No sooner had the Tory cat (David Cameron) gone off to Portugal, than the mice began to play back home. Sayeeda Warsi’s resigned and Boris Johnson threw down his Westminster gauntlet.


The press has concentrated on the criticism of the Prime Minister’s stance on Gaza but Warsi’s statement also contained significant criticism of his European Union policy and this was picked up by North West Tory MEP Saj Karim.


Karim began life as a Lib Dem MEP and clearly retains his pro European credentials. He joined Warsi’s criticism of the government’s Gaza policy saying Israel was being given more room than any other state but then went on to refer to the “directional shift” in European policy. He told the BBC that we would miss the advice of Ken Clarke and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and could be embarked on a path to undermine our ability to negotiate concessions from the EU.


Ken Clarke has been the most prominent pro European Tory member of this Cabinet and Grieve’s sacking is widely believed to have been to clear the way for a fundamental reshaping of our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.


Warsi’s resignation may be quickly forgotten, particularly if the Gaza ceasefire holds. However her criticism of the sacking of pro European cabinet members may be the first sign of a real fightback by the EU positive wing of the Conservative Party who have been silenced by the Eurosceptic madness that has swept the party up to now.




After years of being called dull and boring the former Tory Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe had one great speech in him and it helped to bring down the mighty Margaret Thatcher.


Another former Chancellor, Alistair Darling has been similarly criticised for being dull. However on Tuesday those distinctive black eyebrows were fairly bristling during his debate with the leader of the Scottish Government, Alex Salmond. Darling believes we are better together and hammered away at what an independent Scotland would do for a currency. Mr Salmond, who had a great reception in Liverpool the other week, was deflated by the onslaught. It may have been Darling’s Geoffrey Howe moment and it may have saved the Union.



I was travelling back from London the other day and it soon became apparent that the lady in front of me had got the wrong train. Instead of getting off at Milton Keynes, I told her the first stop would be Warrington. She phoned her waiting father with the bad news and in desperate tones asked him “Where is Warrington?”


The question had the fearful tone that I expect Russian dissidents expressed when they were told they were heading for exile in Novosibirsk, Siberia.


I don’t think she had ventured out of the South East before. The episode highlighted once again for me that for people living in the London area, the North is another country. It is a mindset which has influenced government policy and led to massive underinvestment in our transport infrastructure.


Let’s see if that’s going to change. It has taken years to begin to repair the damage done by the coalition in dismantling regional policy but now our big cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are trying to force the Chancellor to make real his pledge to create a powerhouse of the northern cities.


It may help that George Osborne is the MP for Tatton and will listen to demands for £15bn spending on trans Pennine transport links. He’s called the plan “imaginative” and promises a full response in the Autumn Statement.

Let’s see if big city power can deliver.


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How long will the Lib Dem grass roots allow Nick Clegg to stay in a coalition where right wing Tory backbenchers call all the shots? David Cameron has had to placate them this week and his Lib Dem partners just look on in dismay.


I don’t think enough has been said about the sacking of Ken Clarke, for that is what it is. I know he can still attend Cabinet as Minister Without Portfolio. Without power or influence more like. I’m surprised he didn’t resign outright. For a man who has been Chancellor and Home Secretary to hang on in this way is undignified. It gives a cloak of respectability to what has really happened.


The last Tory with a sane view on our relations with the European Union (and prison policy) has been removed. So now the decks are clear for the vicious circle to accelerate. The anti EU press will continue to mislead the public about Europe, the politicians will respond and before we know it we will be having an in-out referendum. The nation will vote to come out of the EU, then stand by for an economic slump that will make this one look like prosperity.


But back to the reshuffle and further evidence of a swing to the right. The new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has been brought in to smooth the way for a third runway at Heathrow which will ignore the strong case to develop our regional airports. Promises of this being the greenest government yet were already withering, and that’s set to continue with Owen Paterson in charge at Environment. By the way hard luck to Liverpool’s Peter Cranie on not getting the leadership of the Green Party this week.


Sayeeda Warsi is another Cabinet Minister who should have made a clean break. The former Tory Chairman has taken a minor job at the Foreign Office. It’s a blow for ethnic minority representation in the government. I liked her down to earth approach and she impressed a gathering of Tory grass roots members meeting in Liverpool recently. It’s a shame.


Tory talent in the North West has been almost totally overlooked by the Prime Minister with the exception of the spiky and talented Esther McVey. The Wirral West MP is a rare asset for the Conservative Party. A media savvy business woman from Merseyside she’s got an interesting first job in government. She’s a Minister at Work and Pensions. The Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith refused to move and will fight to implement his universal credit benefit system. The Treasury is worried about the new system’s dependence on a vast computer network. We know from past experience that central government and big computer systems mean a big price tag and almost certain failure.


McVey is the only North West promotion. What about Pendle’s Andrew Stephenson, Preston North’s Ben Wallace and Lancaster’s Eric Ollerenshaw. He’s an older politician with good local government experience. Instead Eric Pickles is rewarded for his abolition of the North West Development Agency and more seriously the Audit Commission with an extension of his term. I suppose his value is as a bit of northern rough among the southern posh boys.