I would guess that Barack Obama is more popular with the British people than most of our domestic politicians. His two terms in the White House have been characterised by cautious and wise leadership of the western world and efforts to create something resembling the National Health Service in America. In the latter endeavour he has had fight every inch of the way against a stubborn, narrow minded and nasty Republican dominated Congress.

When asked this weekend, he will offer the view that we should vote to stay in the European Union. He will do that from the vantage point of having had to take a global view of affairs since 2009. And what has the President observed in those eight troubled years? The emergence of Daesh in the Middle East, the growing economic power of China and a newly aggressive Russia on Europe’s eastern flank. On the last point nobody would be more delighted if the UK quits the EU than President Putin. He wants a weakened EU. Obama knows this and is fully entitled to support the Remain cause during his visit.

Of course the British people will decide, but they will have the President’s opinion to think about which is similar to most world leaders including the old Commonwealth that the Brexiteers remember with such affection. They will also be taking into account the hugely authoritative Treasury document that came out this week. Its claim that we would all be over £4300 worse off captured the headlines but perhaps more significant was its analysis that our current membership of the Single Market (which will not be available if we leave) is better than all the other models the Brexiteers favour (Norway, Canada or the World Trade Organisation.


It is certain that more people will vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner(PCC) elections in two weeks time than did so the first time around. The average 15% turnout in the gloom of November 2012 is not a very high bar to overcome. Early summer is clearly a more sensible time for such elections and people will also be voting for local councils at the same time.

There is another reason why interest in these posts might rise a little. The government are signalling that they see PCCs as a way of pursuing the growing agenda to join up public services. This is aimed at saving money and delivering more coherent delivery. The Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken about PCCs bringing many other services under their wing. These may include fire and rescue, probation and court services and possibly schools to support troubled kids and keep them out of crime.

Labour dominated the initial PCC elections in the Downtown area and there is little reason to expect a change this time. In West Yorkshire, which includes Leeds, Labour’s Mark Burns-Williamson is seeking a second term as is Clive Grunshaw in Lancashire. Grunshaw’s time in office has been overshadowed by two rows over his expenses. His strongest challenger is likely to be the Tory candidate, former Lancashire Police Superintendent Andrew Pratt.

On Merseyside, the former Labour MP Jane Kennedy looks nailed on for a second term, but in Greater Manchester there will be no PCC election. The post has already been absorbed into the office of the interim elected mayor Tony Lloyd, a trend that may develop across much of the North as the devolution process unfolds.





What an appalling start to the New Year it has been for British politics.

David Cameron’s decision to allow Cabinet members to split on the E.U Referendum is a flat contradiction of what he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr a year ago. The Prime Minister is a brazen pragmatist. What he said yesterday does not matter. He can busk it with his effortless Etonian charm. Now we must wait and see how many Cabinet Ministers take the opportunity to rubbish the deal Cameron gets from his negotiations. If Home Secretary Theresa May, and careerist Boris Johnson join the perennial anti EU Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling then the Prime Minister has a serious problem and so do those of us who want to stay in. Cameron will deserve it if the campaign becomes acrimonious and the Tory Party is split for a generation.


That is what happened to Labour soon after Harold Wilson allowed his Cabinet to split on the 1975 referendum. Within six years Cabinet members who had campaigned to stay in formed the Social Democrat Party whilst the Labour Party descended into faction fighting. It vowed never to return to those days when it won power sixteen long years later but this week we have seen in the longest reshuffle in history that Labour is going to be unfit for office until 2025 or 2030. What a betrayal of working class people! From the Blair-Brown feud to the current shambles, both left and right in the party have let ordinary people down big time.


Apart from the EU Referendum which is likely in June, what else have we to look forward to this year?


Kennedy, Bush, Clinton; it is amazing that in a country of 320 million people that it is quite possible that between 1989 and 2024 either a Clinton or a Bush will have been President of the United States apart from Barack Obama.

It looks almost certain that Hilary Clinton will win in November because the Republicans have narrowed their support base at a time when America is becoming more multicultural. It is possible the Republicans will choose Donald Trump but even if it is Florida senator Marco Rubio, they are still likely to be handicapped by their reluctance to accept the USA as it is.


Labour are likely to be heavily beaten in the Scottish government elections but if they can win the London Mayor race and hold their very strong position in local government in the North, there will be no immediate pressure on Jeremy Corbyn.

Locally interest will focus on Liverpool where Joe Anderson is due to stand again for mayor of the city. As he has recently taken over as chair of the Liverpool City Region which is due to elect a mayor for the wider area next year, he may stand down. It is difficult to see how elected mayors in Liverpool and Salford will sit happily under mayors for the larger combined authorities.

Meanwhile Leeds, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria will be looking to conclude devolution deals.