Britain is being run by a Prime Minister constantly looking over her shoulder at hard line Brexiteer Tories who want to not only get us out of the European Union but use the withdrawal legislation to dismantle many elements of social justice.

The Opposition is led by a left wing populist who promises the earth to public sector workers and students and who has skilfully captured the anti-establishment mood. However, a Jeremy Corbyn government combined with Brexit would have a hugely damaging impact on business and the economy.

So where is the centre ground when we need them? I’ll find some of them in Bournemouth this weekend under their new leader Vince Cable. The others may be in Brighton the week after at the Labour conference. You won’t see them on the platform, even Andy Burnham, the newly elected leader of Greater Manchester, is struggling for a slot. The moderate Labour MPs are being made to pay for their treachery against Jeremy Corbyn.

It is difficult for moderates in the Labour Party. They are embarrassed by Corbyn’s “relative” success. And it is relative, it was Labour’s third successive defeat. They have not won a General Election for twelve years. They want the party to oppose Brexit but are worried about breaking promises to the electorate and have a leader who is probably a secret Leaver. Then there is the Blair problem. The most articulate spokesman for their point of view is discredited in too many people’s eyes to get a real hearing.

Both the Labour centre, and the Lib Dems, are also burdened by the legacy of the financial crash of ten years ago. A moderate Labour government was in charge under Gordon Brown when it happened and the Liberal Democrats were part of a Coalition that used austerity to clear up the mess afterwards. The Tories are always expected to be tough on economics but the crash and its aftermath left Labour and the Lib Dems vulnerable to the populist rhetoric of Nigel Farage. He used the European Union as a lightening conductor for people’s mistrust of bankers, the EU and centrist politicians whose wishy-washy politics had let them down.

And yet my gut feeling remains that a majority of the British people, and certainly business, want centre ground politics. Economic realism with a social conscience and if we can sort immigration out, continued membership of the EU.

The Lib Dems are too weak at the moment for the Labour centre to take them seriously as a partner for a new party. Vince Cable’s task this weekend in Bournemouth is to show that they have a strategy to win back seats and be open to the idea of a new centre party that can offer an alternative to Brexiteer Toryism of hard left socialism.

Follow me @JimHancockUK






Brexit has overshadowed every other political activity in the last 12 months, but in three weeks time a series of important elections in the North will remind us there are other things to concentrate on apart from Europe.

City Region mayors will be elected in the Liverpool City and Greater Manchester regions, there is a parliamentary by election in Gorton and full council elections in North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire and the key contest for Lancashire.


Lancashire had been a Labour fiefdom for 28 years until 2009 when the growing unpopularity of Labour under Gordon Brown saw the Conservatives take control under the colourful leadership of Geoff Driver. The former Preston Council Chief Executive enjoyed four years in office before narrowly losing out to Labour, supported by the Lib Dems in 2013.

Many expected Driver to be deposed as Tory group leader but resilience is in this politician’s DNA. Back in the 1990s as Chief Executive of Preston he had a bitter clash with the then leader of the council Valerie Wise. After losing out to Labour in 2013, Driver was subject to a two year investigation by Lancashire police into the council’s One Connect venture with BT. The investigation into his role was eventually dropped, he had a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission upheld and is now calling for the “removal” of Lancashire Chief Constable Steve Finnigan as the cost of the probe nears £2m.

In the campaign, Lancashire Conservatives are attacking Labour for their cuts in services as being too harsh. This has attracted a sharp response from the ruling party leader Jeni Mein who points to the massive cut in government grant over the last few years.

Mein has done a sound job in very difficult circumstances and in the mid-term of a Tory government should be looking to gain an overall majority for Labour. “Should” is the operative word because Mein is being constantly let down by party infighting at Westminster. A row over Ken Livingstone’s alleged anti-Semitism is just what you need when you are trying to win the marginal wards that litter the county.

Mein might be helped by an anticipated revival of the Liberal Democrats in local government this time around. Their distinctive stand on a second EU referendum and fading memories of their involvement in the Coalition could make them significant players when the votes are counted at County Hall on May 5th. That said the Conservatives lost votes to UKIP in 2013 and UKIP’s support is set to fade at these elections.


Labour has been trying to focus voters’ attention on their policies in recent days but one leading pollster is forecasting the worst performance by an opposition party since 1985, excluding General Election years. Apart from Lancashire, Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in Cumbria where there is a Lab/Lib Dem coalition and Derbyshire will be watched closely.

Anything other than a Labour victory in the Gorton by election would be a total disaster, although it is worth recalling that in the depths of Harold Wilson’s unpopularity in 1967, the Conservatives reduced Labour’s majority to 557.





One of the reasons for the huge gap that is opening up between the people and the elite across the western world, is bad behaviour by some big businesses.

I always thought we should dismiss the Prime Minister’s initial mission statement about being a government for all as “what they all say” and so it has proved in relation to the Green Paper on Corporate Governance. This was meant to be a signal that ministers were going to grapple with the Philip Green’s of this world and the huge gap between workers on frozen pay and bosses paid 140 times more in some cases.

Instead of workers on boards, they are to have a “voice”. There is little on giving pension scheme members more say, the issue at the heart of the British Home Stores scandal.

Under consideration are pay ratios to show the gap in earnings between Chief Executives and workers, more power for shareholders to vote against bosses pay rises, private firms to be held to the same standards as public companies and a code of practice.

Will any of this be effective in bringing about more corporate business responsibility. The government seem to be in nudging not compelling mood.


Blue Labour is an organisation that worries about the growing gap between its traditional northern working class base and the liberal (small L) elite who have enthusiastically embraced the social and economic changes of recent years.

They met in Manchester at the weekend to ask questions like “might there be a hermeneutic of continuity reuniting the working class with those that fear its voice?” Now I’m happy to share a Gauloises Disque Bleu (remember them in soft white packets) with any number of intellectuals and discuss the future of socialism. However I think there is a lack of urgency on the centre left and a self indulgent sectarianism between Greens, Liberal Democrats and Corbyn opponents.

While they agonise the new UKIP leader Paul Nuttall says he is going to appeal to Labour voters in the North on the issues of immigration, crime, foreign aid and putting British people at the top of the queue for jobs.

What is the centre left response to that agenda which some will feel has a whiff of racism? Well for one thing what are UKIP going to do about housing, adult social care and the productivity gap? But the centre left do need to make an effective response on the “awkward” issues like immigration. Otherwise those many UKIP second places in wards and constituencies will fall from Labour’s grasp.


Fidel Castro’s coup in Cuba happened as I began to take an interest in politics. He has been around all my adult life so some thoughts at the time of his passing seem appropriate.

His coup removed a regime that was turning Cuba into a brothel and casino dominated by the United States. Castro wanted American help but instead faced the Bay of Pigs invasion designed to topple him. He therefore embraced the Soviet Union and foolishly allowed them to base missiles on the island which nearly brought about a nuclear war. He was ruthless with opponents and persecuted gays. But, but, but he gave the Cuban people health and education standards rarely matched in the Americas. He also sent troops to confront apartheid South Africa and contributed to its end.

We will all be weighed in the balance and for only a virtuous few will the scale be wildly in their favour.

Follow me at





It is a dark time for people who believe in centre left politics, and it could get a whole lot darker.

Across Europe and America, the centre left is either out of political power or is under pressure from radical or authoritarian forces. The elderly crave for a world that has gone, the young are unemployed or running up debts from university or renting their accommodation. Forgive the generalisations. I know this is not true of everyone but I am trying to identify why the centre left is under pressure.

Some look to reactionary forces represented by UKIP in Britain, the Front National in France or The Donald in America. When people find that Brexit doesn’t deliver “yesterday”, the immigration crisis doesn’t go away or it proves impossible to expel 11 million illegals from the USA, what will they do? Give centre left politics another chance? That is unlikely. The anger levels already high (watch any Trump rally) will look for even more authoritarian solutions.

All the while this European and American anger is being goaded by terrorists who see the spiral of action and reaction working beautifully. That is why the sight of French police surrounding a Muslim lady wearing a burkini is so serious. That will be playing well in Raqqa.

The centre left is particularly in trouble in the UK. The Labour Party will be unelectable for a long time but the moderate MPs still show few signs of realising their predicament. Their continuing antagonism to Liberal Democrats and Greens seems absurd in the desperate situation they find themselves in.

However there is a shaft of light. This weekend sees the publication of a book with the title “The Alternative: Towards a New Progressive Politics”. Its editors are Liberal Democrat Chris Bowers, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy. The two women are amongst the most able of their generation and the fact that they have come together to chart a possible way forward for progressive politics is a start.

It remains possible that the Brexit negotiations will not be concluded before 2020. It is essential that all the political forces who believe that we should stay in the EU are lined up to make the 2020 election, in effect, a second referendum. The SNP, Lib Dems, Greens and hopefully a New Democrats Party must ally together. It won’t be easy to do but the work should start at this autumn’s conferences.


We all congratulate our athletes on their magnificent achievements in Rio. We must also congratulate Manchester on moving with characteristic speed to host the victory parade when the London mayor seemed uncertain.

But when the champagne corks have popped for the last time we need to look at the strategy that has developed of investing millions in elite athletes whilst neglecting school sport.

One of the most stupid things the Coalition government did in its early days was to scrap funding for the Schools Sports Partnerships which had the potential to do a great deal to foster participation and fitness for all.

We need to see resources put in at school and community level so there is less reliance on volunteers, more paid staff, more indoor facilities, an end to selling off playing fields for development and more time in the curriculum for physical education.

Follow me at