Business needs to get the message, ordinary people are angry.


I was at the meeting in London on Saturday when Ed Balls committed Labour to a 50p income tax rate for those earning over £150,000 a year. Before I could get the train dear old Digby Jones and Curry King Gulam Noon were spluttering about Labour lurching to the loony left.


Two days later RBS reveal the latest £3bn bill that we have to pick up for bankers disgraceful behaviour .


Now I know business and banking are different activities, but the continuing banking scandals are eroding people’s confidence in capitalism and certainly putting them in the mood to soak the rich.


What is so disturbing about the continuing banking scandal is that the mentality that led to the crash in 2008 has not fundamentally changed. Investigations are on going about the Libor scandal which continued way beyond 2008. In relation to RBS, 80% owned by us, they announced no bonuses this year BUT their chairman Sir Philip Hampton wants a shareholder vote on paying 200% of salary bonuses next year!


So it should be no surprise that Labour Leader Ed Miliband isn’t on the prawn cocktail circuit wooing business and he may have nudged a more reluctant Balls into making the 50p announcement early. Miliband sees the way the political wind is blowing and is keen to capture the fairness argument.


The first test of whether he’s right or not will come in the Wythenshawe and Sale East by election. Launching the campaign Labour had their Deputy Leader Harriet Harman having a game of indoor bowls at a lifestyle centre and risking headlines about missing the target. In the event the launch went reasonably smoothly for local man Mike Kane who is the party’s standard bearer.




The main point of interest will be the performance of UKIP. They’ve achieved second place in a string of recent northern by elections and will want to repeat the feat in Wythenshawe.


I’m told they are denying my claim that they opened nominations for the by election before the late MP Paul Goggins was dead.


Well I have seen an email from Party Director Lisa Duffy saying “Paul Goggins is seriously ill and there may be a potential for a by election, whilst we wish him well we need to plan for eventualities!”


People have a laugh with pint swigging Nigel Farage and find his anti establishment rhetoric refreshing. They should also bear in mind the party’s darker side and the fact that their policy of withdrawing from the European Union could wreck our economy.


Labour are clearly keeping an eye on UKIP. Their Wythenshawe Voice leaflet gives five reasons why they aren’t the answer, and at a Fabian conference I attended in London last weekend the point was repeatedly made that some working class Labour voters, as well as Tories, were attracted to UKIP’s policy on immigration.



I see the Chelsea boss wants to end replays in the FA Cup because of fixture congestion.


Excuse me. Teams like mine, Plymouth Argyle, don’t suffer from fixture congestion. As our ex boss Ian Holloway said once, that’s because we’re like a tea bag, not in the Cup very long.


Lower division clubs make some badly needed cash from replays and Premier League clubs with their budgets can afford big squads precisely to deal with lots of fixtures.


I yearn for the days when teams went to third and fourth replays. That would make yours eyes water Jose!


The FA must stand up for the minnows.









It has been a sad start to the year for anyone who had the privilege of knowing Paul Goggins. In the often self serving murky world of politics, Paul was truly one of the good guys. His death at just 60 years of age has deprived Wythenshawe and Sale East of a caring MP, and the rest of us of an excellent parliamentarian.


In 1997 he had the task of filling the shoes of Alf Morris who’s reputation for legislation on behalf of the disabled had made him a legend. Paul soon endeared himself to the people of Wythenshawe, an area with more than its fair share of social and economic stress.

He held various posts in government, including Northern Ireland which benefited from his gentle style of handling thorny problems.


This hardly seems the time for a humorous anecdote but I relate it because it says everything about Paul.

In 2003 I had the task of introducing the new Politics Show North West. The BBC decided it would have a more relaxed feel than its predecessor Northwestminster. MPs would be invited to dress down a little for the Sunday chat. Paul was my first guest on the new show along with a Conservative who decided to ignore the new style and turned up in a blazer and tie. Paul decided on a casual jumper and joked afterwards that I had set him up to look like a student alongside the smart Tory. I can think of many politicians who would have been very pompous about the whole thing but not Paul. God rest his soul.




The by election in Wythenshawe and Sale East will be the first of a significant series of elections this year. Even before Paul Goggins died, UKIP, with unseemly haste,were canvassing their supporters for a candidate. They won’t win this Labour stronghold but their leader, Nigel Farage, has used his party’s strong performance in recent northern by elections in Rotherham, Middlesborough and South Shields to indicate that his support is not just from disaffected Tories. You can expect pictures of him swigging a pint in Wythenshawe Forum before long.


UKIP’s main aim this year will be to get as many MEPs elected as possible from Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West. Yorkshire will be interesting as it has the misfortune to be represented in the |European Parliament by the buffoons Bloom and Brons. Hopefully Andrew Brons of the BNP (and Nick Griffin in the North West) will disappear with the recovery of the Labour vote. Godfrey Bloom has been suspended leaving the way open for UKIP to be represented by Jane Collins and Amjad Bashir.


In the North West 8 European places are up for grabs. Labour will probably take 3,the Tories 2 and UKIP 2. The last place could be a fascinating tussle between the long standing Lib Dem Chris Davies and Steven Woolfe who could secure UKIP a third seat.


UKIP could well win the European elections in June, particularly if the press is full of stories about a surge of Bulgarians and Romanians to the UK. But what then? Will they be a serious force at the General Election? To be so they need to get a base in local government. So let’s see how they do in the council elections being held on the same day in May for a third of the seats in metropolitan areas of West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.


It could well be that UKIP peak this year and then fade away. Let’s hope Labour don’t panic and promise an in/out referendum on the EU in the meantime.




The other major vote will be on Scottish independence. A yes vote remains unlikely but we need to turn our minds now to the serious consequences for us all in the north of England should it go the other way.


The year will also see the new inquests into Hillsborough, the International Festival of Business in Liverpool, continuing debates over fracking and HS2 and the launch of Local TV.


I look forward to discussing all these topics with you.







The aerospace industry is vital to the North West economy, so the chance to partly assemble 126 Eurofighter Typhoon jets for the Indian Air Force must be fought for.

On a visit to Westminster this week I gained evidence that much is going on behind the scenes even though preferred bidder status has been given to the French.

Ben Wallace, the MP for Wyre and Preston North, along with his colleague Mark Menzies (Fylde) met the Prime Minister on Monday. Eyebrows had been raised when news came through that the French had stolen a march on us, because David Cameron visited India with a big trade delegation soon after coming into office.

Now more details are emerging about the situation which could have implications for the workforce at Salmesbury, Warton and beyond. The strength of the French bid apparently lies in their tie up with the Reliance Group, India’s largest private sector conglomerate. With annual revenues of $58bn it is far larger than Tata, the Indian company which owns the Jaguar plant at Halewood.

However this deal is far from done and with David Cameron on the case, efforts will be made to expose the weaknesses of the French position. I’m told Reliance has no track record in aerospace and there is very little detail on price which could be significant as the French are desperate to get a foreign order for their Rafale jet. 700 of the Eurofighters have already been sold.

Ben Wallace emerged from his meeting with the PM confident there was all to play for. Apparently in similar negotiations for these aircraft the preferred bidder has been overtaken on six occasions.

Wallace is a Conservative MP in the tradition of former members like David Trippier (Rossendale) and Malcolm Thornton (Crosby). They are Tories that believe that to be successful in the North West; it helps to come from the liberal One Nation part of the party.

Wallace has been in the House since 2005 but faces a brutal internal party battle to maintain his political career. Boundary changes are likely to see him, Mark Menzies (Fylde) and Eric Ollerenshaw (Fleetwood and Lancaster) competing for just two seats.

During our time together at the Commons  we bumped into Wallace’s neighbour Jack Straw (Blackburn). Jack seems to be almost equally concerned aboutIranand Blackburn Rovers these days. He feels his successor as Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is underestimating the growing crisis surrounding Iran.

On the crisis at Ewood Park Jack had made an unusual move for an MP, in calling for manager Steve Keen to go. He seemed unimpressed when I remarked that Rovers had been doing a bit better recently.

Around the Commons corridors much of the talk is about elected mayors and Police Crime Commissioners. Ben Wallace told me he’s lining up an ex-soldier colleague of his to contest the position for the Lancashire Police Authority.

On the mayoral front I had an interesting chat with former Labour Minister and Wythenshawe MP Paul Goggins. There has been a general feeling that Manchester will vote “no” in the May referendum on whether to have a directly elected mayor with council leader Sir Richard Leese being against the idea.

However Goggins does not rule out a “yes” vote in Manchester pointing out that in neighbouring Salford last month every ward voted “yes” in a referendum triggered by a local businessman. So although the turnout was low, support was consistent across that city.

Following the “yes” vote, candidates have piled in to be the Labour nominees. The former Eccles MP Ian Stewart, has been joined by Salford council leader John Merry and former Labour National Executive Committee member Peter Wheeler.