I wonder if anyone in the Labour Party or UKIP has noticed there’s a Queen’s Speech on Wednesday. They are both so busy tearing lumps out of themselves that they will have little time to critique the legislation being proposed by the first all Conservative government in 18 years.
We can expect a hefty programme of legislation if the pattern of the last parliament is anything to go by. The Coalition put through most of its major legislation in the first two years leaving us with a zombie parliament in 2014-15. So we can expect bills on important things like a British Bill of Rights and the right to buy housing association properties. Then there is the Budget in July with the prospect of swingeing cuts in welfare. All this needs the attention of the Labour Party otherwise the Scot Nats will do it for them.
The other danger in Labour taking its eye off the ball is a repeat of what happened in the summer of 2010. While Labour was distracted electing Ed Miliband as leader, the Tories were discovering notes left by outgoing Ministers saying there was no money left and blamed Labour for the financial crisis. It was a charge that stuck right through from 2010 till this May.
UKIP is engaged in an even more damaging internal conflict. Having confirmed Nigel Farage as leader, they have now sacked two of the people who were capable of softening their image as a pack of old lads yearning for Britain as it was in the fifties. Economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn and particularly policy chief Suzanne Evans provided an alternative to the brash Farage. They were never filmed in pubs but now they are gone from the leadership circle.
Last week the Gorton MP Sir Gerald Kaufman briefly took the chair as the new House of Commons met. He is Father of the House because he signed the member’s book in the House of Commons just ahead of Oldham West’s Michael Meacher in 1970. His job was preside over the re-election of John Bercow as Speaker, so not too onerous a task. This is just as well because the MP for Gorton is 84 and will be touching 90 when the next election comes.
But let’s move on from yesterday’s man to the 15 new faces from the north who will be attending their first Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.
A number of prominent councillors have taken the Westminster Way. Kate Hollern, the former leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council is the new MP for Jack Straw’s old seat. Will she enjoy as long a tenure as her predecessors Mr Straw and Barbara Castle who between them represented the town since 1945.
Peter Dowd, the leader of Sefton Council has taken over from the veteran Joe Benton in Bootle whilst Julie Cooper the leader of Burnley Council ousted the Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle to represent the East Lancashire town.
Justin Madders who led the Labour group on Cheshire West and Chester Council is the new MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston whilst senior Manchester councillor Jeff Smith has made the Labour takeover of Manchester complete by taking Withington from the Lib Dems.
Other new Labour faces include Angela Raynor in Ashton and Rebecca Long-Bailey who succeeded the colourful Hazel Blears in Salford. Then we have the three new Labour MPs who helped to temper a bad night for the party by ousting Tories. They are Margaret Greenwood, Esther McVey’s nemesis in Wirral West and Chris Matheson in Chester. Finally keep an eye on Cat Smith the new MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood. Her early pronouncements indicate she is from the hard left wanting nothing to do with austerity cuts.
Our five new Conservative MPs divided their victories over Lib Dem and Labour incumbents. The most spectacular scalp went to Andrea Jenkyns who defeated Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in the Leeds suburb seat of Morley and Outwood whilst Chris Green took Bolton West from Labour. The delightfully named Antoinette Sandbach has replaced Stephen O’Brien as the Tory MP for Eddisbury. Sadly the town of Sandbach is in the neighbouring seat of Congleton.
The long Liberal presence in south east Greater Manchester is over with William Wragg becoming the first Tory MP since Tom Arnold in Hazel Grove whilst Mary Robinson took neighbouring Cheadle.