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





What an appalling start to the New Year it has been for British politics.

David Cameron’s decision to allow Cabinet members to split on the E.U Referendum is a flat contradiction of what he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr a year ago. The Prime Minister is a brazen pragmatist. What he said yesterday does not matter. He can busk it with his effortless Etonian charm. Now we must wait and see how many Cabinet Ministers take the opportunity to rubbish the deal Cameron gets from his negotiations. If Home Secretary Theresa May, and careerist Boris Johnson join the perennial anti EU Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling then the Prime Minister has a serious problem and so do those of us who want to stay in. Cameron will deserve it if the campaign becomes acrimonious and the Tory Party is split for a generation.


That is what happened to Labour soon after Harold Wilson allowed his Cabinet to split on the 1975 referendum. Within six years Cabinet members who had campaigned to stay in formed the Social Democrat Party whilst the Labour Party descended into faction fighting. It vowed never to return to those days when it won power sixteen long years later but this week we have seen in the longest reshuffle in history that Labour is going to be unfit for office until 2025 or 2030. What a betrayal of working class people! From the Blair-Brown feud to the current shambles, both left and right in the party have let ordinary people down big time.


Apart from the EU Referendum which is likely in June, what else have we to look forward to this year?


Kennedy, Bush, Clinton; it is amazing that in a country of 320 million people that it is quite possible that between 1989 and 2024 either a Clinton or a Bush will have been President of the United States apart from Barack Obama.

It looks almost certain that Hilary Clinton will win in November because the Republicans have narrowed their support base at a time when America is becoming more multicultural. It is possible the Republicans will choose Donald Trump but even if it is Florida senator Marco Rubio, they are still likely to be handicapped by their reluctance to accept the USA as it is.


Labour are likely to be heavily beaten in the Scottish government elections but if they can win the London Mayor race and hold their very strong position in local government in the North, there will be no immediate pressure on Jeremy Corbyn.

Locally interest will focus on Liverpool where Joe Anderson is due to stand again for mayor of the city. As he has recently taken over as chair of the Liverpool City Region which is due to elect a mayor for the wider area next year, he may stand down. It is difficult to see how elected mayors in Liverpool and Salford will sit happily under mayors for the larger combined authorities.

Meanwhile Leeds, Lancashire, Cheshire and Cumbria will be looking to conclude devolution deals.







40 years ago trade union power ensured that the nation’s politics and economics revolved around wage demands. Now the weakness of unions is being held responsible for the strange characteristics of the recession from which we are emerging. The fact that unemployment didn’t rise much above 2.5m during the worst slump since the thirties is attributed to workers concluding that accepting flat wages was better than losing a job after an heroic strike. People have seen the cost of living go up while earnings have stagnated, and yet there has been little evidence of industrial action. The government is felt to be in charge with a clear direction whether we like it or not.


It is incredible to compare the country now with forty years ago. Ted Heath was in the last months of his premiership. In the face of an overtime ban by the National Union of Mineworkers, British industry began 1974 under a State of Emergency and drastic measures to protect dwindling coal stocks. Rota power cuts meant that factories, homes and offices would only get power three days a week. Floodlit football was banned and TV went off early.


How had it come to this? For decades the UK’s economic performance was declining just as union power was rising. The Labour Government in the late sixties had attempted to improve a truly off strike record with proposals entitled “In Place of Strife”. The unions wouldn’t have it and by the time the Conservatives returned to power in 1970 people were seriously asking if the government or the Trades Union Congress were running the country.


Ted Heath was determined to answer that question in his favour and set up the Industrial Relations Court in 1971. It had the power to grant injunctions to stop strikes. It was an utter failure. Unions were fined and faced having their funds seized. Dockers were jailed for defying the court and a possible General Strike was only averted by the intervention of the Official Solicitor that no one had heard of before to free the men. So instead of settling industrial relations, Heath’s measures had exacerbated them. The question loomed larger and larger, Who Governs Britain?


As January turned into February the miners showed no signs of yielding, Heath decided on a General Election on that question. He expected that people plunged into gloom and candlelight would turn on the workers. That was certainly the view of many in the Labour Party. However voters were not yet ready to face down the unions and soon Labour’s Harold Wilson was back. People wanted Wilson to settle with the unions and give everyone a quiet life.


Short term fixes didn’t work and five years later gave their backing to Margaret Thatcher who decimated the power of the unions and forced Labour to change from being the party of the workers to a more ambiguous role in the centre of politics. That’s how the current government have been able to impose massive public spending cuts and hold down wages.


But how long will this passivity in the workforce continue? This year could see people demanding higher pay as the economy turns, particularly if employers start to find a shortage of skilled workers.










Harold Wilson resigned in 1976 when he kept seeing the same issues landing on his desk time and time again.


It’s a bit like that in politics at the moment. Cash for questions, party funding, Lords Reform. This incompetent political class keep being caught in the headlights by the latest scandal. What it should be telling politicians is that bold courageous reform is needed.


At 800, there are too many Lords. Many do an outstanding job, bringing their lifetime experience to shape legislation often sent in ill considered form from the Commons. But 800 is far too many and is about to be topped up by another set of peers. Let us hope that list doesn’t include people who are put in the Lords because of donations to political parties.


Although Nick Clegg’s efforts to reform the Lords last year crashed and burned and people wrote off the issue for a generation, it won’t go away. The House of Lords needs to be reformed. This government has lost its appetite to do it. So the next one needs to decide the Lords’ powers and how the chamber should be elected. Then drive it through. The method of doing this would be the one threatened a hundred years ago namely to create enough temporary peers to vote through reform. The threat worked in 1910, so why not now? Consensual reform was desirable but isn’t going to be possible.


My model would be a chamber of 150 or so. 80% would be elected from the regions of the UK. 20% would be nominated by an Independent Appointments Commission who would choose people with useful life experience, and representatives of all faith communities.


If any of these peers were convicted of an imprisonable offence, they would be excluded from the Lords for life. The same would apply to MPs in the Commons.



Labour is at last succumbing to the pressure to reveal its economic policy, but the bit of ankle we’ve seen so far is uninspiring. Abandoning universality in respect of the winter fuel allowance is a mistake on two counts. Firstly a line has been crossed and it will only be a matter of time before free TV licences and bus passes face bureaucratic means testing. Secondly Labour is accepting the policy reasoning of the Coalition on allowances, benefits and even deficit reduction.


People may well conclude that they might just as well stick with the people who implement such policies with conviction.



A little noticed part of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls “iron discipline” speech included a swipe at the new Police and Crime Commissioners. He said more was being spent on them than the old Police Authorities.


In the North West their performance has been patchy with the Commissioners in Cumbria and Lancashire embroiled in rows over their expenses. In Merseyside Commissioner Jane Kennedy has faced criticism from former Merseyside Police Authority Chair Bill Weightman who was a rival for the Labour nomination.


As most of the Commissioners elected in the North were Labour, Mr Balls might face quite a row if he gets to No 11 and tries to scrap them.