Not for the first time a Tony speaks for Manchester. Ten years ago, it was the late Tony Wilson who could express the character of this kind, gritty city. On Tuesday it was poet Tony Walsh. His composition “This Is The Place” read out to a huge crowd in sunny Albert Square was just what was needed to try and pierce the blackness and fear caused by the abominable attack on young people at the Manchester Arena.

Terrible events bring out the best in the vast majority of us. If only, if only it wasn’t needed so often these days. But there it was for the world to see. The interviews with the young people who were at the Arena, and survived,were eloquent, thoughtful and sensitive. What a world we are handing over to them. We don’t deserve them. Then there were the Asian taxi drivers, waiving their fares to get people home and the takeaway shops throwing open their doors. That’s the answer to the so-called Islamic State’s attempt to divide us.


Terrorists hate democracy and therefore I agree, for once, with UKIP who were first to resume campaigning. It is a difficult matter to balance respect for the searing pain the bereaved and injured will be suffering and the need to demonstrate that we will not be prevented from our democratic business.

What effect will the terrorist attack have on the election? Casual and cynical observations that it will help the “law and order Tories” are offensive. Conservative candidates are overwhelmed with sadness in the same way as anyone else; and Mrs May has the burden of this tragedy being on her watch. There is a perception that people will swing to the right under terrorist provocation. That did not happen in France, although Marine Le Pen was a far less palatable candidate than Mrs May.

I’m sad to say that Labour could suffer from this terrible event, not because of a natural swing to the right in such circumstances, but because Jeremy Corbyn continues to be damaged by past ambiguous answers on his attitude to the IRA.


Until Monday’s atrocity, Theresa May’s assertion that her strong and stable leadership was just what was wanted for those Brexit talks, was looking far less credible.

I don’t want antagonistic negotiations with 27 countries that should still be our partners in building an ever closer union. However, that ship seems to have sailed. If voters are looking for a Prime Minister who knows her mind, thinks things through and isn’t blown off course by the first whiff of trouble, why would you vote for May?

She called a General Election that she vowed not to do. She raised National Insurance contributions for self-employed workers and then back tracked. She then proposed a system whereby long term dementia sufferers could pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in home care fees before announcing a cap four days later. The EU negotiators must be rubbing their hands.

A final point, I gave some stick to Labour last week for uncosted manifesto promises. The Tory manifesto is also littered with them. The cost of cutting immigration, the £8bn for the NHS, and the cut off point for winter fuel allowances all have no price tags. Perhaps they are going to pay for it with rises in National Insurance and Income Tax!



Follow me @JimHancockUK







I have taken part in two radio debates this week with two Conservative MPs. The intention of BBC Radio Five Live and BBC Radio London was that I should have a lively debate over a possible media ban on “hate preachers”.


I was asked to appear partly because I was a Lobby Correspondent during a similar ban on the IRA between 1988-1994 and hold the view that such bans are very difficult to operate, are counter-productive and are an offence to our democracy. Even earlier in my career I resisted a full blown campaign against my decision to interview the National Front on one of my programmes.


This debate about how the media should deal with “hate preachers” follows the despicable murder of Lee Rigby and how far such dastardly actions are inspired by people who pervert the message of Islam.


In the hours of media discussion that followed the horror of Woolwich, broadcasters included a small contribution from Anjem Choudary. He referred to Lee Rigby’s murder as “one death, but if you add up the number killed and tortured by the British government, it is in millions.”


It is easy to see why the Home Secretary would be angered by such opinions. Most people find them highly offensive. But Theresa May went on to question the decision to give him air time and before we knew it the papers were full of suggestions that the government might use the media regulator Ofcom to implement a ban.


I was expecting my Tory MP opponents, Tobias Ellwood on Five Live, and Colonel Bob Stewart on Radio London to argue the Home Secretary’s case. But they didn’t. Both debates took the same course. As we discussed the practicalities and possible consequences, both men seemed to back away from a media ban on “hate preachers.”


The fact is that we have within our democracy people like Anjem Choudary who openly despise our liberal way of life and parliamentary system. I imagine he would like Britain run as a theocracy under sharia law. He praised the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorists. Awful, but the question is should such people be silenced on mainstream broadcasts?

Some organisations are proscribed because of their policies. Incitement to violence and racial hatred is already an offence. If Choudary and his ilk are guilty of these offences, then they should be in prison. If they keep on the right side of the law, then editors and programme producers are left with the decision whether in limited and controlled circumstances to allow their point of view to be heard.


If this is to be changed we could have Ofcom deciding which side of the line individuals, not otherwise proscribed, fall. The press has recently been up in arms over a supposed threat from Lord Leveson to their editorial freedom. Any paper advocating such a difficult role for Ofcom will be being hypocritical.


Apart from the difficulty of implementation there are other issues. The IRA ban was far from perfect but it came about in the pre internet age. It is the fundamentalist websites where ranting texts are accompanied by graphic images where young people are principally influenced, not by a balanced debate on Newsnight.


We must also be careful not to allow people who have no respect for our democracy, to chip away at its values and finally there must always be space to debate British foreign and military policy.


Margaret Thatcher dominated my early journalistic career and the memories have come flooding back this week.


I first met her when she was a Shadow Minister in Ted Heath’s Opposition team at the October 1974 election. It was The Grocer’s last throw, soon he would be defeated by the grocer’s daughter. At that time she had none of the aura that subsequently attached to her. She had been the controversial Education Secretary who had taken away kid’s free milk, but in October 74 Heath had given her the junior job of Shadow Environment Secretary.


The renowned Norman Jackson was the Political Correspondent of the Manchester Evening News. He was well known to Thatcher and he was late. But rather than getting on with the press conference she told the rest of us that we had better all wait for Norman to arrive. This week I reflected on this early patient Thatcher who one day would bully poor old Geoffrey Howe with spectacular consequences.


My next memorable encounter with her was on the night that South Georgia was recaptured from the Argentinians in 1982. We were summoned to the door step at No 10 for the great announcement. When I ventured the opinion to the great lady that this was only South Georgia and the Falklands was still under the heel of the junta, I was told to “rejoice at that news!” It became a famous sound bite.


Three years later I was an hour from being in the Grand Hotel Brighton when the IRA bomb went off. Eric Taylor, chairman of the North West Conservatives was killed and I wandered down to the conference hall fully believing the whole event would be called off. Not a bit of it. There was Mrs Thatcher telling the nation that terrorism would never defeat democracy.


There were other encounters but that gives you a flavour of what it was like for a journalist covering the Great Lady. She was from time to time courageous, arrogant, personally caring but unfeeling about the impact of her policies, particularly on the north of England.


The impact of her policies came thick and fast. It was a momentous time for journalists. In Liverpool Michael Heseltine held the ring between Militant and a government that wanted the city to settle into managed decline. In Manchester and other northern cities, councillors threatened to refuse to fix a rate year after year in the mid eighties in a protest against cuts.


Then there was the Miners’ Strike. Its greatest impact was in the Yorkshire coalfield culminating in the Battle of Orgreave but it also wiped out the remaining pits in Lancashire. The Miners’ Union defeated, next were the printers. The violent picketing outside the Messenger Group of papers in Warrington was a taster of what was to come at Wapping. Eddie Shah was determined to end the union’s restrictive practices. He had Thatcher’s backing as did Rupert Murdoch in London.


In northern local government, the perfectly satisfactory upper tier strategic Greater Manchester and Merseyside County Councils were abolished, and all because of a quarrel between Mrs T and Ken Livingstone, then leader of the Greater London Council.


The unions defeated, council house sales underway, industries privatised, she should have called it a day after her 1987 victory but on she went with the poll tax and an increasingly aggressive attitude to Europe.


By the autumn of 1990 my task was to sniff out the northern Tory MPs who had had enough. They were afraid in case the plot failed. I remember snatching an interview on a train waiting in Runcorn station with Crosby MP Malcolm Thornton. It took so long to get him to say she must go that I only just got off the train before it departed. Next stop Euston.


But she had her loyal supporters too. None more so than Sir Fergus Montgomery, her parliamentary aide and MP for Altrincham. He died a few weeks before the Prime Minister he was devoted to.


Britain needed a Thatcher type figure in 1979. The unions had too much power and the sale of council houses was a brilliant stroke that united her with blue collar supporters. But she was also responsible for introducing a selfish, get rich quick mentality to Britain.


On Europe having strongly supported the Yes campaign just after she became Opposition leader in 1975, by the end of her Premiership she had sowed the seeds of division in her party on the issue which remains to this day. UKIP is now full of Tories who followed Thatcher.


David Cameron will be sad on a personal basis that she has died but will be breathing a sigh of relief her death wasn’t closer to the General Election. He has never remotely commanded the affection of the Tory grass roots that she did, and many will remember that as Margaret thatcher’s coffin is carried into St Paul’s.