Theresa May could remain as Prime Minister for at least two years. Does Boris Johnson, David Davis or most likely someone we’ve never considered really want the job at the moment ?

The Brexit talks will be long, tiring and are very unlikely to end well. There will be vicious recriminations from both sides in two years’ time. The hard Brexitiers are already expecting betrayal. The open Brexitiers won’t satisfy us Remainers even if they get some compromise on the single market and customs union. Whoever is Prime Minister in March 2019 will not receive the plaudits of a grateful nation but will be blamed as the country expels itself from the European Union in economic uncertainty and mutual recrimination.

So, it looks as if Mrs May will stagger through with the help of her friends from the Democratic Unionist Party. Jim Callaghan survived in minority government for three years in the seventies as did John Major when the Tory Euro rebels made life hell for him. How right Lord Heseltine is, Europe is the cancer at the heart of the Conservative Party.

There is talk of an all-party effort to try and reach consensus on what Britain wants in the Brexit talks. I think it unlikely Labour will enter that trap partly because hard left politicians never like to do deals with Tories and because Labour’s position on Brexit is confused. The party needs to realise that a lot of their new young supporters would prefer to stay in the EU. In these fluid times Kier Starmer, the able Shadow Minister for Exiting the EU should position the party so that if it becomes clear to most people that Brexit isn’t going to work, Labour can say that whilst they respected the 2016 vote, circumstances have changed so much that another vote is needed. This could provide the basis for a popular alliance when the next election comes.


Once again, our first past the post (FPTP) system has thrown up monstrous unfairness with the SDP being generously rewarded with 35 seats for a million votes and the Green Party getting just one for their half million votes.

The Conservatives are the greatest defenders of FPTP saying it gives us stable government. Well that’s been blown out of the water by the 2010 and 2017 results.

The Tories would have won if just 401 more people had voted for them. They lost four seats by less than 31 and another four by less than 250. So, bring on those boundary changes! Remember the constituency boundary map was going to be redrawn for 2020 and would have helped the Tories. An election pundit friend of mine said it was “madness” for the Conservatives to go to the country again on boundaries containing undersized Labour seats.

The problem now is will Mrs May dare propose the changes in next week’s Queen’s Speech or will it be ditched like most of the manifesto.

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Labour’s inexperienced leadership has been blind sided by the government over the terms of our leaving the EU. They have fallen for a reluctant promise from Theresa May to lay out her plans for the negotiations. Don’t hold your breath. The Tories didn’t want to do this. They deployed powerful arguments for keeping things close to Ministers chests. They still believe in that strategy and the document, when it is produced, is likely to be as clear as a December fog.

For instance will it reveal whether we want to be part of the Single Market or Customs Union? Will it reveal our position on freedom of movement? Will it indicate whether we are prepared to continue paying some EU contributions in return for concessions? I very much doubt it. However Labour have taken the pressure off the government. The threat to disrupt this unwise process of leaving the EU had been a cause Labour could rally around. It certainly paid off for the Lib Dems in the Richmond by election last week.

Instead the government have a blank cheque for triggering Article 50. Also the decision of the Supreme Court over whether parliament must pass an act to trigger Article 50 is rendered far less significant because Labour has paved the way for the government on the issue.

Labour’s blunder is particularly frustrating because it has been revealed during the Supreme Court proceedings that the EU Referendum was not legally binding. Indeed Ministers resisted an attempt to make it so. It was an advisory referendum so we Remainers are entitled to politely here the advice of the 52% and take a different view now that the implications of leaving are becoming clearer by the day.

One is reinforced in that view by my colleague, Mr McKenna, who writes eloquently this week about the pack of lies that was told by the Leave campaign. Amongst them was the threat that millions of Turks were about to come and live here. Last week the European Parliament (the democratic voice of the EU) voted to suspend any talk of Turkish membership because of its human rights record.


I recently completed my parliamentary boundary road show visiting Lancaster, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. These hearings were on reshaping the parliamentary map to reduce the number of MPs and even out the size of constituencies.

Labour has expressed its anger that the population figures on which the calculations are based are out of date. They are expecting to lose seats in the shake up and I was expecting strong feelings to be on display. In truth there was barely a whimper. This was particularly surprising in regard to Wirral where two Labour seats are folded into one. There was mild concern in the eastern part of Greater Manchester over the splitting up of Oldham and the joining together of the very different communities of Hyde and Marple.

The changes will give the Conservatives more seats but ironically it has been the Tories kicking up the most fuss. They strongly objected to the linking of Lancaster and Morecambe in one seat and the creation of a vast North Lancashire constituency stretching from the Upper Lune Valley to the outskirts of Preston.

Further south the Tories have the problem of George Osborne’s Tatton seat being abolished. The former Chancellor has ruled out leaving the region. A close aide to Osborne has told me there will not be a battle with Graham Brady for the new Altrincham and Tatton Park constituency so we are denied the prospect of the ex Chancellor and the chairman of the 1922 Backbench committee and champion of grammar schools going head to head. So what will Osborne do? He may find the selection rules give him difficulties if he looks towards Weaver Vale or Eddisbury.

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I was in the Commons this week when the new parliamentary constituency map was announced. It was generally expected that Tory MPs would be jumping for joy. The shake up aims to even up the size of constituencies which currently do not reflect the move of people from the cities (Labour) to the suburbs (Conservative). It is true that the plans could cost Labour roughly two dozen seats, but the change also has another purpose.

David Cameron, the here yesterday and gone now, MP for Witney thought it was a clever response to the MP’s expenses scandal to “cut the cost of politics”. You would have thought he might have decided to trim the size of the House of Lords which is not elected and is nearly 900 strong. But no, Cameron decided to reduce the number of elected MPs from 650 to 600. Therefore this shake up has led to the creation of huge constituencies in rural areas and disruptive change in the conurbations of Leeds, Liverpool and especially Greater Manchester. This aspect of the change will not just affect Labour MPs, but Tories too.

The plan may go through, especially if the Scottish Nationalists do not vote on this English issue, but I found many northern Tories unhappy with both the changes and the principle of downsizing the Commons. It was David Cameron’s idea. He’s not even an MP now and his policies are being comprehensively trashed by Theresa May.

A brief look at the new constituency map for the North shows how sitting Labour and Tory MPs should be worried. Conservative Party rules giving MPs with a large chunk of their old seat safe selection may mitigate blue on blue contests. However they’ve created of a huge North Lancashire seat stretching from the Scottish border to the suburbs of Preston. The consequential scrapping of the Ribble Valley constituency affects Ben Wallace (Preston North) and Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley). Bury will have only one seat threatening Tory David Nuttall in the northern part of the town. Chris Green’s marginal Bolton West gets more Labour wards. Then we come to the decision to cross the Greater Manchester-Cheshire border in two places. George Osborne’s Tatton disappears into a seat including Altrincham. There is the possibility of a fight for the new seat clash between the ex Chancellor and the grammar school supporting Graham Brady. The fortunes of politics! From Chancellor to an MP without a seat in three months.But Osborne’s new Northern Powerhouse think tank suggests he is going to stay and make mischief for Thesesa May. The other cross border constituency is Bramhall and Poynton damaging Lib Dem prospects in the Cheadle and Hazel Grove area.

But Labour will lose seats too. Alison McGovern’s Wirral South disappears as does Ivan Lewis’s Bury South and Jim McMahon’s Oldham West. Leeds West goes as does Yvette Cooper’s Pontefract constituency .The greatest danger to sitting Labour MPs will be the need to hold selection contests on new boundaries. The left wing Momentum organisation will be given the perfect opportunity to punish opponents of Jeremy Corbyn.


I had a chance to question ex Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg on the eve of his party’s conference this week.

He was in downbeat mood saying that the normal pendulum of politics had stopped. Normally there was an expectation that it would swing against the government. However with Labour decimated in Scotland, plunged into a civil war in England and with his own party so weak there was every prospect of lengthy Tory rule. The only cloud on that horizon, said Mr Clegg, was the possibility of tensions over Brexit. He identified a fundamental division between Tories who knew the value of the Single Market and sovereignty fanatics.

However when I asked him about centre left unity, he went over old grievances about how Labour had let the Lib Dems down over voting reform before acknowledging that bridges had to be built. Let’s see if the new leader Tim Farron will be more up beat in Brighton.

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