JOHNSON AND ELLMAN PROBLEMS FOR LABOUR.
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.
JOHNSON AND THE NORTHERN POWERHOUSE.
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.