The French people have turned the tide on the 2016 populist surge which led to reckless Brexit and reckless Trump in the White House.

Opponents of the European Union were forecasting it would break up following populist success in Hungary, Holland and France. All three countries have rejected a return to a nationalist Europe with all the potential consequences that could bring. With the UKIP style implosion of the Alternative for Deutschland Party in Germany I predict a victory for Angela Merkel this autumn. Then we will see how strong and stable Mrs May will be when faced with France, Germany and the other 25 European countries insisting that if you are out of a club you must have a worse deal than if you are in.

I saw a report this week on a Shropshire company that makes engine blocks. They must cross 5 European borders in ten days and time is vital. They are desperately worried about how they are going to operate outside the EU. That’s the reality facing business. Let’s hope Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to rule out staying in the EU wasn’t just another blunder, although the Lib Dems offer the clearest policy on a second referendum.




Geoff Driver is the great survivor of Lancashire politics. After a controversial reign as Chief Executive of Preston Council, he made a successful change to politics leading the Conservatives to victory in the county in 2009. Thrown out of office in 2013, he survived a leadership challenge, police dropped an investigation into him over the One Connect Ltd issue and last Friday I was in County Hall for his return to office.

He faces big challenges to soften the cuts that Labour reluctantly made. Driver insists there will be no sweetheart deals with his government. A final word on this. Jeni Mein, the outgoing Labour leader was one of the most decent hard working politicians I had the pleasure to meet. Good luck to her successor, Nelson councillor Azhar Ali. He will prove a lively opponent for Geoff Driver.


After snubbing Jeremy Corbin at a victory celebration, Andy Burnham was quickly down to work making two good deputy appointments. Sir Richard Leese is taking on the business portfolio. Does this show Leese is preparing to end his long tenure as leader of Manchester? Anyway, from Burnham’s point of view…..(fill in the tent and urination metaphor here). The other key appointment is Bev Hughes to look after crime and the police. The former Stretford and Urmston MP will be taking over from the ex-Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd who hopes to win the Rochdale seat.

That choice by a panel of Labour’s National Executive has been welcomed by the constituency whereas in Liverpool Walton the choice of a Unite placeman, Daniel Carden, at the expense of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has caused outrage. These panels should have the constituency chair as a member and certainly should not have a Unite member as was the case with Walton. But if a party is so dependent on one source of funding, this is what you get.

Joe heading for Westminster was a neat way of solving a

 potential conflict between him and newly elected City

 Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram. We’ll have to see if grown

 up behaviour prevails to the advantage of the city region.




The local elections showed Labour’s fragility in the North

outside its urban heartland. A spectacular defeat to the

Tories in Derbyshire was followed by the loss of

Lancashire and largest party status in Cumbria. There are many marginal seats in these areas for the Conservatives to target.


The Lib Dems had a standstill election and will be hoping

for more support when the Brexit issue comes centre

stage in the General Election. UKIP had to rely on a

popular taxi driver in Padiham for their only council

success. They should have developed policies on non-EU

issues to offer a real alternative for blue collar Labour

voters in the North. Instead they squabbled over who

should be leader.


In Scotland, the Tories have become the rallying point for

opponents of a second independence referendum, and

even though the fall off in support for the SNP was slight,

that irresistible tide has peaked.


Follow me @JimHancockUK









Can Ed Miliband drill through the seam of local election apathy in Lancashire and release the gas that could help him soar to power in 2015?


The county has recently been shaken by shale gas exploration, could the same happen in the county elections next week? It is the Labour leader’s opportunity to show he has the ability to win back the middle class votes he needs in places like Chorley and Rossendale


It is that time in the local election cycle when the cities fall silent and the voice of the rural north is heard. Voters will be going to the polls in the shire counties across England including North Yorkshire, which skirts the northern suburbs of Leeds, Derbyshire, Cumbria and crucially Lancashire.


Four years ago the county elections were a harbinger of doom for Gordon Brown. The Tories gained a massive 22 seats in the Red Rose County to sweep into power under the controversial Geoff Driver with a majority of 18. The Liberal Democrats, then untainted by decisions in government, also did well gaining 5 seats from Labour in Burnley alone.


It’s sad in many ways that Lancashire councillors will be very vulnerable to the national mood of the electorate. A good local track record cannot always save you from defeat. That may also be true for Cllr Driver who many feel has done a good job whilst ruffling a few feathers. But he’s been doing that since he was Chief Executive of Preston many years ago. He has been prepared to defy his own party clashing with Education Secretary Michael Gove over academy primary schools in the county.


Labour’s opinion poll lead has weakened recently and they lag the Tories when people are asked about economic competence. That said the Conservatives look set for the mid term blues as people facing benefit changes, no work or just a general squeeze on their living standards take it out on the Tories and their Lib Dem allies. Although that Lancashire Conservative majority of 18 looks secure, 14 wards are held by the party with majorities under 500.


Burnley will be the main battleground for the Liberal Democrats. On the back of their county success in 2009,Gordon Birtwhistle won the parliamentary seat a year later. If his local colleagues lose to Labour, his power base will be eroded.


There is a strong tradition of female Labour leadership in Lancashire. The successor to previous council leaders Louise Ellman and Hazel Harding is Jennifer Mein. She has not made a notable impact so far and indeed there are rumours that David Borrow, the ex Ribble South MP, may challenge her for the leadership after polling day.


The Green Party will hope to gain on their 2 seat representation on the county from the city of Lancaster. The BNP are a diminished force and are expected to lose their presence at County Hall. That leaves Tom Sharrett as the Idle Toad Party representative from South Ribble. He’ll be hopping mad if he loses!


Let’s hope local issues like the care of the elderly, education, roads and the council’s attitude to fracking for shale gas get an airing in the campaign rather than it just being an opinion poll on the Coalition.



Cumbria County Council recently faced a similar major decision affecting the environment when it said no to permanent underground storage of nuclear waste. The county is run by an unusual Conservative-Labour coalition. It will be interesting to see if the two parties stick together if Labour becomes the largest party.


Labour will expect to regain Derbyshire whilst North Yorkshire looks set to retain a Tory majority even in this difficult year for the party.


The wild card in these elections is UKIP. Their policies on local government remain vague. But how many voters will stop to ask themselves what could a UKIP councillor actually do for me at the Town Hall where our membership of the European Union is not an issue?


UKIP will take most, but not all votes from the Tories. They may not win many seats but could make the difference in marginal wards