I was in the Commons this week when the new parliamentary constituency map was announced. It was generally expected that Tory MPs would be jumping for joy. The shake up aims to even up the size of constituencies which currently do not reflect the move of people from the cities (Labour) to the suburbs (Conservative). It is true that the plans could cost Labour roughly two dozen seats, but the change also has another purpose.

David Cameron, the here yesterday and gone now, MP for Witney thought it was a clever response to the MP’s expenses scandal to “cut the cost of politics”. You would have thought he might have decided to trim the size of the House of Lords which is not elected and is nearly 900 strong. But no, Cameron decided to reduce the number of elected MPs from 650 to 600. Therefore this shake up has led to the creation of huge constituencies in rural areas and disruptive change in the conurbations of Leeds, Liverpool and especially Greater Manchester. This aspect of the change will not just affect Labour MPs, but Tories too.

The plan may go through, especially if the Scottish Nationalists do not vote on this English issue, but I found many northern Tories unhappy with both the changes and the principle of downsizing the Commons. It was David Cameron’s idea. He’s not even an MP now and his policies are being comprehensively trashed by Theresa May.

A brief look at the new constituency map for the North shows how sitting Labour and Tory MPs should be worried. Conservative Party rules giving MPs with a large chunk of their old seat safe selection may mitigate blue on blue contests. However they’ve created of a huge North Lancashire seat stretching from the Scottish border to the suburbs of Preston. The consequential scrapping of the Ribble Valley constituency affects Ben Wallace (Preston North) and Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley). Bury will have only one seat threatening Tory David Nuttall in the northern part of the town. Chris Green’s marginal Bolton West gets more Labour wards. Then we come to the decision to cross the Greater Manchester-Cheshire border in two places. George Osborne’s Tatton disappears into a seat including Altrincham. There is the possibility of a fight for the new seat clash between the ex Chancellor and the grammar school supporting Graham Brady. The fortunes of politics! From Chancellor to an MP without a seat in three months.But Osborne’s new Northern Powerhouse think tank suggests he is going to stay and make mischief for Thesesa May. The other cross border constituency is Bramhall and Poynton damaging Lib Dem prospects in the Cheadle and Hazel Grove area.

But Labour will lose seats too. Alison McGovern’s Wirral South disappears as does Ivan Lewis’s Bury South and Jim McMahon’s Oldham West. Leeds West goes as does Yvette Cooper’s Pontefract constituency .The greatest danger to sitting Labour MPs will be the need to hold selection contests on new boundaries. The left wing Momentum organisation will be given the perfect opportunity to punish opponents of Jeremy Corbyn.


I had a chance to question ex Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg on the eve of his party’s conference this week.

He was in downbeat mood saying that the normal pendulum of politics had stopped. Normally there was an expectation that it would swing against the government. However with Labour decimated in Scotland, plunged into a civil war in England and with his own party so weak there was every prospect of lengthy Tory rule. The only cloud on that horizon, said Mr Clegg, was the possibility of tensions over Brexit. He identified a fundamental division between Tories who knew the value of the Single Market and sovereignty fanatics.

However when I asked him about centre left unity, he went over old grievances about how Labour had let the Lib Dems down over voting reform before acknowledging that bridges had to be built. Let’s see if the new leader Tim Farron will be more up beat in Brighton.

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As the Chancellor reels from his drubbing at the hands of the House of Lords over tax credits, he can fall back for solace on his pet project the Northern Powerhouse. Or can he? A poll out this weekend shows only one in four people in the North believe it will deliver. This is hardly surprising as they have been shut out of a project that has been cooked up behind the closed doors of Whitehall and the Town Halls.

I have been to Sheffield and Liverpool this week finding out just where we are with the devolution deals. The most interesting meeting was was Downtown’s Devo Scouse event. The networking organisation has now brought together twelve business organisations who insist on having their say in shaping the devolution deal for the Liverpool City Region.

The magnificent dozen came together after seeing the devolution proposition Merseyside’s politicians had sent to the government. It amounted to a fifty item shopping list of demands with little evidence to back it up and a paragraph on elected mayors almost designed to antagonise a government determined to support the idea.

They are putting their ideas to the councillors on the Combined Authority this weekend but they better be quick. Insiders tell me a government response may come on Nov 11th, even ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review later next month. They have on board the doyen of devolution academics Professor Michael Parkinson (a possible independent mayoral candidate?) who told the Devo Scouse meeting that the City Region needed to produce evidence based solutions to the government’s problems over things like low skills, not the begging bowl. There needed to be more trust between the six districts that did form a coherent economic whole. There was no point having hang ups about Manchester which is currently the go to city for devolution. They had been at this business for 20 years not 20 months. Parkinson also observed that the politicians in Greater Manchester had their rows in private not on the front page of the echo.

Martin McTague of the Federation of Small Business praised the coming together of twelve business organisations and said Liverpool should pay attention to the details of devo deals done in Sheffield and the North East. They had been narrowly focused. One of the main issues that has caused disunity on Merseyside is the question of an elected city region mayor. The FSB spokesman said they should not get hung up about it because the ones agreed so far would only be chairs of the board of the Combined Authorities not an all powerful Boris type mayor.

The other devolution event I went to was organised by IPPR North in Sheffield. Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott continued his campaign for a region rather than a city based approach to the Northern Powerhouse. I agree with him but I’m afraid that ship has sailed for the moment. Dan Jarvis, a Barnsley MP tipped as a possible future Labour leader acknowledged that Labour had been left trailing by George Osborne over the Northern Powerhouse. Christine Gaskell, Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP reminded people of the power of her economy as a contributor to the Northern Powerhouse, whilst the only Tory speaker at the conference felt his Ribble Valley area was more an outhouse than a powerhouse.


The selection of a new Labour candidate for Oldham West and Royton will take place on Bonfire Night. Those that choose politics over pyrotechnics may see the leader of Oldham Council Jim McMahon chosen as the standard bearer.

Jon Lansman,a London based veteran of the Labour left in the 1980s, has ruled himself out. There are a couple of local councillors from the Asian community who fancy their chances in a seat with a large South Asian population and I’ve heard that Phil Woolas the able MP for Oldham East, who was disqualified from office by an election court in 2011 has been sizing up his chances.

Voting is expected by the end of November so UKIP will need to get their skates on and may choose the impressive John Bickley who nearly won Heywood last year.