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.




There is now huge pressure on MPs to approve Boris Johnson’s EU deal on Saturday. As I write the DUP are holding out, but even if they vote against, their 10 votes might be overwhelmed by Labour rebels.

The authority of Jeremy Corbyn to whip against the deal and for a second referendum has been shot through. He has been deserted by some of his closest Shadow Cabinet colleagues but more serious is the resignation of Liverpool MP Louise Ellman.

Ellman has given her political life to Labour. She was an outstanding leader of Lancashire County Council. Lancashire Enterprises was a ground-breaking exercise showing how local government could be a big player in economic regeneration. It is a common place concept now but at the time it was highly controversial.

In retrospect that was the high point of her career. I always thought it was curious she decided to take a Liverpool seat. The city’s politics are always turbulent, and so it has proved. It is widely rumoured she was blocked from ministerial office because of clashes with Jack Straw when he was MP for Blackburn.

But that was nothing compared to what has happened to her in recent years as she became one of the many Jewish MPs subjected to vile anti-Semitism. Her resignation letter makes it clear that, despite repeated assurances, nothing effective has been done to curb it. She makes clear she thinks this is partly because Jeremy Corbyn “consorted with anti-Semites”. She shows her underlying loyalty to Labour by making clear she would be happy to return under different leadership.

But how likely is that? Just look at the situation with the city’s MPs. Luciana Berger (Wavertree) was driven out by anti-Semitism and moderate Stephen Twigg (West Derby) is going for personal reasons.

It will be interesting to see if Cllr Barry Kushner, who is Jewish, is chosen to succeed Twigg.

This latest eruption of the anti-Semitism row shows how ill prepared Labour is for a General Election. They would be well advised to try and keep Boris Johnson turning on the Brexit spit, rather than passing his deal when they would be under huge pressure to agree to an election, they have pretended to want for the last two years.


It is easy to forget that there was a Queen’s Speech this week with promises of a white paper on devolution and a new infrastructure strategy.

In his short time as Prime Minister, Johnson has been a frequent visitor to the North. He has spoken about unleashing the region’s potential and retained in his administration Rossendale MP Jake Berry as Northern Powerhouse Minister.

It is clearly part of Johnson’s strategy to woo voters in Leave voting northern seats and we will see if it all adds up to more than a row of beans.

However, under Theresa May devolution, and to some extent the Northern Powerhouse, was off the agenda, so one must live in hope that government interest in the project is being restored.




An interesting suggestion you must admit. It was just one of the ideas discussed at a Downtown lunch this week to discuss whether the Northern Powerhouse (NP)was suffering from a power cut.

Certainly, it has lost the momentum and relevance given to it by George Osborne when he was Chancellor. But looking to the future, the key question is have Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt heard of the NP?  If so, do they intend to give it real power and money to redress the North South divide?

Transport for the North (TfN) is the only manifestation of the NP to be really tangible, but with suggestions that Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister, might scrap HS2 (certainly north of Birmingham) that could have major implications for TfN. Firstly, because much planning has been done in Leeds and Manchester to integrate HS2 with NP rail from east to west. Secondly does anyone believe the HS2 billions saved would be invested in the North? We all know promises would be made, a bit of cash would appear, but the bulk of the money would go into the Treasury coffers.

From the construction industry, Angela Mansell, told the lunch that the NP had no connection with real people and had done nothing to deal with that age-old problem of what business needed in terms of skills and what was being taught in colleges.

It was Richard Angell, former head of the centre left Progress organisation, who said NP would need a powerful friend at the highest level of government again. He felt Boris would decide it was better to have his rival, Michael Gove, inside the tent rather than doing something nasty outside. So, what better job for Mr Gove than Business and Northern Powerhouse Secretary?

Angell had another startling suggestion for the job…Lord George Osborne. This seemed to be based on the fact that the former Chancellor is now backing Boris. Personally, I think William Hague is the man. At least he’s from up here.

One contributor said there was too much concentration on long term transport projects which would take 20 years to complete. Action was needed now by the NP on matters that could be sorted in a much shorter time span like skills.

Simon Bedford from Deloitte was the keynote speaker and he had another candidate for a quick win; electric cars and the power points that go with them. Private sector finance for this would be essential.

Jo Purves, a Pro Vice Chancellor from Salford University said we had run out of digital talent. Recruitment was really difficult especially as pay was double in America.

The Downtown lunch concluded that the new Prime Minister would have a lot to do to revive the NP. Simon Bedford said an acid test would be whether the Northern Powerhouse would put in a  submission to this autumn’s Comprehensive Spending Review on behalf of all the northern cities. He forecast that Manchester would go it alone in making a submission, and who could blame them?




The Prime Minister has shamelessly appeased her Brexiteer extremists and kept a form of her deal alive. She has been considerably assisted by Labour’s chaotic behaviour. The party is paying the price for having a leader who was a habitual rebel and cannot now develop a coherent policy on Brexit.

The big question is what will the European Union do now? They could stand firm. We should not underestimate the possibility that they will put their impressive unity and support for Ireland even above the damage they would suffer from a No Deal Brexit. The arrogance of Brexiteers who blithely say they will bend is distasteful.

They may well stand firm for now comforted by the fact that the Commons has taken a position that No Deal is unacceptable. The amendment lacked the compulsion of the proposal by Yvette Cooper, but it helps to remove the Brexiteers threat of No Deal. It leaves open the possibility that MPs would eventually seize control of the agenda from the government to prevent us exiting the EU in chaos on March 29th.

If that doesn’t happen and the real threat of exiting the EU without a deal persists into March, it is possible that Michel Barnier will produce a hi-tech solution from up his sleeve to avoid a hard Irish border, a legal codicil to stand alongside the Withdrawal Agreement or other concessions.

The problem is two groups of MPs at Westminster. The 100 strong Tory European Research Group have only lent their support to Mrs May. They will be hard to satisfy by any minor concessions the Prime Minister comes back with in mid-February. Don’t be surprised if another massive defeat awaits the government then.

The other problem is the Labour Brexiteers. 14 of them including Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley), Laura Smith (Crewe and Nantwich) and Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) voted against an attempt by their colleague Yvette Cooper to eventually wrest control of the Brexit process from the government. They are working to a mandate given them by the British people nearly three years ago. Fair enough, all I would say is that much has changed since we were conned by threats of millions of Turks coming here and laughable promises about NHS spending.

The Labour problem is much wider than this group. There was chaos on Monday night over the party’s stance on the immigration bill. Yvette Cooper has looked far more credible as a leader of the Opposition than Jeremy Corbyn this week.

Another MP who has had a good week is Graham Brady. The Altrincham MP has sometimes appeared like a buttoned-up Tory boy who never said anything interesting. He rescued Mrs May this week and has been able to exercise some control over the parliamentary Tory Party, no mean feat.


I will develop this when Brexit gives me time but just to mark your card about Labour’s attitude to the Northern Powerhouse.

Oldham MP Jim McMahon is the Shadow Devolution Minister. At a conference last week, he suggested that his party’s policy on devolution would be built from the bottom up; from wards to councils to pan regional structures. He said we might hear less about the Northern Powerhouse.

Follow me @JimHancockUK