A week after parliament was subject to a horrific terror attack, the Prime Minister is threatening our European partners over security cooperation.

What was already a very sad day for us Remainers was made worse by this from the letter triggering Article 50. “In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.”

Our membership of Europol and the free exchange of intelligence on some of the most evil people in the world should have nothing to do with the terms of our divorce from the EU or the subsequent trade deal. This threat has been taken badly by the countries who we are going to have negotiate with. They were sad when the Prime Minister’s letter arrived. Now they are angry. Don’t the Brexiteers see what damage this whole business is doing to our reputation. I believe in a Britain at the heart of cooperation on trade, security and democratic values. If we go on like this, we’ll be seen as part of the Putin/Trump camp wishing the EU harm.

So, what happens next? We will not be offered the same terms as we now enjoy nor will the talks lead to a tariff free future with lorries trundling over the Irish border and through Dover as the triumphant Brexiteers claim. Indeed, officials at Dover are already looking at new lorry parks to accommodate the freight waggons as they queue for their security checks. Operation Stack every day!

I hope the Leavers noticed that in a major BBC interview the Prime Minister gave no guarantees on reducing immigration or what Whitehall will do with the money we get from leaving the EU. Nor would she discuss the divorce bill. Well it will start at £50bn and the Germans want that sorted before anything else. Finally, our European friends living here and UK citizens working in Europe may have to wait a long time to end the uncertainty of their status if the principle of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” is enforced.


Labour is reported to be losing supporters as fast as it gained them in the Corbyn surge. This is being put down to people disappointed by their waiving through Article 50. Quite right, they deserve to be punished. Let’s see if they use their votes when Theresa May EU negotiations turn sour.

Meanwhile there are mixed signals concerning the strength of the left in the party. The election for General Secretary of Unite, The Union (as if there are no others) is very important. It is the biggest bankroller of the party. Moderates hope that Gerard Coyne can beat Corbyn supporter Len McCluskey and then work for an electable Labour leader. However, “the reality is” (Len’s favourite phrase) that the wily Liverpudlian is likely to win a second term. How Len explains that it is in Unite’s interest to have Labour out of power for decades is his business.

When it comes to parliamentary by election candidate selection, it doesn’t seem as if the party has been taken over wholesale by Momentum activists. In Copeland, Stoke and now Gorton, moderate candidates have been selected.

Afzal Khan in Gorton is facing a challenge from that political popinjay George Galloway. Some people have suggested to me that he could repeat his successes in the Bethnal Green and Bradford West by elections earlier this century. I think that is unlikely

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The coverage of the row over the hike in business rates has shown once again that the media generally sees things from a London and south of England perspective.

There are rumours that the Chancellor is going to take steps to soften the blow of this overdue review of business rates. If he does, it will mean he is not listening to the wise and under reported views of the leader of Rochdale Council. Richard Farnell has pointed out that he knows a chippy in Rochdale that is paying more per square metre than Harrods and says the south is squealing because it is being asked to pay its fair share. Farnell claims that most businesses in greater Manchester will be better off. Spot on Richard. Not before time this review is reflecting the soaring value of property in the overheated south eastern economy whereas some parts of the North have seen property values decrease. That should be reflected in what firms have to pay.

It is true that southern businesses shouldn’t be subjected to huge rises all at once, but the answer to that is for gutless politicians to review business rates more regularly irrespective of whether there is an election on the horizon. It is also true that we need to review the whole system to reflect the growth of on-line businesses that pay nothing, but that is for the future. If the Chancellor gives concessions next week it will be a victory for the effective southern Tory lobbying exercise and for south centric reporting by the media.


As we saw in his first autumn statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond is not inclined to dramatic and colourful gestures. Indeed, his most surprising announcement in November was to say that this will be the last spring Budget. Signals have been sent out that rebadged austerity is to continue with departments told to find savings in the run up to the next election.

It is true that the national debt stands at £1.8 trillion and the deficit is on track to be £68bn this year, but if this means we are set for a cautious budget then major problems facing the nation will continue to get worse.

Leaving the enormous uncertainties of the Brexit negotiations to one side there is a widespread belief that the government’s recent announcements on housing and skills are not adequate. The crisis in the NHS and particularly social care are laid bare on a daily basis. On the latter point, will we see the Chancellor break with caution and raise the possibility of dipping into people’s assets after they die to fund the rising cost of social care? The political problem is that, in opposition in 2007, the Tories denounced the suggestion, proposed by Labour, as a “death tax” and unveiled posters with the slogan “RIP OFF”.

However, some courage is required and with all the opposition parties so weak at the moment, there is no excuse for a lack of political courage in the budget.


If Labour is serious about having MPs who reflect the area, then an Asian candidate should be chosen for the Gorton seat left vacant by the death of Sir Gerald Kaufman.

Although North West MEP, Afzal Khan, is the frontrunner, don’t be surprised if someone from outside that constituency or even Greater Manchester is chosen to avoid internal rivalries.

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