I’m not sure Labour can ever win another General Election, certainly under Corbyn and possibly anyone else.

The industrial and trade union base went long ago. Their traditional working class support is flirting with UKIP or if they are old, voting Tory. Scotland has fallen to the SNP and if the Scots want an alternative, the Tory Ruth Davidson is a better bet than Kezia Dugdale, the latest unknown to lead the Labour Party in Scotland.

Then there are the vicious Tories. Not content with smashing the Lib Dems, they are now targeting Labour with a string of legislative measures that will weaken them like individual voter registration, the reduction in parliamentary seats and the requirement for trade unionists to opt in to paying the political levy.

Then we come to the director of the polling organisation Britain Thinks. I heard Deborah Mattinson speaking at a Labour conference in London last weekend. Delegates had just heard party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking. He was calm, unspun and true as ever to his socialist principles. He gave unilateralism a rest, instead coming up with the idea that companies should be prevented from paying dividends to their shareholders if they didn’t pay the living wage.

He was given a good round of applause and then the delegates spent the rest of the day looking at the mountain, nay the north face of the Eiger, that they would have to climb to win power again. They will need to win an additional 106 seats and 40% of the total vote to win in 2020. Last year they needed a swing of 5% in the marginal seats, next time it will be 10 %.

Now here’s the killer for Labour. In 2015 they could rely on large numbers of Liberal Democrats coming across. Next time 4 out of the 5 new voters Labour will need will have to be people who voted Conservative last time. How likely are Tory voters in Milton Keynes, Nuneaton, Bolton West and Morley to vote for Jeremy Corbyn?

Next the age problem. Older people vote and are increasingly voting Tory whereas the young who are more left leaning are far less inclined to go to the polling station.

Now I want to turn to a man with a low profile but who had a big job in last year’s election, Tom Baldwin. He was Ed Miliband’s senior adviser. He spoke some home truths to the activists, like don’t trash your record and expect to win. He was referring to the way the record of three time election winner Tony Blair has been heavily criticised by Labour activists keen to distance themselves from “New Labour”. Baldwin says that was why the Tories were able to blame the last Labour government for messing up the economy when in fact it was the victim of a global crash.

It gives me no satisfaction at all to write this. I want a vibrant democracy with two or three parties vying for power under a fair election system. But if we are not to face the prospect of the Tories in power for twenty years, what is to be done? Labour MPs who believe in “heart and head” social democracy need to sink their differences with Liberal Democrats and moderate Greens. Then they need to form a new party to represent the centre left where the British people have been in 1945, 1964, 1974 and for thirteen years from 1997.







In a year’s time the General Election campaign will be in full swing across the North. So it’s crunch time for people hoping to be candidates. Each selection has its own little dramas particularly in those constituencies that carry a job for life because of their large majorities.


So as you enjoy your Easter eggs and hot cross buns, I thought I would look at a few of the interesting choices facing party activists before they present their candidates to you the voters.




We must start in the Ribble Valley where Nigel Evans wants to continue being the MP after the next election following the conclusion of his court case.


He seems to have the support of the chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservatives, constituents speak of his hard work and a number of MPs spoke up for him at his trial.


Now he needs to get the Conservative whip restored at Westminster, be readopted as the Conservative candidate and then win the election. All these things are likely to happen but you always have to be cautious in politics. What people say publicly and privately can be two different things. Nigel Evans will certainly be a less trusting man following his recent experience.


So let’s wait and see if the Tory Whips, Conservative Association and then the voters do support Mr Evans.


Meanwhile the acquittal of Evans has raised a number of issues, not least for Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s Chief in the North West. No shrinking violet he has been the subject of a full personal profile on the BBC and has been dubbed a “witch finder general” in his fearless pursuit of celebrities who may or may not be guilty of serious sex crimes. There is a perception that the police and prosecuting authorities are trying to make up for past failures in relation to people like Jimmy Savile.


It is certainly true that life can never be the same again for people arrested for sexual offences. A later acquittal can be small consolation when accused people have had to give up key posts because their reputations have immediately been damaged. In Nigel Evans case he stood down as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.


Perhaps this is the price we pay for allowing people who have suffered in silence to finally come forward. Perhaps anonymity for accuser and accused is the answer.


Evans has called for consideration to be given to a time limit for historic offences. That wouldn’t be the right thing to do.




Some MPs just don’t know when to call it a day. Apparently Manchester Gorton MP Gerald Kaufman intends to be in parliament when he is 90. Not far behind would be Bootle’s Joe Benton. The 81 year old wants to carry on but I understand four local branches have given him his marching orders.


Speculation is rife that Euan Blair, the 29 year old son of Tony Blair, is eyeing up the seat along with Peter Dowd, the leader of Sefton Council and ally of Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson.


A lot of nonsense is talked about the undesirability of political dynasties with Jack Straw’s son Will contesting Rossendale and Neil Kinnock’s son Stephen contesting Aberavon. It is perfectly normal for our kids to be inspired by what we do and politicians are no different. The sons and daughters of famous parents sometimes find it harder, not easier, to succeed.




From my remarks about Kaufman and Benton above, you may form the view that I am against people of mature years being in the Commons. On the contrary, I am delighted that 66 year old Marie Rimmer has been chosen to succeed Shaun Woodward in St Helens South and 57 year old Kate Hollern to be Labour’s standard bearer in Blackburn.


Both women have led their local authorities well and will bring badly needed life experiences and maturity to the House of Commons.







If the economic recovery continues until May next year there is at least a possibility that the Conservatives will be the largest party after the General Election.


Since 1979 voters have rewarded governments with at least three terms in office and although the Tories didn’t win outright in 2010 they will get most of the credit for turning the economy around. Labour is still vulnerable to being characterised as the party that got us into the mess. It’s a rough old world but reference to the worldwide recession by the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls won’t wash with many voters.


But it is only largest party status that the Conservatives can realistically hope for. The failure to reform constituency boundaries will cost them 20 odd seats. They will also lose votes to UKIP if their recent lacklustre campaign in Wythenshawe is anything to go by. The Tory candidate there was a hapless vicar who party managers allowed to be filmed on TV wandering around on his own having his leaflets refused by shoppers. They tried to pass off criticism by saying that a constituency which historically had one of the largest council estates in Europe was not their territory. That wasn’t Harold Macmillan’s view when he built hundreds of thousands of houses in the fifties or Margaret Thatcher when she introduced the right to buy.


The Tories are never going to win seats like Wythenshawe and South Shields but they should try and beat UKIP into second place. In six northern by elections in this parliament they have trailed in behind Nigel Farage. Across the north UKIP may become the default vote for blue collar workers who aren’t Labour.


All that said I still think the Tories could be the largest party in May 2015, so what happens then?


There has been speculation that David Cameron is set to promise to rule out a further coalition with the Lib Dems in advance of the poll. The advantages of this would be to focus people’s minds on a straight choice between Tories and Labour and it would avoid an embarrassing row with right wing Conservative backbenchers who are determined to reject a further deal with Nick Clegg. I think it is very likely that if Cameron tried to continue the current arrangement, he’d be removed.


The idea of a Conservative minority government has been dismissed on the grounds that it would be unstable and wouldn’t last. That presupposes that the defeated Labour and Liberal Democrat parties would be eager to force a second election. This is nonsense. In a second election the voters would likely repeat their message that they preferred the Tories and might even give them an overall majority to punish the parties that hadn’t got the message. The evidence of recent “replay” elections bears this out. Labour won narrowly in 1964 and handsomely in 1966. They were short of a majority exactly 40 years ago in March 1974 and won a slim lead the following October.


There is no reason why a Conservative minority government couldn’t rule for a parliament provided it steered a moderate course. It could even reasonably renegotiate our terms of membership with the European Union and seek to put it to a referendum. Would Labour and the Liberal Democrats oppose this with the 2020 General Election already coming into view?








Tony Benn used to berate the media for concentrating on political personalities rather than policies. But politics is a heady mix of issues that affect real people and the people we elect to change our lives.


Personalities do matter. Colourful leadership attracts media attention and affects or improves morale amongst party activists. Politics is a turbulent brew of people and policy and unlike business management it is constantly changing. In a political life a politician will constantly face elections where he or she is pitted against colleagues on the climb up the greasy pole.All this has been in evidence over the past week both at Westminster and in our Town Halls.



Esther McVey’s promotion to Employment Minister caught everyone’s attention. The image of the Wirral West MP striding up Downing Street in a beautiful floral silk dress provided the picture the Prime Minister wanted of a northern woman on the up in the Tory Party. Esther ticks so many boxes. Whilst the national media have focused on her television career, we know her best as a Merseyside business woman who has devoted much time to encouraging other women into business. She may well be in the Cabinet before the General Election.


The emphasis on promoting women means it’s tough for talented Tories like Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster), David Morris (Morecambe), Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) and Ben Wallace (Preston North).



I heard Maria Eagle make a great speech on rail fares at the Brighton conference. She was across her brief but has been moved to shadow Environment,Food and Rural Affairs, an odd choice when you remember her constituency is the urban Garston and Halewood. She continued to speak up for HS2 after Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls had cast doubt on Labour’s support for the project and it looks even more now that the project could be cancelled if the party comes to power.


Luciana Berger(Wavertree) and Alison McGovern (Wirral South) got new jobs but Stephen Twigg lost his Shadow Education post. He’ll now handle constitutional issues. Twigg has been a victim of Labour’s confused position on issues like free schools, which is not all down to him.




It has also been quite a week in local government. Barbara Spicer is quitting as Chief Executive of Salford Council. The elected Salford Mayor Ian Stewart said he hoped “false rumours about personality issues do not taint the good work she has done for Salford.” I doubt that statement will quell suggestions there has been a major falling out between the two.


Two of the region’s most colourful and talented local government Tory figures are in trouble. Before a recent county council meeting Geoff Driver narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership of the Conservative opposition. They lost power to Labour in May. Driver’s robust style is clearly not to the taste of many in his group but he remains undeterred. At the meeting he attacked the Labour administration for accessing his emails as part of an investigation relating to the suspension of the county’s Chief Executive Phil Halsall. He also supported a motion pointedly praising Mr Halsall’s work in securing Preston’s City Deal. This provoked a debate about the merits of the suspended officer which may have conseqences down the line.


Another Tory in trouble with his group is Mike Jones, the leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council. Cllr Jones has given vigorous leadership to the authority and has a senior position in the Local Government Association nationally.


However I was at a packed Chester Town Hall last week where plans for a student village on the outskirts of the city were thrown out with one vote in favour. Cllr Jones was known to favour the project but took no formal part in proceedings because of his friendship with the developer.

The run up to the vote saw the sacking of the Tory planning chairman and suspension of four Conservative councillors for voting to take the matter to a full council meeting.


Like Geoff Driver, Mike Jones won a vote of confidence in his leadership this week but still has a lot of bridges to build with his group. Meanwhile the problem of student ghettos in inner Chester remains.