It has been a sad start to the year for anyone who had the privilege of knowing Paul Goggins. In the often self serving murky world of politics, Paul was truly one of the good guys. His death at just 60 years of age has deprived Wythenshawe and Sale East of a caring MP, and the rest of us of an excellent parliamentarian.
In 1997 he had the task of filling the shoes of Alf Morris who’s reputation for legislation on behalf of the disabled had made him a legend. Paul soon endeared himself to the people of Wythenshawe, an area with more than its fair share of social and economic stress.
He held various posts in government, including Northern Ireland which benefited from his gentle style of handling thorny problems.
This hardly seems the time for a humorous anecdote but I relate it because it says everything about Paul.
In 2003 I had the task of introducing the new Politics Show North West. The BBC decided it would have a more relaxed feel than its predecessor Northwestminster. MPs would be invited to dress down a little for the Sunday chat. Paul was my first guest on the new show along with a Conservative who decided to ignore the new style and turned up in a blazer and tie. Paul decided on a casual jumper and joked afterwards that I had set him up to look like a student alongside the smart Tory. I can think of many politicians who would have been very pompous about the whole thing but not Paul. God rest his soul.
THE YEAR OF UKIP.
The by election in Wythenshawe and Sale East will be the first of a significant series of elections this year. Even before Paul Goggins died, UKIP, with unseemly haste,were canvassing their supporters for a candidate. They won’t win this Labour stronghold but their leader, Nigel Farage, has used his party’s strong performance in recent northern by elections in Rotherham, Middlesborough and South Shields to indicate that his support is not just from disaffected Tories. You can expect pictures of him swigging a pint in Wythenshawe Forum before long.
UKIP’s main aim this year will be to get as many MEPs elected as possible from Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West. Yorkshire will be interesting as it has the misfortune to be represented in the |European Parliament by the buffoons Bloom and Brons. Hopefully Andrew Brons of the BNP (and Nick Griffin in the North West) will disappear with the recovery of the Labour vote. Godfrey Bloom has been suspended leaving the way open for UKIP to be represented by Jane Collins and Amjad Bashir.
In the North West 8 European places are up for grabs. Labour will probably take 3,the Tories 2 and UKIP 2. The last place could be a fascinating tussle between the long standing Lib Dem Chris Davies and Steven Woolfe who could secure UKIP a third seat.
UKIP could well win the European elections in June, particularly if the press is full of stories about a surge of Bulgarians and Romanians to the UK. But what then? Will they be a serious force at the General Election? To be so they need to get a base in local government. So let’s see how they do in the council elections being held on the same day in May for a third of the seats in metropolitan areas of West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
It could well be that UKIP peak this year and then fade away. Let’s hope Labour don’t panic and promise an in/out referendum on the EU in the meantime.
WHAT IF BRAVEHEART WINS?
The other major vote will be on Scottish independence. A yes vote remains unlikely but we need to turn our minds now to the serious consequences for us all in the north of England should it go the other way.
The year will also see the new inquests into Hillsborough, the International Festival of Business in Liverpool, continuing debates over fracking and HS2 and the launch of Local TV.
I look forward to discussing all these topics with you.