Could Lady Hale, spider broach and all, be called into action again? The government persist in the contradictory mantra that they will obey the act preventing no deal yet leave on October 31.

Have they been given legal advice that there is a loophole in the legislation that would force the Prime Minister to ask for an extension to our EU membership if a deal was not agreed by October 19th ? It had better be sounder legal advice than they received before they faced the Supreme Court in the illegal prorogation case. Otherwise Lady Hale and her fellow judges (Champions of the People, by the way) could well be called in to nominate someone other than the PM to ask the EU for more time.

Johnson’s boorish, brazen behaviour on Wednesday has some MPs considering what else they need to do to prevent no deal on October 31st. There is talk of strengthening the law because who knows what PM advisor Dominic Cummings is contemplating? The aide should be out of Downing Street following the failure of his strategy to shut down parliament failed so spectacularly.

The other consequence of Johnson’s confrontational approach is to make it very difficult for Leave Labour MPs to vote for any deal that the PM might negotiate before Oct 19th. While I was in Brighton for the Labour conference I spoke to Lisa Nandy. The Wigan MP has been keen to join over 30 Labour MPs in supporting a soft Brexit deal. Even on Monday she expressed to me pessimism that Johnson was negotiating seriously. Now Nandy must contemplate whether she could support a potential Prime Minister’s deal after Johnson accused one of her female colleagues of “humbug” when she expressed despair at the level of abuse MPs are getting.

It looks as if Johnson has decided on a People v Parliament and the courts strategy. It depends for its success on appealing to people who want to leave the EU at any cost to national unity, standards of behaviour, economic welfare, peace in Ireland and the Union.


The Prime Minister has been rightly punished for his unrepentant behaviour by MPs denying him a recess for the party conference in Manchester. In truth most MPs don’t attend their autumn gatherings. Too much contact with fanatical party members is to be avoided. So, talk of the Manchester economy taking a hit is far-fetched. Most of the junketing and lobbying will go on as usual. Johnson will be the one most inconvenienced having to move his keynote speech which now clashes with Prime Minister’s Questions.

He will still have time to point out that this is his third visit to the North since he became Prime Minister. He will big up the Northern Powerhouse as part of his strategy to win Leave seats up here.


On my visit to Brighton, I was surrounded by socialist zeal. Labour’s programme for the election is very radical and one can make comparisons with the 1983 manifesto dubbed the longest suicide note in history. The £90bn price tag, 4-day week and ultra-liberal immigration policy are huge gambles. But whilst we were in Brighton Thomas Cook was collapsing as its executives walked away to count their bonuses and airlines jacked up their prices for people whose holidays were ruined. Labour hopes to get support from those who think capitalism has many unacceptable faces.

Remainers were stitched up by Unite, as I forecast last week, and Labour’s complex position will probably lose out in the battle between Tory No Deal and Lib Dem Revoke. However, Corbyn staying neutral is a lot more honest than Johnson’s confected hostility to our EU membership.





One of Jeremy Corbyn’s main beefs with Tony Blair’s New Labour project was that it rode roughshod over the wishes of party members.

So, I am looking forward to going to Brighton this weekend to see how one of the most dramatic Labour conferences in years plays out. Most Labour members, including Momentum, want to stay in the EU. But before anyone has got to the South Coast, Corbyn has attempted to pre-empt the debate by declaring his position. It is that a Labour government would negotiate a new departure deal and put that to the country alongside the option to remain. Corbyn refuses to say which side he would campaign on, but the speculation is that he would remain neutral allowing Cabinet members freedom to support whichever side they wished.

The last part of that is in the finest tradition of the Labour Party. Harold Wilson did exactly the same in the 1975 Referendum. But Corbyn announcing his position ahead of the conference suggests that Unite are trying to fix the conference. Len McCluskey, the Unite leader, has always been keen to respect the people’s vote in 2016. He probably shares Corbyn’s view that the EU is a capitalist club.

So, we could see a clash between union power and the grass roots. That will be in the old Labour tradition as well when the unions have defeated the rank and file. Its just that we didn’t expect it under Corbyn who is in danger of losing all credibility. His opinion ratings with the general public are awful, and he now risks losing his claim to represent his members.

It is unlikely that Corbyn will ever be in a position to negotiate a new deal because I still think it is possible that the Prime Minister is going to be able to get something done on the backstop, warn off the spartans on his own backbenches and gain the support of the new MPs For A Deal. This group includes Tories, and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb. He’s not the only Liberal Democrat rebelling over Jo Swinson’s Revoke stance even though the new Lib Dem leader has a case that a General Election which put in power a Lib Dem government with that manifesto pledge would surely overtake the 2016 referendum.

Lib Dem or Labour majority governments however remain highly improbable with a last-minute deal possible.


I had the pleasure of interviewing the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel this week. He was well informed, humorous and self-deprecating. The latter quality is not present in some of his colleagues which brings me to John Humphrys. I found his big send off on Thursday faintly embarrassing. I find media luvvies praising each other on air pretty uncomfortable. Save that for the farewell party. Humphrys has been a great journalist but the picture painted in the Radio Times by his fawning acolyte Justin Webb, paints a picture of a man who couldn’t come to terms with the modern world. Humphrys started each day by bawling out the producers who had worked hard on the morning’s programme. Webb doesn’t mind that macho male behaviour because when he was a young reporter Humphrys spoke to him. Webb then launches a vicious attack on the late Brian Redhead who, he says, never spoke to him. Well he spoke to me Mr Webb. Brian Redhead was one of the greatest journalists the North ever produced and championed Northern devolution. When Humphrys came up here a few years ago to host the Northern Convention he was unprepared and treated the whole thing as a joke.

Time to move on Today.



If MPs had any consideration for business, next week would see an end to the Brexit drama, but the mood music is gloomy this weekend. The most likely scenario is that Mrs May’s deal and no deal will be rejected, meaning a pretty dramatic day next Thursday. The odds must be that Tory MPs are whipped to vote against an extension. If the Commons votes for more time, the EU are unlikely to agree to a short one just to permit the parliamentary pantomime to continue. They may say the European elections and the need for a long period of reflection by our deadlocked parliament needs a two year extension.

That will be rejected by the Commons and with days to go the Prime Minister may be able to say, once and for all, it is my deal or no deal.

Rebel Labour MPs will be important. Long standing Brexiteeers like Manchester Blackley’s Graham Stringer may be joined by a few bribed by the offer of cash for left behind towns.

I criticised this pork barrel approach to regional funding last week before knowing the details of the government’s offer. We now find out that £281m will be coming to the North West over 6 years. That hardly compensates for the austerity cuts on councils or the damage Brexit is going to do.

However, there are a number of Labour MPs who want to follow a vote taken 3 years ago after a campaign where both sides failed to properly inform people of the dire consequences of withdrawing from the EU. They will feel able to defy a Jeremy Corbyn whip against the governments deal because Corbyn actually wants to get out and he has a record of defying the whip as long as your arm.

If by any chance the government’s deal is not voted through, the Commons will definitely vote the following day against leaving with No Deal. So, On Thursday it is possible Mrs May will whip her MPs against extending Article 50 and the brinkmanship will become even more irresponsible.


Cllr Nick for has been a major force in the devolution movement in the North. He has led Newcastle Council well and aspired to be the elected mayor of North of the Tyne. However, he was beaten for the nomination by fellow Newcastle councillor Jamie Driscoll who had only been on the authority for a year. But he had the support of Momentum and Corbyn and won easily.

In Wirral Phil Davies, who has been a good leader of the council, is standing down as the Labour group of councillors break up amid complaints about a toxic atmosphere in local party meetings.

Across the river in Liverpool people are asking why the Riverside and Wavertree parties have not been suspended following endless complaints of anti-Semitism against their MPs.

All this shows that the left takeover of the Labour Party is much deeper than in the 1980s. From the very top of the party to the grassroots, it is in the hands of the left.

There have been two reactions to this. The Tiggers have left and are about to form their own party. Their defection has received more publicity than a move that may be more significant in the long term. It centres around the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson and his gathering of moderate MPs around him.

I am sure his move has prevented mass defections to the Tiggers because it allows deeply unhappy Labour MPs to stay in the party rather than take all the risks of leaving. It is true Watson’s faction is a parliamentary organisation with no grassroots at the moment but if say 130 Labour MPs broadly identify with him, it will be a check on the hard left and will have the potential for a really big breakaway if Corbyn doesn’t change his ways.

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As I forecast last week, The Prime Minister had a good conference. While the hard line Brexiteers raged at the fringe meetings, the mainstream of the party held things together in the hall. Mrs May’s speech showed less of the Maybot and more of a woman trying to do a very hard job in the face of rank treachery from Boris Johnson and his allies.

Direct reference to the Chequers Plan was cleverly avoided, but the success of the Birmingham conference will give room for Mrs May to get a deal with the EU. After that an alliance of sane MPs that may include the likes of Labour’s Lisa Nandy (Wigan) and Caroline Flint (Don Valley) will vote to avoid a No Deal exit.

It has been quite alarming to see the hatred against the EU being expressed at Tory fringe meetings. In the Birmingham bubble these extreme Brexiteers were immune to the dire warnings coming from Vauxhall and Toyota bosses at the Paris Motor Show. If Brexiteers want to dismiss them as “project fear”, try this for “project fact”. A clinical trial of a ground-breaking heart drug has been put on hold by a California company because of Brexit uncertainty.

Against my better judgement I queued for over an hour for the Boris Johnson rally. I hope I witnessed the last hurrah of this discredited man. Hopefully his constant treachery to Mrs May has weakened his support, even amongst the grassroots. The man has no political integrity denouncing the Northern Ireland backstop which he had agreed to in Cabinet last December.

Far more sense was spoken at another fringe meeting I attended where Tory MP Philip Lee, who resigned from the government to promote his call for a second referendum, warned that the Tory Party was heading for a death spiral. We had been shown polling figures which suggested many Tories regarded Brexit as more important than keeping Labour out of office. Lee forecast that Labour would present a powerful case to voters by blaming everything that goes wrong after March 29th on those who had taken us out of the EU.


As Parliament returns we find the Conservatives just ahead in the polls, a condemnation of Labour effectiveness 18 months after a General Election. Theresa May has every chance of battling on until Brexit is delivered and possibly longer. This is partly because she is seen to be doing her best in difficult circumstances and because the Tories are preparing policies to counter the potentially effective Labour message about the unfairness of Britain. Mrs May’s decision to remove the shackles from council house building shows a preparedness to be flexible on ideology.

Labour had a good conference and are in tune with voters on issues like the railways and utility companies ripping off loyal customers. However, they are handicapped by their flirtation with far left causes and people.

It has been a bad conference season for Lib Dems and moderate Labour MPs. They lack the political strategy and vision to create a new centre force just when its needed most.

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