Perhaps fate has helped decide that Labour’s most dramatic conference in years should be held in Liverpool. The city will always be associated with the last time the party was under attack by Trotskyists with intimidation replacing reasoned debate at party meetings.

Liverpool,as a city, has been transformed since the 1980s so let’s hope television reporters don’t use too much sepia footage of the Militant rallies outside the Town Hall. The city is run by a moderate mayor with mostly moderate MPs, but they have faced party meetings where the old bullying tactics have returned along with the new phenomenon of anti-semitism.

The leader Jeremy Corbyn is probably unaware of much of this. The dirty work is done by people in his name. Corbyn points to the huge increase in Labour’s membership. In isolation it is a great achievement to have become the largest political party in Europe.But how many of them are caught up in a Corbyn fan cult unaware of the Trotskist plotting and unwilling to do the spade work alongside established members to get Labour elected?

In this year of uncertainty we have to allow the possibility of an Owen Smith victory, but let us consider the consequences of Corbyn winning again.

I have spent the summer talking to some of the 170 Labour MPs who voted no confidence in Corbyn, to see if there was an appetite for a split to form a new Social Democrat Party. I would be surprised if that happens. It is more likely that they will stay until many are deselected Labour during the boundary changes. Others will be defeated in the 2020 Conservative General Election victory.

Why is this when the need is for a centre left party embracing Lib Dems, Greens and Labour moderates to fight for Britain’s place in the European Union, social justice and responsible capitalism? One MP told me that when it came down to it, he was damned if he was going to let the Trots force him out of his party. I can respect this. It is easy for a journalist to move the pieces around the chess board of politics and not take account of the deep allegiances that MPs have to their party. I would only ask him and others to look at the bigger picture as the Tories career on with their Brexit madness, social unfairness and cuts.


How good it was to see Lib Dem delegates waving the EU flag at their conference in Brighton. They are the most pro European of the political parties and on my visit to the seaside I found them devastated by the referendum result but with a determination to fight it in a responsible way.

It would be reckless for a party with Democrats in the title to defy the Brexit vote, but they are right to demand that whatever deal is cooked up by the Three Unwise Men (Fox, Davis and Boris) must be put to the British people. They can then decide between the known reality of the EU or the Brexit deal. In the summer they chose between the EU and promises of £350m a week for the NHS and the prospect of 80 million Turks coming to stay.

Alongside Brexit the talk in Brighton was of centre left cooperation but I found it pretty unconvincing. Ex Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown was pushing his More United project. He says it isn’t a political party, more a movement. That won’t butter any politcal parsnips.

Then we had two of the most impressive women in politics, Green co-leader Caroline Lucas and Wigan Labour MP Lisa Nandy, telling a fringe meeting how much they had in common. But how could that be given politcal expression? The only idea to emerge was to find constituencies where the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems could decide to field one strong candidate and 2 “paper” ones. Such manoeuvers insult the voters intelligence. If you stand you should always want to win.

What is required is action from the leadership of the Greens and Lib Dems along with Labour moderates to form an election pact, anything else is just meaningless hand wringing.

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The grip of Corbynistas on the Labour Party is now extending to the trade unions. As they assemble in Brighton this weekend for their Congress, very few unions are backing Owen Smith. They are the GMB, the Shop workers, Community and the Musicians. Unite The Union (I love the arrogance of that title, I bet it goes down well with the others) is remaining loyal to Jeremy Corbyn. The General Secretary Len McCluskey may be too far to the left for the taste of Middle England but he is facing a potential challenge from an even further left opponent when his post comes up for re-election. That helps to explain “the reality” (his favourite phrase) of the position of the biggest union of all.

I’ve had a look at the Brighton agenda and it is full of worthy policy debates on wages and conditions at work. But as the brothers and sisters sit through the debates they may like to reflect that they are wasting their time. They will continue to have an important role in defending workers rights under existing conditions but in respect of legislative change, they and Labour are impotent.

The unions created the Labour Party to form governments which could represent the interests of workers. The last one left office six years ago. Will Labour win in 2020 or even 2025? Unlikely. Why do they think Theresa May has ruled out a snap election? Because she is so confident of controlling this parliament with Labour divided, even with a majority of 12. She can afford to wait to get her 100 seat majority in 2020.

The unions need to put their financial muscle behind a new centre left party capable of winning power for their members.


I was sad to hear that the famous jewellers, Preston’s of Bolton, is to close. That proud town’s centre is in a real crisis with another traditional store already shutting its doors.

Emotional shop staff blamed the perfect storm of the Trafford Centre and on-line shopping. Downtown backs Business Improvement Districts in places like Liverpool. Bolton is not alone in facing a bleak future unless some imaginative steps are taken to find a new offer to counter the mega shopping and leisure centres and the computer.


The autumn TV season has got off to a great start. ITV’s Victoria plays fast and loose with historical facts (Melbourne was old and fat, not hunky) but the stand out programmes for me so far got less publicity.

Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain was quite outstanding with her two reports on life in Bangladesh. Her natural open and friendly style, surely means a full career in television beckons.

The second outstanding programme was the latest look at Salford FC owned by ex United legends the Neville Brothers, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

Production teams have to gamble on who to follow as the season develops. They chose an out of form striker who couldn’t get a game but returned to score vital goals to secure promotion. Roy of the Rovers eat your heart out.

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