The first eagerly awaited test of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party is likely to come next month. Party chiefs are likely to move quickly to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Michael Meacher. They won’t want UKIP to gain momentum (sorry to use that word, labour moderates) in a constituency perilously close to Heywood and Middleton where Nigel Farage’s outfit nearly beat them in a by election a year ago.

How will the Labour voters in this deprived working class seat react to Jeremy Corbyn. They have been content to elect Michael Meacher twelve times with thumping majorities and he was always on the left of the party being a close ally of Tony Benn when Labour was in a very similar position to where it is now in the 1980’s.

The choice of Labour’s standard bearer will be very interesting. On a personal level the leader of Oldham Council Jim McMahon has an important decision to make. He is a rising star and leads the Labour group on the Local Government Association. He is spoken of as a possible candidate for elected mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017. Unless a Labour government is elected and he rises to Cabinet rank, he would be more likely to have real power up here rather than at Westminster. McMahon may not want it or might not be selected. Momentum is the new Corbynista activist group in the Labour Party. Moderate MPs think there agenda is to start deselecting people who don’t agree with the Labour leader. How influential will they be in the choice of the Oldham candidate?

UKIP do face an uphill task in the seat. Meacher had a majority of nearly 15,000. It has a large south Asian population and the party is preoccupied with infighting about which pressure group is going to leader the EU Out campaign. Nevertheless a divided Labour Party with a poor candidate, an anti Corbyn backlash and a low turnout could produce a surprise.

I referred to Michael Meacher’s dozen victories between 1970 and this May but he began with a defeat. In 1968 the Wilson Labour government was deeply unpopular. So much so that Manchester City Council was controlled by the Conservatives! In a by election in this seat that summer the Conservatives won the seat beating the young Michael Meacher.

We do seem to be getting more than our fair share of by elections in the North West. This will be the fifth since 2010. Oldham East went to the polls after Phil Woolas was unseated in 2011. Tony Lloyd’s resignation to become Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester sent Manchester Central voters to the polls in 2012 and the deaths of Paul Goggins and Jim Dobbin caused further by elections in Wythenshawe and Heywood in 2014.






The travelling public of the North deserve a proper say on what they want from their rail services.


This week we’ve had more announcements from on high about HS2, and backing for HS3 from Manchester to Leeds. Sir David Higgins, Chairman of High Speed Two Ltd is an excellent man but who is he talking to before he makes this pronouncements? City region leaders but is that enough? Not if you look at the rows that have broken out across the North in the wake of Sir David’s announcement.


Why is Liverpool being left unconnected from HS2 and HS3? Where should the stations be located in Leeds and Sheffield? On the very day eyes were focused on what will be happening in 2027, there were protests about current services between Lancaster and Barrow. And fundamentally whilst one must respect the overwhelming view of city region bosses that HS2 is good for the North, there are the doubters who believe it will just make it easier to work in Borisland (the South East).


So how do we solve the democratic deficit? Sir David himself calls for northern cities to speak with one voice forming a new body called Transport for the North. The problem is Sir David not everybody in the north lives in the city regions. We need an elected Council of the whole North to allow the people a chance to formulate policies on rail, the economy, the environment etc.




Michael Jones will be a happy man following the announcement that Crewe is to be an HS2 hub rather than Stoke. The leader of Cheshire East council takes no prisoners in his drive to bring investment and jobs to his authority. Indeed he may harbour ambitions to lead the whole of Cheshire. He recently called for a unitary authority to be restored for the county. I understand the demand did not go down well with his near namesake Cllr Mike Jones, the leader of Cheshire West and Chester and a leading figure in the Local Government Association. Conservative Party rules may have been breached.


It is an unfortunate spat between the Tory politicians but Cheshire is fortunate to have two leaders who, in their different ways bring good leadership to the county.




The complaint by the outgoing leader of Labour in Scotland that the party treated her organisation as a branch office had me reflecting on the party’s organisation in the North.


When I started as a journalist in the seventies the North West Labour Party was headed up by a fearsome gent by the name of Paul Carmody. He was master of all he surveyed in the region and had no fear of Prime Ministers. He told Harold Wilson where to go when the PM objected to Carmody’s plans to change the boundaries of his Huyton constituency and berated Jim Callaghan for being late for a factory visit. Regional officials should be given back some of those powers as they know what’s going on in Lancashire and Yorkshire.




Brave Huddersfield doctor Geraldine O’Hara is reporting every day on the Today programme about her experiences treating Ebola patients in Africa.


Her reporting is of the highest standard as she vividly describes her life amongst those suffering from this dreadful disease. She gives us a full picture of the tragedy but also the rare moments of joy as some patients recover.


Although she will not seek it, I hope her reports are acknowledged by multiple awards in due course.