Tory papers, perhaps out to make trouble, are reporting this weekend that veteran left winger Jeremy Corbyn is ahead in private polling for the Labour leadership.

I don’t think it will happen but the speculation has been fuelled by the sort of thing that happened on the Victoria Derbyshire debate on BBC 2 this week. In front of an audience of potential, former and current Labour voters three of the four candidates faced a struggle to convince the audience that they were worth voting for. Time and again Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall set out their policy stances, but back came the same response that they weren’t inspiring people to vote Labour. Only Jeremy Corbyn got real gutsy rounds of applause when he called for a fight against austerity.

Sadly Liz Kendall seems to be trailing badly with her pro business stance and insistence on cutting the deficit. Andy Burnham is campaigning against the London based elite that he says has run the party for years, but he’s burdened by his past record on letting private firms into the health service. Yvette Cooper is banking on saying little, relying on her Cabinet experience as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The problem for these three is that they are swimming against a left wing tide in the party that we have not seen since Michael Foot was elected leader in 1980. It was not a rational response to the election of Margaret Thatcher then, and is unlikely to be the right response to Cameron’s victory now. However the activists in the party have a right to express their views and elect who they want. Corbyn is catching that mood and the other three candidates are struggling with their various policy nuances, but with the basic belief that the deficit must be reduced and the Tories have caught the public mood on benefits.

Harriet Harman has hardly put a foot wrong in her long career. She has always kept in touch with the party mood and been popular with her commitment to women. It was therefore quite startling that at the very end of her time in front line politics she should have advocated a humiliating cave in to the Tories welfare reforms.

It posed one of the most difficult questions of our time, what is Labour for? Corbyn has his answer, fight austerity, support large families and ban nuclear weapons. The other three candidates have more complicated answers because they believe that is where Labour has to be to win back middle England.

Middle England, the elusive prize for Labour. What would they feel about Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party? They would be more comfortable with a telegenic Burnham or perhaps a woman leading the party for the first time in Kendall or Cooper.

Meanwhile the Tories drive support to Corbyn with their latest proposals on strike ballots and having to opt into levy payments to the Labour Party. That goes down well in Middle and South East England where the tube strike wrecked havoc with people’s lives last week. But it angers grass roots Labour who feel they want to lash out, perhaps elect Corbyn and to hell with the consequences.



Emily Thornbury has increased the impression that Labour is tightly run by a middle class bunch from North London out of touch with working people and immune to advice from all but a tight circle of inexperienced advisers. 

She had to go. That said, the now almost non existent British National Party, is a factor in this row. I remember when houses in Burnley were draped in Union Jacks or English flags as a definite statement of support for the BNP. They appropriated the symbols of our patriotism. The very sad result is that there can be doubts about why flags are being displayed and ordinary patriots can be misunderstood.

On the by election itself, it wasn’t the landslide UKIP hoped for. Let’s hope that ,”I make it up as I go along” Farage, continues to be questioned on all the policies a party needs to be convincing on, if it wants to hold the balance of power






That household name Niilo Jaaskinen has spoken for the millions of people across Europe and the UK still suffering the consequences of the reckless banking practices that nearly wrecked western economies six years ago.


The Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice has rejected Britain’s challenge to its cap on bankers’ bonuses. Not that it was very draconian. These bankers get paid a fortune in salaries in the first place. The cap is only to restrict bonuses to 100% of banker’s pay or 200% with shareholder approval.


Yet George Osborne indulges in the old shroud waving about bankers taking their business away from Britain. They won’t do that George. They love the London lifestyle, the overheated property market that they can speculate in and a British government that still has some way to go in curbing the reckless behaviour that still continues. As this week’s fines indicate these people have learnt very little.


The indictment list is long and disgraceful. Reckless lending followed by unjustified refusals to lend to small business, mis-selling of payment protection, currency and lending rate manipulation and at a local level the closure of branches, attempts to scrap the cheque and force people into on line banking.





I chaired a good debate on the future of the BBC licence fee this week at the Nations and Regions Media conference in Salford. It is going to become a hot topic right after the election when the BBC’s charter is up for renewal.


I think we would be crazy to put in jeopardy one of our finest institutions, admired the world over. We export British culture and values all over the world via BBC programmes, and earn a lot of revenue. The creative flow is dependent on a well resourced BBC in this country and that is what is under threat.


The BBC has many media enemies who envy the £3.7bn of public money. They see the BBC as a threat to their commercial interests and take every opportunity to pour bile on the BBC. £3.7bn is a lot of money and the corporation has given its opponents plenty of opportunities to criticise in recent years.


Massive pay-offs to executives and the Savile scandal have tarnished the brand but set against that are excellent programmes like Sherlock, The Fall, Strictly Come Dancing, Radio 4 comedy and any British State occasion. All this for 40p a day. Compare that to your sky high Sky package cost.


The licence fee negotiations will be fraught, particularly if the Conservatives are the majority party. Some Tory backbenchers still regard it as the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation and are backing a bill to decriminalise non payment of the fee which lands people with a criminal record. Then there is the issue of technology. You can now access recorded BBC programmes on I Player without a licence. Will decriminalisation and the growth in new media access undermine the principal of paying to watch the BBC?


Harriet Harman, the Shadow Media minister spoke in Salford and said nobody had come up with a better model for funding the BBC that had convinced her. Of course there are other models including sponsorship and subscription, but how much would you be prepared to pay? Then, God forbid, there is advertising. My enjoyment of ITV drama is considerably reduced by the quarter of an hour per hour of adverts. Let that not come to the BBC.