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.

Follow me @JimHancockUK





Labour have had a good week in the General Election campaign. A bold commitment to our European Union membership by Tony Blair followed by the pledge to scrap the tax privileges of most non doms roots Labour as a party of fairness and internationalism.

The Defence Secretary’s highly personal attack on Miliband suggests that the Conservatives are getting worried that the expected surge in their support hasn’t happened. They have been criticised for the negative message of their campaign which can be summarised as “don’t let Ed and his Scottish Nationalist mates wreck our long term recovery plan”.

I still think the Tories will be the largest party after the votes are counted but think that Ed Miliband is making as good a fist of it that he can given his limitations. The non dom initiative was a good move. It plays to people’s sense of fairness. The counter attack has suggested that it might lose the exchequer money rather than bring in extra revenues. We are told many of the non doms will flee abroad. I think that fear is overblown. Most of these people have lived in Britain for ten or twenty years. They love living here and can easily afford the extra tax they should be paying. E£d should call their bluff if, by chance, he gets into power and the Conservatives should consi9der doing the same if they want to shake off the image of being the friends of the rich.


At last the General Election campaign has recognised there is a world out there with issues that matter. The total focus on the economy and the NHS was becoming a bore.

We need to hear about the parties policies for dealing with an increasingly dangerous world. We have a dangerously assertive Russia, widespread terrorist threats and across Europe there are political parties campaigning to fragment the European Union.

On the issue of nuclear deterrence, I actually agree with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon that we need to retain our four boat fleet. Whatever he says that is also the formal stated position of the Labour opposition. As I said in a blog a few weeks ago I doubt that view represents the real feeling of grass root Labour party members who could think of better ways to spend the £100bn through life costs of renewing Trident. However the leadership feel they can’t risk seeming weak on defence so the chances are there will be enough Labour and Tory votes to pass the “main gate” decision early in the new parliament.

For the Scottish Nationalists scrapping Trident is a “red line” issue in any talks to support a Labour minority government. Labour need to rule out any deals with the Scots to end the speculation that a nuclear deal can be done.


This is a real test of Labour’s ability to win back the middle class vote won by Tony Blair and lost by Gordon Brown.

The Labour leaning town wards are balanced by Tory support in the more rural communities of Stockton Heath and Lymm. The result could be influenced by what happens to the sizeable Lib Dem vote. In 2010 they got 15,000 votes to Labour’s 18,000 with the Tories just 1500 votes in front.

The Conservative MP David Mowat has been helped with government promises to invest in the transport infrastructure at this pinch point on the North West’s communications map. Labour are working hard to unseat him with their champion Nick Bent, an aide to former Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.








Labour’s conference in Manchester certainly didn’t feel like 1996 when the party was last preparing to take power.


Long before Ed Miliband’s blunder in “forgetting” to deliver his remarks on the economy and immigration, it was clear this gathering was not going to be the launch pad to victory. This was because the Scottish Referendum result has cast gloom not optimism across the Labour Party.


It was a victory for “no” which Labour supported but at what a price. The campaign exposed the degree to which previously loyal members in the industrial heart of Scotland (particularly Glasgow) were prepared to express their disillusionment with a party that is no longer radical enough for them. Then there were the images of Ed Miliband being jostled in a shopping mall whilst Gordon Brown showed what effective speech making was all about. Finally the referendum campaign has left Labour floundering for an answer on the English votes for English laws question.


Two last points on the Scotland vote. The high turnout wasn’t just because the question being asked was of the highest importance. Every vote mattered and was campaigned for whether it be in Kirkwall or Kilmarnock. In General Elections we have seen a growing trend for the parties to concentrate on 150 odd marginals. In the “safe” seats there is often little campaigning so it is no wonder the turnout next May could be around 65%. The other one is votes for 16/17 year olds. Ed Miliband was quite right to commit Labour to this extension of the electorate. The Scots youngsters were great. Let’s hope the other parties commit to the same proposal at a time when the issue of the prosperous old and the debt burdened young is rearing its head and needs a political voice.





So Labour delegates arrived in Manchester with a mixture of relief that Scotland was staying and concern about the trap being laid for them by the Prime Minister over English votes for English laws.


They remain ahead in the polls but can they win a majority or will they have to contemplate a deal with what’s left of the Liberal Democrats? I attended a couple of fringe meetings on that subject. There is a lot of antipathy to any deal. A Liverpool Unite delegate said the party would stop supporting Labour if such a thing happened, but there are pragmatists too.

Ed Miliband needed to make a game changing speech but failed. Both he and Ed Balls (for different reasons) are the weakness at the head of the party. However there is potential on the front bench. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham’s idea to bring social and health care together is good. A policy well explained at conference by a man who must have another run for leader. Women like Mary Creagh, Stella Creasey and Rachel Reeves are also future stars.


This was the last Labour conference in Manchester until at least 2019. My sources suggest the city has priced itself out of the party’s reach. Liverpool have stepped in to host the next two northern conferences.


Now it is on to Birmingham and the Conservatives. You can write the lines now “Ed Miliband may have forgotten the economy but we haven’t etc”. However economic optimism is likely to be overshadowed by how the Tories deal with UKIP who could be poised for by election victories not only in Clacton but Heywood and Middleton too.









Did you see Salmond and Darling shouting over each other in the recent debate on Scottish independence? Things are hotting up north of the border! The police are being called in to maintain order at meetings and to ensure there is no intimidation at the polling stations in a fortnight’s time.


So back to that debate where the moderator failed to control the Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond and the leader of Better Together Alistair Darling. But it was lively and so was the audience.


Will we have a similar debate for the whole of the UK next year at the General Election? It shouldn’t really be necessary to ask that question considering the success of the first party leader debates ever in 2010. Twenty million people watched the three debates including the young and those who usually consider political programmes a waste of time. The first debate produced the historic initial surge in support for Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.

They were a valuable new feature of our general election campaign and their future should be secure, but it isn’t.


This autumn broadcasters and politicians will be locked in prolonged negotiations with no certainty that we will get debates next year. There are a number of questions.




For decades the debates never happened largely because whoever was in power felt they had everything to lose by allowing their opponents the even playing field of a studio debate. They only happened in 2010 because Sky threatened to go ahead with an empty chair if Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg failed to turn up.


The Conservatives have been prevaricating for months. Heaven knows why. Ed Miliband’s “oddness” should work in the Tories favour in this image obsessed world. By now we ought to know for certain that the debates are to take place with all the details in place. The closer we get to May 7th with the political temperature rising, the more difficult will become the negotiations. There were 76 clauses covering the conduct of the 2010 debates!




David Cameron has suggested that the debates dominated the campaign to the exclusion of local activity. There is some truth in that. We were either analysing the last encounter or speculating about the next. This was all people were talking about on the doorstep. Cameron has suggested there might be only one debate or if there were more then they should be spread across January to May next year.




The biggest problem for the broadcasters is the rise of UKIP. The BBC, ITV and Sky all have guidelines about who should appear in programmes and for how long. I should know. I spent enough time hovering over a stop watch in the campaigns from 1974-2005.


The guidelines refer to due weight being given to major parties and appropriate coverage to others. None of that helps us with UKIP. They will have at least one MP by the General Election (Douglas Carswell in Clacton), they won the European Election, have a number of councillors and a respectable opinion poll rating. To deny Nigel Farage his place alongside Cameron, Miliband and Clegg would anger the British voters.


I don’t agree with anything UKIP stands for. They are edging us towards the disaster of the exit door from the EU, but they represent a distinctive point of view in this General Election and they must be heard.




In 2010 members of the public were allowed their foot in the door, but only to pose a question and then shut up. Time must be given to allow the questioner to comment on the initial answers given. That right would not be abused because the audience will have been vetted most carefully for party balance.


We need to hear PDQ that the debates are on.