.Corbyn has always regarded Europe as a capitalist club, but its not been one of his big issues. What he really cares about is in Labour’s mind boggling manifesto just issued. Most of the Shadow Cabinet will campaign for Remain if they get the chance.

It doesn’t look as if they will. Jo Swinson has had a bad week. The Lib Dem leader’s Revoke policy was heavily criticised in Friday’s TV debate and she has exacerbated the civil war amongst Remainers by attacking Corbyn’s decision to stay neutral.It looks as if the  failure of all the Remain parties to ruthlessly work together is going to hand victory to Leavers.

BADLY BEHAVED BORIS.

Boris Johnson was not quite as bombastic on Friday but he chose the wrong tactics in Tuesday’s head to head debate with Jeremy Corbyn. Getting your prime message across is one thing, but to ignore questions from the studio audience about the NHS and trust in politics, is rude. It also shows that this Prime Minister is not as fast on his feet as he was trumped up to be.

“Get Brexit Done” is as misleading as “Take Back Control”. At the referendum the latter slogan allowed people to believe we could be ‘stand-alone’ Britain again. The reality is we live in an interdependent world. The only choice at this election is whether we stay with our European friends or go cap in hand to the Americans and Chinese for a trade deal.

Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” slogan is equally misleading. The first audience member asked if Johnson could guarantee the phrase meant we could put the issue behind us. Of course, that is not the case. If we leave on Jan 31st, the next cliff edge will be looming the following December when the interim period expires. Then there will be years of trade talks with countries in Europe and around the world.

BREXIT CHOICE.

 The people have a clear choice, Brexit with the Tories, a referendum with Labour and the Lib Dems in a hung parliament. Harold Wilson was almost neutral in 1975 and implemented what the people voted for. Corbyn will do the same.

LIB DEMS FALLING BACK.

It is increasingly clear that we can forget a Lib Dem government’s pledge to revoke. They are sadly not getting a huge remain surge and must hope for a hung parliament. Their leader Joe Swinson has to do better than say Johnson and Corbyn are not fit for office. In a hung parliament, somebody must go into Number 10. The Lib Dems made a grave mistake entering the 2010 coalition with the Tories. They are on the left and must make arrangements on that side of the aisle.

SNP MOVE THE GOALPOSTS.

Another interesting development this week has come from the SNP. Their justification for a second Scottish independence referendum was that Brexit had been a “material Change” following what was meant to be a once in a generation referendum in 2014.

Now when they are asked if Britain votes to stay in the EU, will the case for a second referendum go away, they say no.

INFRASTRUCTURE BOOM.

If the ridiculous spending promises of the parties are to be believed, then business in the north should prepare for a great spending spree.

The Prime Minister isn’t one for detail and in any case, he can reverse a policy on the whim (Corporation tax cut). However, he did include HS2 when he was making a series of infrastructure promises in the Salford debate. We shall see.