One of the main arguments for the European Union and particularly its much derided Commissioners has been demonstrated this week.

The Commission’s demand that Ireland recover 13bn Euros from Apple is an excellent example of where a supra national organisation can bust cosy deals between nation states and multinational companies in the interests of ordinary people who pay their taxes.

Brexiteers go on and on about sovereignty and “taking back control”. I’m happy with shared sovereignty if it empowers the Commission to take the interests of all the people of Europe into account. Multinationals like Apple are more powerful than many individual countries. They can exert massive influence by threatening to relocate. Middle ranking countries like Ireland have found themselves in hock to Apple and don’t like the ruling. Ireland is normally a “good European” and rightly so. EU membership has moved it from an agricultural backwater into the high tech world of the 21st century. But its reaction to this ruling is very “non communitare”, suggesting the EU has got it right. And so they have. For Apple to pay virtually no tax on its European profits from 2003-14 is to deprive governments and people millions of pounds that should be spent on public services.

Starbucks, Amazon, Fiat, BP and McDonalds are all in the EU Commissioners sights. None of them are too big for the EU representing 500 million people or 435 million if we are foolish enough to actually leave.


The Labour leadership election is getting acres of coverage not because it will produce a possible next Prime Minister but because the media is fascinated by the corrosive campaigns being waged by Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Because of the implosion of the Labour Party it is quite possible that UKIP will provide an attractive alternative to millions of Labour’s former supporters in the north of England. Therefore we should pay some attention to the battle to succeed Nigel Farage.

It is a bit of a shambles and in normal times one could conclude that this would mean the party vanishing into obscurity having secured the Brexit vote and being incapable of emerging from the shadow of its effective former leader Nigel Farage. But a word of caution is needed. Most people don’t follow the ins and outs of politics and however messy the process, when one of the five candidates is elected as the next leader of UKIP, they may get support because of the depth of disillusionment with Labour.

The outstanding candidate is Diane James, a UKIP MEP for the South East. However she’s refusing to attend hustings with the other four contestants suggesting she may lack the ability to bring this fractious party together.

It is surprising who isn’t standing. Steven Woolfe, a NW UKIP MEP, would have been a good leader but then it emerged he failed to disclose a drink driving conviction and didn’t get his nomination paper in on time. I’m amazed Former Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall, another NW UKIP MEP, didn’t go for it and Suzanne Evans the best candidate of all is suspended! You couldn’t make it up. There’s even Neil Hamilton. The ex Tatton MP is now a Welsh UKIP MEP. His would have been the ultimate comeback from the political graveyard.


The Green Party is also holding a leadership election. It is to be hoped that former leader Caroline Lucas will return, albeit in a job share. She wants to forge a progressive alliance with other parties willing to back electoral reform.



Do Peel Holdings have the voters of Eastleigh to thank for the government go ahead for the massive Liverpool Waters project?


The decision not to hold a public inquiry is a clear sign that ministers are pinning their hopes on infrastructure growth to get us out of this economic malaise. While it’s true that it will be years before the scheme is completed, the government want to create a sense of momentum and confidence with projects like the Northern Hub, High Speed Rail and Liverpool Waters.


The other reaction has been for some Tory ministers to flirt with ever more right wing policies in the face of the UKIP advance. The suggestion that the UK might quit the European Court of Human Rights is a disgrace. The spectacle of the country that stood alone in the Second World War to preserve democracy and liberty, quitting the institution that protects those freedoms is deeply depressing. It would have unforeseen consequences at home and abroad would send all the wrong signals to countries where attachment to democratic values is tenuous.


I forecast that the Lib Dems would hold Eastleigh, but that was before the accusations came up about Lord Rennard. Given that and the fact that the by election was caused by the lies of Chris Huhne. Neither of these issues prevented the Lib Dems holding on. Of course this was an ideal seat for them to defend, nevertheless it does suggest that people care less and less about the scandals of the Westminster village and more and more about practical local issues that affect them.


It is all part of the huge disengagement people feel with conventional politics. The scale of the disenchantment is now becoming clear whether it be a stand up comedian doing well in the Italian elections or UKIP in Eastleigh. Heaven knows what the American public are making of the continued deadlock between the President and the House of Representatives. I raised this issue with Jack Straw the other day given his long experience in high office and as MP for Blackburn since 1979. He had no clear answer to my question as to when people might trust their politicians again. He did agree with me that apart from issues like expenses and poor moral behaviour, the continuing recession meant that politicians can no longer promise a visionary future of prosperity because they just would not be believed.


So where do the parties stand after Eastleigh. Nick Clegg gets a reprieve and the Coalition remains stable but Eastleigh was an ideal seat for them and they won’t be able to put in that massive effort across the country where their poll ratings remain weak.


UKIP are on a surge. They have been accused of being a one man band in the shape of leader Nigel Farage, but I thought their Eastleigh candidate, Diane James, was the best of the bunch. Now they face the challenge of the county council elections. What are UKIP’s policies for running Lancashire County Council?


Tory backbench reaction remained muted after coming third, but backbenchers remain unhappy with David Cameron and a flat budget might see a summer of discontent.


Labour didn’t try in Eastleigh, putting up a candidate who had made highly offensive remarks about Margaret Thatcher. They are still blamed for the economic mess and need to start fleshing out their proposals for the future more.