I would like to see the ex Chancellor Nigel Lawson and his fellow climate change deniers walk down the streets of Carlisle, Keswick and Kendal and tell the stricken residents that climate change is a myth.

If the floods aren’t enough to convince him, perhaps he could note the summer like temperatures we are having or the fact that plants have spring buds on them already.

There is nothing we can do to avoid “100 year rain events” happening every decade for our lifetimes. Let'[s hope the decisions taken at the Global Climate Change conference in Paris can stop things getting worse for our grandchildren.

There were many firms lobbying the conference and rightly so. The business opportunities for green and renewable industries is huge although it would help if the government didn’t keep interfering with the economic profitability of the market in this area.


Michael Jones, the larger than life leader of Cheshire East Council has resigned. It happened to be over a personal matter but one always felt the career of this controversial politician would end like this. He didn’t let people get in his way and whilst this led to a number of positives for his council including the Crewe HS2 hub and the rescue of jobs at Alderley Park, he also made enemies with his autocratic behaviour.

It’s a shame because local government needs visionary and colourful characters but they need to know the limits.


Talk amongst Blairite Labour MPs of ousting Jeremy Corbyn has been muted since the party’s victory in the Oldham West and Royton by election last week. It failed to provide them with the narrative that Corbyn was such a liability that even safe northern seats would reject him.

It has to be said that Jim McMahon was an ideal safe candidate. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Corbynistas took over the National Executive by election candidate selection panel and chose an ultra leftist from London for such a contest; what would happen.

But for now we must conclude that some people like Corbyn’s principled approach, his unspun image or just want to give him a fair chance. The next challenge will be the London mayor. I met the Tory candidate, Zac Goldsmith, this week. He is pleasant enough, without Boris’ flamboyance and none the worse for that. He will give Labour’s man Sadiq Khan a run for his money.

Meanwhile UKIP showed their nasty side. Nigel Farage’s “bloke in a pub” image was replaced by a snarling implication that there had been mass fiddling by the South Asian community in the postal vote. The party infighting is taking its toll and they may be in decline. The sad thing is that their legacy may be our leaving the European Union.




It looks as if AstraZeneca is safe, for now, but the attempted takeover by Pfizer begs some important questions about our politicians relations with big business. This came to a head as I watched MPs trying to hold these mega companies to account last week.
Down the corridor they came for all the world like prize fighters heading for the ring. Large security men with ear pieces and stern expressions escorted the Pfizer representatives into the Commons committee hearing.
Pfizer make Viagra and it shows. AstraZeneca’s representatives entrance was equally impressive. Big Pharma was on display but Andrew Miller was ready for them. He’s the MP for Ellesmere Port, close to Cheshire’s chemical industry and he was once a lab technician.
Early in the hearing Ian C Read, CEO of Pfizer, (all top American executives have a middle letter) admitted there would be less scientists if the takeover went ahead.
“Shouldn’t there be more not less scientists?” asked Mr Miller.
Ian C Read said he didn’t know enough about AZ to answer that.
“You knew enough to make a £50bn bid” retorted the former lab technician.
And so it went on. MPs in the committee room asking detailed questions of Pfizer and Astra Zeneca executives followed by the Science Minister “two brains” David Willetts. The day before the hearing the Business Secretary, Vince The Cable, had hinted darkly that public interest legislation might be strengthened to protect vital British industries. Two Brains kept telling MPs he couldn’t go further than his master.
Exasperated a bearded West country Liberal Democrat David Heath put the killer question. “If the takeover goes through and promises are broken, there is nothing the government can do about it is there?”. Wlliett’s called that “an excessively bleak view” , in other words no.
That isn’t entirely true. I met David Rutley outside the committee room. We both agreed that we couldn’t get too worked up about poor little Astra Zeneca getting gobbled up by Pfizer after they took most of their work away from Alderley Park to Cambridge. Nevertheless Rutley pointed to research and development grants that are in the government’s gift. He wanted some sabre rattling from Vince The Cable.
As it is it looks as if AZ have seen off the takeover for six months at least. They still employ 700 staff at Alderley Park and the worst effects of their moving the rest of their business to Cambridge has been mitigated by the takeover of Alderley Park by Manchester Sciences Parks. AZ are putting £5m into a fund to nurture talent on the site.
Alderley Park is to become a campus for bioscience companies and we must hope some brilliant discoveries are made there because that is the way to protect our science excellence.
Although they mean well our national politicians, of all parties, believe in Britain being an open country to foreign investment and ownership. They will always make the right noises when these takeovers arise but the truth is we will have to take the rough (Kraft /Cadbury) with the smooth (TataTata/JLR).








Can we hope that business people and politicians are once again thinking about regions like Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West? The Shadow Chief Secretary and Leeds MP Rachel Reeves told a Downtown event in the city a year or so ago that Labour would work with the Local Enterprise Partnership structure. But according to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, his colleague Lord Adonis is devising an Infrastructure Commission that will devolve power to regions as well as cities.


It is high time the prevailing doctrine that cities are the only drivers of the northern economy was challenged. Without a strong regional policy, towns around our big cities are going to suffer. Leading academics of my acquaintance, who support the cities agenda, openly say that people in places like Burnley are going to have to travel to Manchester to get a job in the future.




It was so refreshing to attend a North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) event where we had a chance to survey our excellence in science from Cumbria to Crewe. Present was the Director of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills North West. It is the only regionally based government body to avoid the insane culling of everything else regional by the Coalition when they came to office.


The NWBLT report won’t be launched until the end of next month. It is in draft form and further views are welcome, but the title will be “Exploiting the Excellence” England’s North West: Where World Class Science underpins wealth creating innovation. So you get the drift. It emphasises throughout, not only our heritage of scientific invention, but the large range of science based businesses that can take us forward with the proper support.


The region’s assets include advanced materials and cancer research in Manchester and Liverpool, cutting edge nuclear research in Cumbria, oil and gas research in Lancaster and world class astronomy at Jodrell Bank.


NWBLT Chairman Juergen Maier of Siemens called on government to make it easier for SMEs to access government funds. He added that leadership would be needed as market forces alone would not bring the region’s economy back to health.


Andrew Miller, the Ellesmere Port MP, who has done so much to promote science, spoke of the need for eco systems and catapults! The former refers to the need for businesses to cluster together and feed off each other’s expertise. The latter relates to innovation centres which can help get embryonic science companies off to a flying start.

Of course everything hasn’t been rosy on the North West science front. The decision to locate the 3rd Generation Light Source at Harwell and AstraZeneca’s relocation of its research facility from Alderley Park to Cambridge have been big blows.


Chris Doherty is responsible for the sale and redevelopment of the AstraZeneca site and had some interesting things to say about the company’s relocation decision. Apparently the reasons were far more social than economic. The new AstraZeneca CEO was from California and felt Alderley Park was an isolated place compared to the dynamic environment of Cambridge. Doherty said the site had become isolated from Manchester.


That’s the danger of the City Region policy as opposed to a wider strategy taking care to be aware of Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire’s needs as well as Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester.