TORY EURO TRAP FOR LABOUR
Labour’s inexperienced leadership has been blind sided by the government over the terms of our leaving the EU. They have fallen for a reluctant promise from Theresa May to lay out her plans for the negotiations. Don’t hold your breath. The Tories didn’t want to do this. They deployed powerful arguments for keeping things close to Ministers chests. They still believe in that strategy and the document, when it is produced, is likely to be as clear as a December fog.
For instance will it reveal whether we want to be part of the Single Market or Customs Union? Will it reveal our position on freedom of movement? Will it indicate whether we are prepared to continue paying some EU contributions in return for concessions? I very much doubt it. However Labour have taken the pressure off the government. The threat to disrupt this unwise process of leaving the EU had been a cause Labour could rally around. It certainly paid off for the Lib Dems in the Richmond by election last week.
Instead the government have a blank cheque for triggering Article 50. Also the decision of the Supreme Court over whether parliament must pass an act to trigger Article 50 is rendered far less significant because Labour has paved the way for the government on the issue.
Labour’s blunder is particularly frustrating because it has been revealed during the Supreme Court proceedings that the EU Referendum was not legally binding. Indeed Ministers resisted an attempt to make it so. It was an advisory referendum so we Remainers are entitled to politely here the advice of the 52% and take a different view now that the implications of leaving are becoming clearer by the day.
One is reinforced in that view by my colleague, Mr McKenna, who writes eloquently this week about the pack of lies that was told by the Leave campaign. Amongst them was the threat that millions of Turks were about to come and live here. Last week the European Parliament (the democratic voice of the EU) voted to suspend any talk of Turkish membership because of its human rights record.
A FEW BOUNDARY SKIRMISHES
I recently completed my parliamentary boundary road show visiting Lancaster, Chester, Liverpool and Manchester. These hearings were on reshaping the parliamentary map to reduce the number of MPs and even out the size of constituencies.
Labour has expressed its anger that the population figures on which the calculations are based are out of date. They are expecting to lose seats in the shake up and I was expecting strong feelings to be on display. In truth there was barely a whimper. This was particularly surprising in regard to Wirral where two Labour seats are folded into one. There was mild concern in the eastern part of Greater Manchester over the splitting up of Oldham and the joining together of the very different communities of Hyde and Marple.
The changes will give the Conservatives more seats but ironically it has been the Tories kicking up the most fuss. They strongly objected to the linking of Lancaster and Morecambe in one seat and the creation of a vast North Lancashire constituency stretching from the Upper Lune Valley to the outskirts of Preston.
Further south the Tories have the problem of George Osborne’s Tatton seat being abolished. The former Chancellor has ruled out leaving the region. A close aide to Osborne has told me there will not be a battle with Graham Brady for the new Altrincham and Tatton Park constituency so we are denied the prospect of the ex Chancellor and the chairman of the 1922 Backbench committee and champion of grammar schools going head to head. So what will Osborne do? He may find the selection rules give him difficulties if he looks towards Weaver Vale or Eddisbury.
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