I wonder if anyone in the Labour Party or UKIP has noticed there’s a Queen’s Speech on Wednesday. They are both so busy tearing lumps out of themselves that they will have little time to critique the legislation being proposed by the first all Conservative government in 18 years.

We can expect a hefty programme of legislation if the pattern of the last parliament is anything to go by. The Coalition put through most of its major legislation in the first two years leaving us with a zombie parliament in 2014-15. So we can expect bills on important things like a British Bill of Rights and the right to buy housing association properties. Then there is the Budget in July with the prospect of swingeing cuts in welfare. All this needs the attention of the Labour Party otherwise the Scot Nats will do it for them.

The other danger in Labour taking its eye off the ball is a repeat of what happened in the summer of 2010. While Labour was distracted electing Ed Miliband as leader, the Tories were discovering notes left by outgoing Ministers saying there was no money left and blamed Labour for the financial crisis. It was a charge that stuck right through from 2010 till this May.

UKIP is engaged in an even more damaging internal conflict. Having confirmed Nigel Farage as leader, they have now sacked two of the people who were capable of softening their image as a pack of old lads yearning for Britain as it was in the fifties. Economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn and particularly policy chief Suzanne Evans provided an alternative to the brash Farage. They were never filmed in pubs but now they are gone from the leadership circle.


Last week the Gorton MP Sir Gerald Kaufman briefly took the chair as the new House of Commons met. He is Father of the House because he signed the member’s book in the House of Commons just ahead of Oldham West’s Michael Meacher in 1970. His job was preside over the re-election of John Bercow as Speaker, so not too onerous a task. This is just as well because the MP for Gorton is 84 and will be touching 90 when the next election comes.

But let’s move on from yesterday’s man to the 15 new faces from the north who will be attending their first Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.

A number of prominent councillors have taken the Westminster Way. Kate Hollern, the former leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council is the new MP for Jack Straw’s old seat. Will she enjoy as long a tenure as her predecessors Mr Straw and Barbara Castle who between them represented the town since 1945.

Peter Dowd, the leader of Sefton Council has taken over from the veteran Joe Benton in Bootle whilst Julie Cooper the leader of Burnley Council ousted the Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle to represent the East Lancashire town.

Justin Madders who led the Labour group on Cheshire West and Chester Council is the new MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston whilst senior Manchester councillor Jeff Smith has made the Labour takeover of Manchester complete by taking Withington from the Lib Dems.

Other new Labour faces include Angela Raynor in Ashton and Rebecca Long-Bailey who succeeded the colourful Hazel Blears in Salford. Then we have the three new Labour MPs who helped to temper a bad night for the party by ousting Tories. They are Margaret Greenwood, Esther McVey’s nemesis in Wirral West and Chris Matheson in Chester. Finally keep an eye on Cat Smith the new MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood. Her early pronouncements indicate she is from the hard left wanting nothing to do with austerity cuts.

Our five new Conservative MPs divided their victories over Lib Dem and Labour incumbents. The most spectacular scalp went to Andrea Jenkyns who defeated Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in the Leeds suburb seat of Morley and Outwood whilst Chris Green took Bolton West from Labour. The delightfully named Antoinette Sandbach has replaced Stephen O’Brien as the Tory MP for Eddisbury. Sadly the town of Sandbach is in the neighbouring seat of Congleton.

The long Liberal presence in south east Greater Manchester is over with William Wragg becoming the first Tory MP since Tom Arnold in Hazel Grove whilst Mary Robinson took neighbouring Cheadle.




The strain on the unity of the UK is very great in the wake of the General Election. Scotland has voted massively for the Scottish National Party. England has reacted by backing the Conservatives. The Scots complaint that they never vote Tory but frequently get Conservative governments has been reinforced.
The fact that they ignored Labour’s warnings that a vote for the SNP would let in David Cameron, merely shows their total determination to express their frustration.
Although the SNP’s MPs have been elected to the Westminster parliament and the election was not a vote for a new independence referendum; the probable dynamics of the next few years point in that direction.
Far from being the power brokers at Westminster, the SNP will be shut out in the face of this unexpected Tory majority. Furthermore we will now have a referendum on our membership of the European Union. As I have argued before, there is a real prospect of a no vote. If the SNP isn’t already demanding a second independence referendum; they certainly will do as they are dragged out of the EU by English votes.
I thought the Tories would get the credit for the improvement in the economy but didn’t expect them to be rewarded with a majority. Nor did I expect the Lib Dems to be so brutally punished for their decision to go into coalition.
The parties performances across the North of England told the tale of the night. Labour did well in areas like Merseyside. They increased their majorities and took seats like Chester and Wirral West; although in the latter case the loss of Esther McVey as the sole Tory voice for the area may prove a disadvantage.
Around the Pennines Labour’s results were poor. Ed Balls defeat on the outskirts of Leeds attracted most attention but Labour missed target seats from Pendle to Pudsey.
The Lib Dems terrible night saw them lose their trio of seats from Withington to Hazel Grove. Ukip got impressive votes but no cigar in terms of seats.
Now we wait to see where the Tories will make twelve billions of cuts and whether the Northern Powerhouse will be fully developed across the north.




How do we feel Oop North about moving the Scottish border southwards? Then we could benefit from the inspirational leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party and banish the male and stale politicians who have failed to grasp the full vision of northern devolution?

Nicola is wooing us. Her manifesto calls for a significant increase in infrastructure spending in the North of England. She wants HS2 started from Scotland down to northern England at the same time as the track is laid to Birmingham. She wants a Northern Cities Fund and concludes “while a strong London is good a strong Newcastle and Leeds is better.”

I am not actually serious about the border but we do need a counter argument to the Tory shroud waving about the SNP and how they will dictate the UK budget in a deal with Labour. Firstly I think Labour would rather rule as a minority or with the Lib Dems, Irish and Greens than reach an accommodation with the party that has nearly wiped them out in Scotland. For Miliband to work with the SNP could mean the permanent weakening of Labour north of the border.

Secondly Tory grandees like Lord Tebbitt and Michael Forsyth have warned the Prime Minister that stoking up English fears and resentment about the Scots plays right into the separatist cause.


I used to love the campaign trail, seeing our leaders face to face with the people they sought to represent and being heckled at open to all public meetings.

I am not planning to attend any visits by the party leaders to the North this time because I refuse to be kettled in a press pen to observe Dave, Ed and Nick surrounded by adoring activists keeping everyone else out. We need Mrs Duffy of Rochdale (Gordon Brown’s bigoted woman) to break through the ring and tell them what she thinks.

The campaign managers thinks it makes good telly. Do they really think people are so stupid as to think that their leaders are being universally welcomed in every town. TV producers have a duty to pan away from the tight throng of supporters and show the excluded public beyond.

On a more optimistic note I am pleased to report that hustings in individual seats are alive and well. I’ve hosted ones in Bolton and Hazel Grove with Withington and Chester to come. People still want to turn up at church halls to see their candidates in the flesh rather than communicating via new media.


Did you know that on May 7th we’ll also be having a big round of local council elections? There has been virtually no media coverage of the contests for the tier of government that actually delivers most of the services that matter to us. Furthermore with all the promises made about ring fencing the NHS and not putting up VAT and National Insurance, it is likely local government will bear the brunt of the further cuts promised by most parties after the election.

A third of all the metro councils in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside are up for election. Labour could gain Calderdale and Kirklees and threaten the Tories in Trafford and the Lib dems in Stockport.

There are all out elections in the unitary councils of Blackpool, East and West Cheshire. The latter is the most interesting with Conservative control under threat from Labour. A third of councillors are up for election in the other unitaries, Blackburn and Warrington.

There are full or a third elections in district councils in Lancashire and other parts of the North.


With a majority of under a thousand Tory David Morris has a fight on his hands to prevent Manchester councillor Amina Lone taking this seat for Labour.

Her strength is in the town of Morecambe and Heysham with its nuclear power station and busy port.

A major road improvement is under way to link Heysham to the M6 and the more Tory voting areas around Carnforth.

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