The spending plans of both main parties are getting ridiculous. Do they think we are fools? After years of austerity, the taps are being turned on big time. We need big investment in the NHS, elderly care, the climate agenda and the Northern Powerhouse but the spending plans lack coherence and already bear the hallmark of reckless promises being made just to win an election.

It would be better if both parties had published their manifestos where we could assess the total picture. Instead we have a promise a day. This is apparently to feed the 24-hour news agenda. If everything was announced at once in a manifesto, there would be nothing to feed the media on a daily basis. What nonsense. The media would be able to fill each day with proper analysis of the party’s plans. Instead the manifestos will hardly be out before postal voting starts.

I’m very wary of spending promises on this scale. Brace yourself if Johnson wins and inflicts a Brexit recession on the country, for that to be used as an excuse to renege on a lot of these spending plans. Attention will return to getting our debt burden down. That’s the right policy. It’s just being forgotten about now for election purposes.


I don’t know why the Tory press is so terrified as Johnson seems on course for victory. But the Mail is so worried about the Brexit Party, that they published the e mail addresses of the party’s candidates in a swathe of northern Leave seats urging their readers to plead with them to stand down to give Farage’s party a clear run against Labour. The Brexit Braggard has already run up the white flag in Tory seats and decided not to face the voters himself, so it’s no surprise to see him resisting further concessions.

It was deeply disappointing that Labour were not prepared to join the anti-Brexit alliance. They are likely to have plenty of time to contemplate the wisdom of this in ten more years of opposition.

But even the Lib Dems don’t escape my criticism over seat strategy. It is silly of Joe Swinson to oppose David Gauke in Hertfordshire and Rosie Duffield in Canterbury.


It is clear that the Conservative and Unionist Party is no such thing. They want to put a regulatory border down the Irish Sea and take Scotland out of the EU against its will. If we stayed in the EU, the “material change” that Nicola Sturgeon refers to justify a second Scottish referendum would disappear.


Elon Musk’s decision to build his car design centre in Germany because the UK represents too much of a Brexit risk is a sign of things to come unless we believe his near namesake, the retiring President of the EU Donald Tusk. He is telling British voters there is still time to save ourselves from becoming a “second rate player”.

Remainers are stirring, we have the biggest pro-European organisations in the 28 countries of the EU. The enthusiasm for Europe, that was lacking in 2016, has been stirred but it is in danger of being overwhelmed by the appeal of the fatuous “Get It Done” slogan.





The Tories were able to sweep away the North West Assembly, Development Agency and Government Office for the North West because they had failed to develop roots in the community. The media (with some exceptions) hardly reported their affairs and few politicians spoke up for the valuable work they did. Hence when the Environment Secretary Eric Pickles came with his wrecking ball, it wasn’t a surprise that the public didn’t care.

I’m pleased to report that Henri Murison, the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, is made of sterner stuff. At a conference in Liverpool this week he plunged right into the General Election campaign. His speech coincided with a great initiative from papers like the Yorkshire Post, Liverpool Echo and the Manchester Evening News to hold the politician’s feet to the fire over real devolution to the North.

Murison praised the papers, who he said, were making sure that devolution would no longer be a niche subject but one that was relevant for the person struggling with the train service from Huddersfield to Manchester, or worried about kids disadvantaged simply because they lived in the North. Economic growth needed to be encouraged not blocked. He cited the long delay in giving devolved powers to Warrington/Cheshire as a case in point. A £50bn economy was waiting to be realised.

He also challenged people in the big cities to realise the value of the nuclear economy in Cumbria and attacked a right wing think tank that invented the concept of “Workington Man”. Murison called it “unhelpful”.


Both main parties have got off to a poor start, but will it matter in 6 weeks time? Its important to identify what will stick and what won’t.

I’ve got to be brutal here and mean no offence but Welsh Secretary Alan Cairns resignation, the distorting of Kier Starmer’s interview, and comparing Corbyn to Stalin, will be forgotten.

So, let’s look at what may make a difference. Jacob Rees Mogg has been indulged as an eighteenth-century eccentric for too long. His claim that the Grenfell residents lacked common sense shows that the nasty party is still alive and well.

The failure to publish the report on Russian interference in the Referendum of 2016 is scandalous. The Leave vote certainly suited Vladimir Putin. However, anything that casts doubt on that vote is not something Tories want to hear as they parrot “Get Brexit Done”.

Another scandal is ITV’s decision not to allow Jo Swinson to go head to head with Johnson and Corbyn. To have two Leavers debating and excluding the party that wants to stop the madness excluded is disgraceful.

I’ve mixed feelings about Tom Watson’s departure. He made a serious mistake giving credibility to the myth about an Establishment paedophile scandal. However, he pushed Labour towards a People’s Vote and rallied moderate Labour MPs against Corbyn’s hard left. A new leader will be urgently required when parliament reconvenes because in a hung parliament, Labour may have to bow to demands from other parties for a different |Prime Minster than Corbyn.





Some Remain Labour MPs have criticised the Lib Dems for backing a General Election. They say support for a second referendum was growing and the parliamentary impasse would eventually lead to the government backing it. I’m afraid this a fantasy. Boris Johnson has embarked on a hard Brexit project and fears that a referendum would lead to a Remain victory, albeit narrow. He would have really died in a ditch rather than agree to it.

Furthermore, the Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, was right to draw attention to 19 Labour MPs who, far from moving towards a second referendum, voted for Johnson’s bad deal.

Swinson is now campaigning for a majority Lib Dem government to revoke Brexit. She can do no other, but as it is not going to happen, the BBC’s Andrew Neil was right to challenge her with the following uncomfortable truth. She, and all Remainers, are relying on a Labour minority government to get Brexit stopped. Hopefully Corbyn will have to work with 40 or 50 Lib Dem MPs, and 50 odd SNP MPs who will insist on a referendum choice between Remain and the softest of Brexit options being put to the country.

Although Corbyn will struggle to deal with the charge that Labour has been captured by the extreme left, it should be noted that in the last week two moderate MPs, Margaret Hodge and Diana Johnson have survived attempts to deselect them. It is perhaps a sign that there is sanity in the wider Labour membership that will resist Momentum.


Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson will be facing the voters again next year having fended off internal opposition and attempts to abolish the post, but next Wednesday he’ll encounter our CEO Frank McKenna at a Downtown event in the city. Ahead of that I’ve been listening to the key people involved in Liverpool’s future.

Anderson has his critics and acknowledged that recently in respect of the council’s first Inclusive Growth Plan for the city. He accepted that the Town Hall had not reached out enough to the public and stakeholders in its efforts to tackle the multiple problems the city continues to face.

He certainly needs all the help he can get now. Referring to the government’s claim that austerity was over, the city’s impressive new Chief Executive, Tony Reeves, has said “it doesn’t feel like it in Liverpool”. A Town Hall official tells me there are no reserves and there is an embargo on non-essential expenditure.

That said the mayor points out the positives. £58m more generated in the local economy than 9 years ago, the development of the waterfront with 70 cruise liners visiting the city.


Anderson claims the “Preston Model” of using local companies and people has been in practice in Liverpool too. He wants to use that approach in building schools. He wants a mutual bank to issue low deposit mortgages.

Tony Reeves observes that the city has some of the finest health expertise in the city’s universities and close by some of the worst life expectancy rates in the country. The new Inclusive Growth Plan aims to tackle that.

Michael Parkinson from the Heseltine Institute believes the time has come for the city to concentrate more on economic competitiveness than physical regeneration, the local economy being too small.

Urban Splash boss Tom Bloxham once observed that it takes 30 years to become an overnight success. Joe Anderson hasn’t that long, but he is on the journey.








There is much idle talk amongst political commentators about a General Election being just around the corner. Why would the Conservatives, who have just been caught out badly with an unnecessary election, risk another one? In May Labour appeared to be way behind in the polls, now they are level pegging and would probably emerge the largest party.

The argument goes that the Tories would have to hold an election if they changed Prime Minister. This is nonsense. Mrs May is looking more confident and cheerful since her coughing fit in Manchester. It wouldn’t surprise me if she sacks Boris Johnson and Phil Hammond in a reshuffle. But let us suppose for a moment that the Grant Shapps of this world haven’t gone away and force a leadership election. In my view the next Tory Prime Minister takes office and carries on. There is no constitutional requirement to go to the country, nor is there any precedent since 1955 when Eden took over from Churchill and went straight into a General Election.

Since then there have been four occasions when the Prime Minister has changed during a parliament. In 1963 Lord Home (the Jacob Rees Mogg of his day) succeeded Harold Macmillan and waited for the scheduled General Election in 1964. Jim Callaghan took over from Harold Wilson in 1976 and served for three years till defeated in a vote of no confidence. John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and served out the rest of her term before winning the scheduled election in 1992. The Prime Minister most under pressure to seek a fresh mandate was Gordon Brown, but in 2007 he finally decided not to risk it.

Some say the Democratic Unionist Party will renounce their deal with the Tories if the Brexit negotiations require the island of Ireland to be treated as one entity for customs purposes. Possibly, but when will things ever be so good for the DUP again? It will be a long time before they get a billion pounds from a British political party again.

I expect this government to totter on hopelessly divided on Brexit and incapable of a proper negotiation with the European Union. Hopefully there will be a massive change in public opinion on leaving the EU. Then all bets will be off for the future shape of politics in Britain.


I normally have a settled opinion on most political issues but the Catalonia demand for independence really leaves me hopelessly on the fence.

I believe in a European Union where the regions of individual countries have powerful devolved government to bring decision making close to the people and to tackle inequalities like the North South divide. That is why I believed in John Prescott’s model of development agencies held accountable by assemblies.

But regional government should be about those principles of more equal wealth distribution within countries. The Catalan region is the wealthiest in Spain and many supporters of independence don’t want to share their prosperity with poorer areas. In Italy the Northern League has the same attitude to the south of their country.

One thing I am sure of is that using violence against the Catalan people or suspending their devolved powers will solve nothing.

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