It was twenty years ago this week that the former Tory MP Shaun Woodward was parachuted into St Helens South as the Labour candidate. New Labour was in its pomp and had blocked the local council leader Marie Rimmer in favour of Woodward.

Despite this local spat, Tony Blair won his second General Election, but the arrogant attitude to the North continued. In 2004 people in the North East were invited to vote for an elected Assembly, but despite the efforts of Deputy PM John Prescott, it had been stripped of effective power by Blair. The people of the North East rejected it and the path to last week’s Hartlepool debacle was set.

It is possible to overstate Labour’s predicament. Reporting of the elections was dominated by the by election because it was the first to be declared. Labour’s good results in Wales and for some mayors do deserve some recognition. Frank Mckenna reminds us in his blog that the Tories were written off in the first decade of this century, but I believe a future Labour government is unlikely. I have a number of reasons for thinking this.

It looks as if the Green Party are replacing the Lib Dems in the role as the alternative to a Tory/Labour choice. In any event the left remains split whilst the Tories (after the brief Brexit Party episode) have no credible rivals on the right.

Labour used to bank 40 Scottish seats as a platform to victory at a time when the party won a respectable number of English seats. With the Tories making serious inroads into the North and Midlands where is a 320-seat majority going to come from?

Finally, the Tories have parked their tanks on Labour’s lawns called big spending and state intervention. What is Labour for when the Conservatives are spreading the largesse in the North…. providing you vote Tory?


The Labour leader has been seriously undermined by two Greater Manchester politicians. Sir Keir wanted to sack Ashton’s Angela Rayner but has ended up giving her three jobs. Trying to remove a northern woman after the Hartlepool result was not a bright idea although my sources report that she had been briefing against the leader.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham criticised the move against Rayner. Although he has now pledged support for the leader, you may hear less from Burnham in the future about how glad he is to have left Westminster behind. His excellent result has put him in a powerful position to become leader and rid the party of the criticism that it is dominated by a woke contingent in London.


Brexit and the pandemic are huge issues that have done Labour no favours. That said it is deeply depressing for Labour supporters that they still lost 45 councillors in the North West eleven years into Tory dominated governments.

The mayoral results apart it was a good night for the Tories. Lancashire was held and has a new woman leader, Phillippa Williamson. This keeps up a striking tradition of female leaders in the county including Louise Ellman, Hazel Harding, and Jennifer Mein.

The Conservatives won the race for Police and Crime Commissioner in the Red Rose County and repeated the feat in Cheshire with the return of John Dwyer.

The Greens had a good night adding 14 councillors in the region, whilst the only flicker of light in a dark landscape for the Lib Dems came in Stockport where they are now the largest party under the excellent leadership of Mark Hunter.

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