Boris Johnson should be given no time to settle into office. Remain forces need to get their act together, but I fear they won’t. A leaver asked me the other day what is the strategy of those determined to stop Brexit? It’s a good question.

Jeremy Corbyn’s heart isn’t in it. It’s going to take some courage by Tory rebels to vote against a Prime Minister just endorsed decisively by Conservative Party members. Crucially I’ve a feeling the European Union want to give the new PM a small tweak that Johnson can sell to the European Research Group who are looking for a ladder to climb down. The Rees-Mogg mob got locked into a rather personal struggle with Theresa May. If Johnson can get some fudge on the back stop, the ERG will bite his hand off. The ERG will never get a better Prime Minister for their policy of an extreme break from the EU. They are dying to find a way to back him.

Johnson comes into office amid a blizzard of resignations from Tory ministers who wanted an orderly withdrawal from the EU. They respected the former reputation of the conservatives as the party of business. Now they stand for risking destabilising the country because of a pathological obsession about Europe. But how far will former Chancellor Phil Hammond and other rebels against no deal go. There is no sign of a plan to wrestle the parliamentary agenda away from the new government, still less the bill to remove the October 31st deadline from the statute book.

What we are likely to see from Remainers is August agonising whilst Johnson gets a poll boost that usually accompanies a new leader. We also can’t dismiss the effect the call to optimism will have on people, even though it is rooted in nothing. Also look out for actions to loosen the austerity restraints on public spending and action on elderly care. This will be an attempt to ensure that Johnson is not just defined by Brexit.


Tories in Brecon and Radnor have a big choice to make next week. Do they vote for a candidate who was recalled from parliament after an expenses scandal? The need to avoid the new Prime Minister failing his first electoral test is a powerful incentive. Do they abstain because they can’t support their tainted candidate? Or do they vote for the Brexit Party, not trusting even Boris Johnson to get Britain out of the EU.

The Lib Dems are fighting hard to win back a seat they have frequently held in the past. They will be hoping for a bounce from their new leader Jo Swinson. A Lib Dem victory would reduce the Tory/DUP majority to two and hopefully will encourage all those who want to stop Brexit to actually do something about it.


Presuming Jeremy Corbyn is not replaced by someone like Kier Starmer, the choice at the General Election has clarified this week with two leadership elections.

We will have Boris Johnson all optimism and very little substance. Jeremy Corbyn weighed down by his Marxist inner circle and an inability to deal with anti-Semitism. Or a bright young woman, Jo Swinson, who has served in government and would offer a real change for this country. She faces a huge challenge with the current electoral system, and she is rightly wary of coalitions with the old parties. We will see how she gets on.



It is easy to be distracted by the drama of the Tory leadership contest from the main issue of Britain’s membership of the EU. But just before I turn to that, it is a shame that the Conservatives won’t be electing Rory Stewart. Yes, he is a bit eccentric, but he represents that One Nation Conservative tradition that the party used to embrace. Now the Tories only ambition is to choose a leader who can out bluster the braggard Farage. Hopefully Stewart will have another chance when the party comes to its senses.

Meanwhile there has been a little reported development on the Labour side that could help the new Prime Minister. 26 Labour MPs have come out in favour of voting for a Tory deal. In the North West they are Julie and Rosie Cooper (Burnley and West Lancs), Yvonne Forvague (Makerfield), Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port), Jim McMahon (Oldham), Lisa Nandy (Wigan), Jo Platt (Leigh), and Laura Smith (Crewe). When you add in Blackley’s Graham Stringer, you can reckon that there are now 30 Labour MPs who will overwhelm any Tory MPs bent on crashing their own government.

They have responded to the growing pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to campaign to stay in the EU. Why Labour Remainers are doing this beats me. It would only lead to another half-hearted performance by Corbyn who wants to leave and get on with “real issues”. Everyone would see through a false conversion and the Labour leader can’t bring himself to do it.  I suppose he should get some credit for that.

Meanwhile the pressure generated by Watson, Starmer and even McDonnell is leading to tactical mistakes. The big one recently was to try and get June 25th for a day to introduce backbench legislation to stop No Deal. It failed partly because, with the Tory leadership election underway, few Conservative MPs were going to embarrass the candidate they support by voting for such a proposition.


I always thought the concept of ChangeUK was flawed. There were no policy differences between them and the Lib Dems. Raking up Lib Dem support for austerity and student fees is almost as out of date as the EU Referendum result.

So now that Change’s biggest beast, Chuka Umunna, has not only joined the Lib Dems but joined the frontbench, why am I a little worried.

Partly it is because he has had five political positions this year already. Labour, Independent, Change, Independent and now Lib Dem. It smacks of calculation rather than conviction.

I also remember the damage David Owen did to the Lib Dems when he became leader of the SDP. The last party to break away from Labour had good relations with the Liberals whilst ex Chancellor Roy Jenkins was SDP leader . When Owen assumed control his personal arrogance and lack of understanding about what Liberalism is all about led to endless friction. The parallels are not exact but if I was Jo Swinson or Ed Davey, I would have one eye on Chuka as the Lib Dem leadership election continues.







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.

Follow me @JimHancockUK.




Jeremy Corbyn does not take easily to adulation. This weekend he would probably prefer to be tending his allotment than hearing “Oh! Jeremy Corbyn”, ringing out from the Brighton conference centre.

But Labour’s surprisingly good performance (they failed to win for the third time by the way) in June’s General Election has confirmed Corbyn in the leadership for years to come if he wants to stay. Except for Alison McGovern’s Labour Campaign for the Single Market, most moderate Labour MPs have become political zombies. They remain because of an admirable sense of loyalty, hoping the tide will turn. I fear they will be disappointed.

In Brighton at the weekend we will see the hard left not only buttress the current leadership in power but take steps to make the left revolution permanent. Corbynistas are set to take control of the Conference Arrangements Committee and National Constitutional Committee. Most people have never heard of these bodies but the former used to be used by New Labour to keep embarrassing subjects like unilateral nuclear disarmament off the agenda. The latter body came into existence after the expulsion of Militant in 1986, but would be unlikely to expel similar people today. “No enemies to the Left” is likely to be the guiding principle.

But Corbyn’s people are looking beyond the day when Jeremy returns to his marrows. The percentage of Labour MPs needed to nominate a leadership candidate is being reduced so that in future left wingers will not need misguided moderates like Frank Field and Margaret Beckett to put them on the ballot paper.

Don’t expect a huge row on the conference floor about all this. The outside chance that the Tories might implode under Brexit strains and Labour come to power in yet another General Election will probably ensure good behaviour.



If there is to be trouble for Corbyn, it is likely to come from the Wirral South MP Alison McGovern and her attempt to get the party to commit to staying in the Single Market for ever. The Shadow Brexit Secretary Kier Starmer won a surprising partial victory in getting the Eurosceptic people around Corbyn to commit Labour to the Single Market during the Brexit transition period. McGovern wants to go further with all the implications that has for continued freedom of movement. McGovern belongs to the Blairite Progress faction in the party which has recently suffered a huge financial blow from the total withdrawal of funding by Lord Sainsbury.


While Labour try to walk the tightrope between Remain and Leave supporters, Tory Cabinet infighting was patched up just ahead of the Prime Minister’s Florence speech. But that was after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson repeated the lie over a £350m Brexit windfall for the NHS. Let’s remember we do not send £350m to the EU each week. After the rebate and European aid is considered the figure is £161m.

Meanwhile I was in Bournemouth with the Lib Dems. They were celebrating the EU with flags and yellow starred berets. They also reaffirmed their commitment to letting the people vote on the Brexit deal.

It would have been easy for the new leader Vince Cable to have taken the party’s poor election showing as an excuse to abandon this policy which shows no sign at the moment of being popular.

However, talking to representatives, I detected a hope that public opinion will undergo a massive change when the consequences of the botched Brexit talks become apparent. Let us hope that change of view is lead by the North, the area that was sadly deceived by the Boris bombast and which has most to lose from leaving.

Follow me @JimHancockUK