I would guess that Barack Obama is more popular with the British people than most of our domestic politicians. His two terms in the White House have been characterised by cautious and wise leadership of the western world and efforts to create something resembling the National Health Service in America. In the latter endeavour he has had fight every inch of the way against a stubborn, narrow minded and nasty Republican dominated Congress.

When asked this weekend, he will offer the view that we should vote to stay in the European Union. He will do that from the vantage point of having had to take a global view of affairs since 2009. And what has the President observed in those eight troubled years? The emergence of Daesh in the Middle East, the growing economic power of China and a newly aggressive Russia on Europe’s eastern flank. On the last point nobody would be more delighted if the UK quits the EU than President Putin. He wants a weakened EU. Obama knows this and is fully entitled to support the Remain cause during his visit.

Of course the British people will decide, but they will have the President’s opinion to think about which is similar to most world leaders including the old Commonwealth that the Brexiteers remember with such affection. They will also be taking into account the hugely authoritative Treasury document that came out this week. Its claim that we would all be over £4300 worse off captured the headlines but perhaps more significant was its analysis that our current membership of the Single Market (which will not be available if we leave) is better than all the other models the Brexiteers favour (Norway, Canada or the World Trade Organisation.


It is certain that more people will vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner(PCC) elections in two weeks time than did so the first time around. The average 15% turnout in the gloom of November 2012 is not a very high bar to overcome. Early summer is clearly a more sensible time for such elections and people will also be voting for local councils at the same time.

There is another reason why interest in these posts might rise a little. The government are signalling that they see PCCs as a way of pursuing the growing agenda to join up public services. This is aimed at saving money and delivering more coherent delivery. The Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken about PCCs bringing many other services under their wing. These may include fire and rescue, probation and court services and possibly schools to support troubled kids and keep them out of crime.

Labour dominated the initial PCC elections in the Downtown area and there is little reason to expect a change this time. In West Yorkshire, which includes Leeds, Labour’s Mark Burns-Williamson is seeking a second term as is Clive Grunshaw in Lancashire. Grunshaw’s time in office has been overshadowed by two rows over his expenses. His strongest challenger is likely to be the Tory candidate, former Lancashire Police Superintendent Andrew Pratt.

On Merseyside, the former Labour MP Jane Kennedy looks nailed on for a second term, but in Greater Manchester there will be no PCC election. The post has already been absorbed into the office of the interim elected mayor Tony Lloyd, a trend that may develop across much of the North as the devolution process unfolds.





There wasn’t a great deal of coverage in the papers about the European Parliament’s victory over mobile phone roaming charges. But then it was a good news story about a body they like to pour contempt on rather than treating it like the impressive democratic forum of 28 nations, which it is. Anyway you will soon find sending home your selfies when you are on holiday a lot cheaper because the Members of the European Parliament have used their collective power to stop the mobile phone companies ripping you off.

Enjoy the benefit while you can because its increasingly likely that in 2017 we’ll be out of the EU on our own in the world. As soon as David Cameron announced the referendum in 2013 I warned that it would coincide with the mid term of the next parliament when  governments are unpopular. Never mind the issue, people from hard working doctors to those who’ve lost their tax credits will want to take it out on the Prime Minister. Cameron and Osborne will be campaigning to stay in, so many people will want to give them a bloody nose and will vote to come out.

We could see this begin to play out in the Oldham West and Royton by election on December 3rd. UKIP have chosen John Bickley. He’s a candidate for all seats having already fought Wythenshawe and Sale East and Heywood and Middleton. I profoundly disagree with his politics but he is an able candidate and will give Labour a run for their money.

Europe is poorly reported by our media generally. Not only did the European Parliament’s victory over roaming charges get little publicity, there was virtually no coverage of the Treasury Select committee’s inquiry into the actual consequences of our withdrawing from the European Union. I sat through two hours where witnesses who knew what they were talking about outlined the complexity, cost and uncertainty of what detaching ourselves from our friends and neighbours would mean.

Next week the Prime Minister is due to clarify what he actually wants from the EU in order to campaign to stay in. He will get an opt out from ever closer union and possibly a formal recognition that the £ will always exist alongside the Euro. He may get the ability for the Westminster parliament to “red card” some EU measures. But to convince Eurosecptics he wants a four year ban on EU migrants gaining access to in work benefits. Immigration is the big issue Cameron wants to deliver on and what he wants is illegal under European law because it discriminates against people because of their nationality.

That’s why I fear people will vote “no”. Cameron will be ridiculed for not stopping what some people call “benefit tourism” . Ironically the “living wage” project of the government will make it more attractive for foreign workers to come here to cut our lettuces, clean our streets and support the National Health Service.




I thought the process of the Tories and Lib Dems going their separate ways ahead of the 2015 General Election would start about a year out. Now it looks as if the Coalition Government is going to grind to a halt much sooner as the Tories and Lib Dems bid for votes.

David Cameron has risked this happening with the launch of his idea to scrap housing benefit for under 25s. He made no secret of this being a true Tory policy free from the coalition agreement that so irritates his right wing backbenchers. Its effect is to begin a process that can only weaken the forward movement of the government.

Apart from the fact that most of the key legislation was rammed into the first two years of the parliament, Tory and Lib Dem MPs will now be focused on shaping up for the next election rather than making the concept of coalition government work.

It is true that Cameron has been true to his word to introduce a bill for Lords reform this week. But few Tories have any commitment to it, most are indifferent or are actively plotting to defeat it. They don’t want the measure and they don’t want to put any feathers in the cap of the Lib Dems. So the next election is underway.


By and large the old vote and youngsters don’t. Therefore politicians meddle with elderly people’s allowances with the greatest care. Tuition fees of £9000 a year fine but free TV licences and winter fuel allowances for the grey brigade….untouchable, until now.

Although the government is committed to the concessions in this parliament, there are indications that after 2015 the better off elderly are going to start feeing the pain of the younger generation.

And so we should! I was born under the National Health Service in 1948. I did not do national service or fight in a war. University education was free. There were plenty of jobs afterwards and, for some, good pensions to retire on.

Compare that to the stressed generation of youngsters now. Big debts, no jobs and the prospect of paying for our profligate public spending throughout their lives.

The Chancellor made the first move when he chopped the age related tax relief I was expecting next year, but this could only be the start of a seismic move by politicians to be more even handed between the generations.

It will be fascinating to see how the electorate reacts. Will young people start to vote in large numbers to influence politicians or will the 1940s baby boomers mobilise to insist that the good times must continue to roll for them?


There won’t be a long inquest into our latest failure to land the European Nations Cup. (I prefer the old titles, League Cup, European Cup, and Division 1).

We have made our choice. We are happy to pay Sky high subscriptions to watch the world’s best footballers in the First Division (ok, Premier League).

Even more foreign stars will be attracted to our shores with the latest extraordinary hike in television rights. Even fewer talented English players will get a chance to perform at the highest club level, so there will be even fewer able to pass and hold the ball in international tournaments.

The new FA youth centre will help a bit, but as my late father said to me as we watched England winning in 1966, “It could be a long time before you see this happen again.”