Hancock’s Half Page

NO DEAL OR REVOKE LOOMS

NEW PM, SAME PARLIAMENT.

I am uneasy with the way the Prime Minister is being bullied from office. I fundamentally disagree with leaving the EU, but Mrs May has tried to do an impossible job as best she can. She has been caught between the rock of the referendum result and the hard place whereby any Brexit harms the British economy.

She has lacked dexterity in her negotiations and is poor at the clubbable skills essential to politics, but she does not deserve the humiliation she is getting. It is driven by the hard line Brexiteers in her own party and by the braggard Farage who are terrified that a second vote on Brexit might reverse the decision.

But why this desperate urgency to remove the Prime Minister today, tomorrow or by the weekend? If the Brexiteers they think Boris Johnson or some other true leaver Prime Minister will be able to take us out with no deal on Halloween Night, they haven’t reckoned with the growing confidence of the Remain camp to prevent it.

A lot will depend on the percentage vote for leave and remain parties when the European Parliament totals are counted on Sunday, but if Farage

Can be kept around 30%, the determination of parliament to do whatever is necessary to block no deal will be reinforced.

So as the Tory leadership circus gets underway, it is worth remembering that the parliamentary maths does not change. There is no majority for a reckless departure from the EU under Johnson, Rabb or any of the other little men who have made May’s life a misery over the last three years.

LANCASHIRE MERRY GO ROUND.

I’ve chaired a couple of excellent Downtown events with business people and politicians in Lancashire recently. The determination to succeed and bright ideas were in evidence, but the issue of devolution loomed large.

It is a bit like Brexit. People know what they are against but can’t unite around one alternative. Everyone acknowledges that there needs to be a response in the Red Rose county to the combined authorities to the south, but what shape it will take is unclear.

We are shortly to see a cross border link up between Lancaster and Cumbria but at the same time plans to bring East Lancashire together don’t look bright. Pendle Liberal Democrats only agreed to support the new Labour administration if it pledged to oppose the project.

The impasse hasn’t prevented the Labour opposition on the county to begin their economic planning for the 2021 elections. Under the leadership of Cllr. Azhar Ali and Cllr. John Fillis, they favour a central board for the county bringing together business, the trade unions and experts in the fields of highways, housing, health, education and transport. This would be supported by a regional bank, one of the big ideas of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

One of the key priorities for the councillors is to deal with the cul-de-sac that is the M65. The issue of trans Pennine links and taking the pressure off the M62 was one of the subjects at a major transport conference I recently attended in Manchester. I will report on it when Brexit doesn’t crowd out everything else.

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VOTE FOR CHRIS DAVIES AND HIS TEAM

STANDING IN THE WAY OF BREXIT PARTY.

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.

BREXIT PARTY.

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.

LABOUR.

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.

CONSERVATIVE.

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.

CHANGE.uk

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.

GREEN PARTY.

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.

UKIP.

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.

ULTRA RIGHT.

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.

LET’S HEAR IT FOR MR d’HONDT!

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.

PREDICTION.

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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VOTING LIB DEM ONLY WAY TO MATCH FARAGE.

THE EURO ELECTION CHOICE.

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.

“BAILING OUT THE TORIES”.

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.

LOCAL ELECTION VERDICT IN THE NORTH.

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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TIME FOR ANOTHER SEA CHANGE,40 YEARS ON?

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

THE THATCHER REVOLUTION.

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.

IS IT TIME FOR McDONNELL?

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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