OSBORNE ON MANOEUVRES.
So the Conservatives arrive in Birmingham this weekend in a clear blue political sky. Their enemies are divided, they have a brand new leader and the UK is leaving the hated EU.
But look a little closer and things aren’t quite so simple. George Osborne, the former Chancellor, is on manoeuvres. He was not only sacked by Mrs May but she then made it clear that his pet project, the Northern Powerhouse, was sooo yesterday. Lord O’Neill of Gatley who was Osborne’s right hand man on the project has quit. From now on we have to talk about an “industrial strategy” which is far less Manchester focused. Osborne immediately set up his Northern Powerhouse think tank. This has as much to do with his power battle with the Prime Minister as it has to do with his ongoing commitment to the regeneration of the North. Proof of this comes from Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council. Osborne was in such haste to put a shot across Mrs May’s bows, that she says Leeds knew nothing about the think tank.
Then there’s the former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan attacking the idea of more grammar schools and we are beginning to see a grouping of Osbornistas waiting to pounce if Theresa May should fail.
BREXIT MEANS TROUBLE.
The Anti EU Tendency has had as decisive a victory in the Tory Party as Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters have had in Labour. Over the years they have pressurised and outmanoeuvred the pro Europeans. They have brought down at least two Prime Ministers, engineered our Brexit and still they are not satisfied as you will find out in Birmingham. The conference fringe will ring to the repetition of the vacuous phrase “Brexit Means Brexit”. Now we have another one “Leave Means Leave”. The Anti EU ultras are just waiting for Mrs May to betray them on the terms of Brexit.
They won’t be satisfied until the tariff barriers are up, our universities are stripped of EU researchers and Nissan and General Motors are relocating in Europe.
CENTRE LEFT NO HOPERS.
After my dispiriting visit to the Lib Dems in Brighton looking for centre left solidarity, I headed off to Labour’s gathering in Liverpool and came away with the view that Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents are pretty clueless.
I am of the view that there is a huge opportunity for centre left politicians to emerge from their bunkers and unite to put up a common front to the Tories. When I asked former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg about this , he went on about Labour’s bad behaviour in the electoral reform vote in 2011.
In Liverpool I decided to tackle Chuka Umunna. He’s the Labour MP who should have stood against Jeremy Corbyn but has funked it twice. At a fringe meeting he was regretting the referendum result, so I asked for his opinion on Lib Dem leader Tim Farron’s call for the Brexit package to be put to the British people. Umunna dismissed the idea as an attempt by Farron to get some attention for his party.
With some outrageous rigging of conference procedures the anti Corbyn forces are clinging on to control of the party’s National Executive, but they shouldn’t rely too heavily on Jeremy Corbyn’s promise not to introduce mandatory reselection for MPs. The left don’t need it, the boundary changes will provide the ideal opportunity to pounce.
At a fringe meeting I attended a platform speaker could not have been more clear when he dismissed the idea that Labour MPs should be elected in their twenties and stay until they decided to retire.
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn may be able to mobilise the dispossessed to vote in huge numbers to take him to power. A more likely outcome will be that the vision of high spending and no immigration controls that was approved in Liverpool this week will not appeal in Wirral, Morley and Nuneaton where Labour needs to win.