Since 1983, socialists have craved a red meat Labour manifesto that they could vote for. Now is the chance for them to come out in their millions and ensure that Mrs May doesn’t achieve a landslide.

Labour has improved its poll rating since the election was called, but the gap remains large. There are many attractive features in the manifesto around energy prices, housing, university fees, nationalising the railways and world peace. Labour is tapping into a feeling that business and the rich should contribute more. After all it is ordinary people who have been paying for the excesses that caused the crash in 2008.

But the party remains vulnerable on the cost of it all. Salford MP Rebecca Long-Bailey is the Shadow Business Secretary, and touted by some as a future leader of the party. She will need to do better than in a radio interview on the manifesto launch day. She was asked how the ending of the benefits freeze, not raising the retirement age beyond 66 and scrapping the housing benefits cap was going to be paid for. In each instance, she casually said they would be subject to review when Labour was in government. It isn’t good enough. The party knew the Tory hawks would be looking for unfunded promises, but Corbyn has gambled that his vision for a socialist Britain will pay off.

Meanwhile the transformation of the Tory Party from an organisation run by posh boys to one where strong and stable Theresa is in charge is well under way. Pledges on workers rights, council house building and intervention in the energy market may seem brazenly opportunistic, but the Prime Minister has forged a link with northern working class people that may pay off spectacularly.

This is because the Regressive Alliance bringing the Tories and UKIP together was demonstrated in the recent local elections, whilst the Progressive Alliance of all those parties representing the centre left isn’t working so far. The rallying point should be around the Lib Dems call for a second EU referendum. Leader Tim Farron should stick to that. Putting the legalisation of cannabis in the manifesto just plays to his enemies stereotyping of the party.


What does post war history tell us about surprise General Elections? The story is mixed for incumbent Prime Ministers. Clement Attlee came a cropper when, having won narrowly in 1950, he called another election the following year to increase his majority and lost to Winston Churchill. As soon as Anthony Eden succeeded Churchill, he successfully went to the country in 1955 to get his own mandate, a course not followed by Gordon Brown when he took over from Tony Blair in 2007.

Harold Wilson performed the double election trick twice. He increased a small majority in 1964 to a large one in 1966. Then in February 1974 Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath went to the country in a similar manner to Theresa May seeking a specific mandate. Heath’s was to defeat the miners. He lost and Wilson, after a summer of minority government, gained a slim overall majority in the autumn.

More recently the Lib Dems could have refused to serve in a coalition in 2010 but the fear always was that David Cameron would have formed a minority government and won an overall majority in a quick return to the polls.

Would he have done? Will Mrs May’s landslide gamble pay off? We shall soon know.

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It will take something pretty big to knock Brexit off top spot for politician’s concern this autumn. Well I have a candidate, the National Health Service.

What brought it home to me was the decision to close the Accident and Emergency Unit of Chorley Hospital in Lancashire. They could not get enough doctors because of a cap on spending on agency staff. Three issues become obvious. The financial pressures on the NHS, the hand to mouth policy of employing expensive agency staff and the desperate decision to close a badly needed A and E unit. Nearby Wigan was overwhelmed as a result.

There are so many issues to be addressed I can’t list them all here but they range from the explosion in the numbers of elderly people, junior doctors in revolt over working hours, the price of drugs and the complexity of the commissioning process introduced by former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

We got by last winter because it was mild but the issue won’t go away.


It was tempting to think that this year of political upsets was going to end with Donald Trump heading for the White House.

The Republican Presidential candidate has just changed his campaign team for the second time. It begins to look like desperation. It seemed for a while that Trump would successfully tap into the “left behind” section of the electorate that is as big a factor in America as it is here.

However it appears The Donald has been rude to too many people and has increasingly become vulnerable to the belief that he is unstable and not up to the job.

Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Gerald Ford in 1976 came back from similar August deficits to make the race close, but nobody has ever made up the poll lead currently enjoyed by Hillary Clinton.

God forbid a terrorist attack or more revelations about the Clinton’s past could still affect the race but at the moment the USA looks on course to elect its first female President.


Things have gone a bit quieter even in this turbulent political summer so we’ve a moment to contemplate the last Prime Minister who left office at the time of his choosing and in reasonable standing with the electorate. That man would be Harold Wilson who having won two General Elections in 1974 suddenly decided to retire in 1976.

Since then it has been a succession of woes. Jim Callaghan lost power after the Winter of Discontent. Margaret Thatcher was brought down by Europe and the Poll Tax. John Major lost office due to rows over the Maastricht Treaty (Europe again). Tony Blair became haunted by the Iraq War, Gordon Brown was defeated at the polls and for David Cameron it was Europe again.

Perhaps Theresa May will be able to reverse this pattern. There are few threats on the horizon at the moment that suggest her period of office ending under a cloud, but that’s what the other five may have thought during their honeymoon period.





Even before Wednesday’s Budget, the pork barrel is very much in evidence in this General Election campaign. Energy prices frozen, tuition fees slashed, pensioner bonds and even an extra ten minutes at the parking meter. Don’t look for any great themes this time around, the politicians are appealing to your wallet and purse.

The Budget will be dominated by this thinking. George Osborne spends as much time in the Downing Street election strategy room as he does at the Exchequer. He is a highly political Chancellor and will want to use this last Budget of the parliament to bribe the voters and disguise what will come after if he’s still in charge.

As the Institute for Fiscal Studies reminds us the first year after each of the last five General Elections has seen net tax rises of over £5bn per year in today’s terms. It will be no different in 2016. Debt is set to peak at 80% of national income. The deficit is 5% of national income. Remember that as George delivers his good news vibes on Wednesday.

The problem for Labour is that the general economic mood is more optimistic. There is a widespread belief that the Coalition has turned the economy around. Unemployment is down, investment is up and here in the North the Chancellor is pushing the Northern Powerhouse. He may have more to say on that next week. Let’s hope there’s something in there for Leeds, Liverpool and Preston after the super serving of Manchester with money and powers.

So what can we expect in the Chancellor’s sixth budget? The headline grabber could be £11,000 as a starting rate for income tax instead of the planned £10,600. This would have the support of the Lib Dems who’s policy this is. It would save basic rate tax payers £160 a year. For all his Etonian background, Mr Osborne knows the working man likes a pint. Expect 2p off beer and a cut in the rate on scotch, although that is unlikely to stop 40 SNP members in the next parliament. The Chancellor would catch the public mood by measures to crack down on multinationals who don’t pay their taxes in Britain.

Wednesday’s budget will be a challenge for Labour at a time when there are signs that the traditional pre election surge that governments get is beginning to show. The polls have been stuck for months showing Labour and Tories expecting to get about 285 MPs each. Newsnight’s pollsters now have the Tories on 295 and Labour on 267.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has made blood curdling prophesies that the Tories would make £70bn cuts after the election. He is exaggerating and we need to remember Labour would be cutting public spending too. But Balls is right to focus on the grim years ahead for all departments that are not ring fenced, particularly local government. Remember that when Osborne speaks next week.


This seat will test the Lib Dems hope that they can defy their dire poll ratings where a hard working incumbent is facing a challenge from the Tories, not Labour.

Mark Hunter has been the Lib Dem MP for Cheadle since a by election in 2005. He held it last time with a majority of 3272. The seat has a history of Liberal support going back to the days of the Granada TV doctor Michael Winstanley.

It is an indictment of the Tories who should perform better in a seat which is the most socially upmarket in Greater Manchester. Hoping to restore Tory fortunes is former South Ribble Conservative councillor Mary Robinson.