No sooner had the Tory cat (David Cameron) gone off to Portugal, than the mice began to play back home. Sayeeda Warsi’s resigned and Boris Johnson threw down his Westminster gauntlet.


The press has concentrated on the criticism of the Prime Minister’s stance on Gaza but Warsi’s statement also contained significant criticism of his European Union policy and this was picked up by North West Tory MEP Saj Karim.


Karim began life as a Lib Dem MEP and clearly retains his pro European credentials. He joined Warsi’s criticism of the government’s Gaza policy saying Israel was being given more room than any other state but then went on to refer to the “directional shift” in European policy. He told the BBC that we would miss the advice of Ken Clarke and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and could be embarked on a path to undermine our ability to negotiate concessions from the EU.


Ken Clarke has been the most prominent pro European Tory member of this Cabinet and Grieve’s sacking is widely believed to have been to clear the way for a fundamental reshaping of our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.


Warsi’s resignation may be quickly forgotten, particularly if the Gaza ceasefire holds. However her criticism of the sacking of pro European cabinet members may be the first sign of a real fightback by the EU positive wing of the Conservative Party who have been silenced by the Eurosceptic madness that has swept the party up to now.




After years of being called dull and boring the former Tory Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe had one great speech in him and it helped to bring down the mighty Margaret Thatcher.


Another former Chancellor, Alistair Darling has been similarly criticised for being dull. However on Tuesday those distinctive black eyebrows were fairly bristling during his debate with the leader of the Scottish Government, Alex Salmond. Darling believes we are better together and hammered away at what an independent Scotland would do for a currency. Mr Salmond, who had a great reception in Liverpool the other week, was deflated by the onslaught. It may have been Darling’s Geoffrey Howe moment and it may have saved the Union.



I was travelling back from London the other day and it soon became apparent that the lady in front of me had got the wrong train. Instead of getting off at Milton Keynes, I told her the first stop would be Warrington. She phoned her waiting father with the bad news and in desperate tones asked him “Where is Warrington?”


The question had the fearful tone that I expect Russian dissidents expressed when they were told they were heading for exile in Novosibirsk, Siberia.


I don’t think she had ventured out of the South East before. The episode highlighted once again for me that for people living in the London area, the North is another country. It is a mindset which has influenced government policy and led to massive underinvestment in our transport infrastructure.


Let’s see if that’s going to change. It has taken years to begin to repair the damage done by the coalition in dismantling regional policy but now our big cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are trying to force the Chancellor to make real his pledge to create a powerhouse of the northern cities.


It may help that George Osborne is the MP for Tatton and will listen to demands for £15bn spending on trans Pennine transport links. He’s called the plan “imaginative” and promises a full response in the Autumn Statement.

Let’s see if big city power can deliver.


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I met Gordon Brown this week for the first time since he was Prime Minister. He is in many ways Britain’s Richard Nixon. Both clever men with a passion for what politics can achieve. Each had a towering achievement. Nixon’s was the breakthrough between the United States and Red China. Brown’s was keeping our cash machines open in October 2008 and leading the world as it reeled from the collapse of Lehman Brothers. But both men’s periods in office ended disastrously partly because they saw enemies around every corner, enemies that had to be crushed.

For the last four years Brown has largely disappeared from front line politics. He has a role with the United Nations but is rarely seen at Westminster. Indeed in a speech this week to Commons correspondents he made a joke of it. He spoke of needing a tour guide and taking the new members induction course. Dangerous stuff, many think he should have left the Commons on ceasing to be Prime Minister as Tony Blair did.

But as one reporter observed, little has changed since Brown’s time in No 10. We still have senior Cabinet Ministers at each others throats and special advisers resigning.

Brown was anxious to point out that he wasn’t seeking to return to the limelight except to be “a foot soldier” in the campaign against Scottish independence.

There has been speculation as to why Brown has, so far, kept a low profile in the debate. Perhaps it was because the Better Together campaign is headed by Alistair Darling who faced the “forces of Hell” when as Brown’s Chancellor he accurately forecast the coming economic meltdown in the summer of 2008.

We will see whether Brown the foot soldier can keep from standing on people’s toes in the coming weeks. His suggestion that the Prime Minister should debate with Alex Salmond has not gone down well. The role of the Conservative Party in the “No” campaign is really tricky. Better Together fear that as the prospect of the Tories being the largest party after the 2015 General Election rises, so does support for independence. So David Cameron has the dilemma of wanting to put his Prime Ministerial authority behind keeping the UK united without helping Salmond to claim that Scotland keeps getting governments it doesn’t vote for.

Brown is clearly unimpressed with the Better Together campaign’s tactics so far. He says they need to avoid it becoming a British politicians v Scotland issue. Scottish identity is not at issue, nor is the existence of the Scottish Parliament with more devolution on the way. All that has been granted. What this is about is severing all links with the UK.

Despite the latest polls showing 58% support for “No” against 42% Yes, Brown fears that if we don’t wake up, Scottish independence could still happen.

Gordon Brown was always more sympathetic to Northern devolution than Tony Blair. That enthusiasm has not diminished. He warned this week that there could be more constitutional turmoil, even if Scotland rejects independence, unless English regions are given more power. He regretted that the Coalition had not taken the opportunity to address these issues as well as Scottish independence.

I wonder why that choice was made by David Cameron. It was because the Scots, and the Welsh, get their act together and demand devolution.

That’s what we need to do starting at Downtown’s Northern Revolution conference next month.