It’s a shame that SAS (Strong and Stable) Theresa May and Jean Claude Juncker can’t stop the trash talking ahead of their Brexit fight. They should learn from the dignified approach of boxers Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko who avoided throwing chairs or making lurid threats against each other but delivered a huge success.

The UK government and the EU officials are as bad as each other. Mrs May’s ministers are adopting an arrogant and ignorant approach to the Brexit talks. But talk of bills escalating now to £100 bn from the European side can only serve to turn public opinion in Britain from a 52/48 divide to 60/40 for Leave. Very depressing.

If we do eventually leave, many questions about the future of the North will need to be answered. Among them are what is going to happen when we lose EU regional development funding and agricultural subsidies?

Common Futures Network (CFN) has been peering into the post Brexit world. It is an independent forum of economists, planners, housing experts, engineers and development interests.

In a report out this weekend they note that while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have developed national frameworks, there is no equivalent for England. The report is right to say that the need to address the “English question” was demonstrated by the sharp divisions shown up last June between towns and big cities and the North and London. The destruction of the Regional Development Agencies and their replacement by hardly visible Local Enterprise Partnerships was exactly the wrong thing to do in my opinion.

The CFN report calls for a new regional development fund to replace the EU structural fund and for a comprehensive deal for England’s regions, in addition to its cities and city-regions. This is the right approach. This weekend newly elected city region mayors are starting their work in Merseyside and Greater Manchester. We must wait to see what they achieve and meanwhile turn our attention to the areas of the North outside these conurbations. The CFN report calls for a comprehensive rural programme, a need to identify new development areas to accommodate a population growth of 9 million by 2040 and a drive to manage the growth of the London megaregion.

Let’s hope the government has time to address these issues whilst it is arm wrestling Mr Juncker after the election.


Nominations close next week for the General Election and the parties have been rushing to choose candidates. Ironically it has been the Conservatives who’ve had most to do because their constituency chairs believed SAS Theresa May when she said there would be no election until 2020. Opposition parties feared she was fibbing and mostly selected candidates last autumn.

This week has seen Esther McVey become the candidate for Tatton. The constituency never fails to have a high-profile MP. Since Neil Hamilton was kicked out twenty years ago, he’s been followed by Martin Bell, George Osborne and now McVey. How her scouse vowels will go down in the leafy lanes of Knutsford remains to be seen.

 Wirral West has made an excellent choice in Knowsley businessman Tony Caldeira who will have no rest from the campaign trail after running for Liverpool City Region Mayor.

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“Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night. Comets importing change of times and states brandish your crystal tresses in the sky” Henry VI Part I.

It seems an appropriate quote for the week when most opposition MPs stood by whilst the government gained parliamentary authority for a hard Brexit from the EU. It was the week when Nicola Sturgeon followed the historic example of past Scottish kings who made trouble on the border when English minds were focused on the continent. It was the week when there was little progress in forming a Northern Ireland government but plenty of talk about uniting the North and South.

There is no doubt that we are in a period of great constitutional uncertainty, unleashed by last year’s EU referendum. That is not good for business in the North nor is the uncertainty caused by the about turn on National Insurance(NI) contributions. After the pasty tax debacle under George Osborne, will Chancellors never learn? A Budget is not a place to road test ideas, only to withdraw them. The near equalisation of NI was a fair proposal but it was also a breach of an election promise and against the Tory instinct to help the self-employed. It was always going to meet with massive opposition, particularly because Tory backbenchers feel they can throw their weight around because of the feeble opposition.


Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon acted on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s latest careless word stream in announcing her intention to try and trigger a second referendum on Scottish independence, although I doubt it.

It is a massive gamble by the normally able leader. Was she pushed into it by SNP zealots? More likely she sees Brexit uncertainty as the last hope for an independent Scotland. The economic case against it is growing as North Sea oil runs out and the Scottish deficit rises. Trading on the vote to Remain in Scotland and the huge uncertainty of the UK Brexit negotiations, Sturgeon wants the vote before the end of the talks.

She is likely to be disappointed. The Prime Minister is unlikely to follow the practice of the Spanish government who just refuse Catalonia an independence vote, but she will likely stall for time. It is most likely a second referendum will follow the UK’s exit from the EU if it is held at all. Much will depend on the level of justifiable anger among Scottish remainers.

The further problem for the SNP is that they tend to exaggerate the level of support they have for remaining in/re-joining the EU. The Commission has made it clear it will only deal with one state, the UK, during the talks. If Scotland were to become independent it might have to join the end of the applicant queue, join the Euro and face the opposition of Spain who don’t want to set a precedent for Catalonian independence.

That is one part of our unhappy state.


The fact that Sinn Fein have nearly got parity with Unionists in the Northern Ireland Assembly following the recent elections is another consequence of the Brexit vote. A united Ireland inside the EU is an increasingly attractive proposition for some waverers. That mood will only be strengthened if a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is the result of the UK Brexit talks. Another part of our unhappy state.


Finally, we come to the UK where England plays the major part. Ministers make optimistic noises about how it is in everyone’s interest to allow economic reality to overcome politics in the talks. That wasn’t the case in the Referendum where people’s feelings about immigration and alienation overwhelmed the strong economic case for staying in.

Our European friends feel mightily offended. Expect an early and possibly decisive clash on the divorce bill.


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Let’s ask the burning question for the North of England. People outside most of the large cities voted Leave in justified rage at being ignored. Would they vote Leave again after a week when billions of pounds have been written off our companies and banks? When investment decisions that could bring vital work to the very areas that voted Leave are being put off? When we have seen division grow between young and old, North and South, Scotland and England and Nigel Farage disgrace Britain with another loutish performance in the European Parliament? Even more worryingly some people feel the Brexit vote has given them a licence to openly abuse people from ethnic communities. We have seen the Vice Chancellor of Manchester University having to issue a statement trying to calm fears amongst her international staff about their jobs and European research funding.

In that list I have not even mentioned the political turmoil which is both adding to the crisis but may just give us an opportunity to stop this Brexit insanity in its tracks.

The Labour Party could be on the brink of extinction. Since the decline of traditional industries and mass union membership it has seen a struggle between its socialist and social democratic wings. When the struggle for the leadership is resolved, it is possible that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected as leader by the socialist grass roots completing the split between the parliamentary party and activists.

At the same time the Conservatives will have a new leader and Prime Minister who is likely to want a General Election mandate. It was significant that the party’s officials accelerated the timetable so that an October General Election is now possible before the winter sets in.

There is a growing chance that the new Prime Minister will be Theresa May. Although on the Remain side, if she lets it be known that she would appoint Andrea Ledsom from Leave to a new post of Cabinet Minister for Brexit, it may be enough to overcome Boris Johnson.

If a General Election is on the way, there is only one option for social democrats in the Labour Party and that is to link up with Liberal Democrats, Greens and any pro EU Tories who want to join in a grand alliance to ask for a second referendum. One candidate would stand against the Tories in each seat. A normal election would be possible in Scotland due to the strong pro European stance of the people and parties there. The Lib Dems are reported to be gaining members at the rate of one a minute following leader Tim Farron’s pledge to campaign to rejoin the EU. We don’t need to rejoin though, just stop the years of complex, acrimonious unravelling straight away now that people can see they were fooled. We have not triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which would probably put us beyond the point of no return.

There is an obvious risk that such a stance could see UKIP winning many seats accusing a “second referendum” alliance of ignoring the democratic wish of the people. However the situation is so serious that such a charge has to be taken on board and answered in the following way.

The brazen Brexiteers have already been found out on their promises for NHS funding, their ability to cut immigration and the claim that Turkey would be joining the EU soon. Remain forecasts of a massive economic impact on the markets has been proved right. Assertions that Brexit had no idea what shape our relations with the EU would look like have also been proved right and most fundamental of all the Remain campaign was right that our standing in the world would be diminished as we turned inwards to fight ourselves.

Europe must reform and democratise, the issue of immigration must be addressed, the arrogant Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the Commission) must be replaced. But we must stay in the EU.

Cross party coalitions came together in the 1918 and 1931 elections. Grave times call for exceptional measures. All pro EU politicians must unite now or we are on the road to a painful exit from Europe and Conservative governments stretching long into the future.



Labour are stuck with Jeremy Corbyn but have little prospect of winning the 2020 General Election. That looks to be the situation with many results still to come in today, including the vital London mayor election.

The Labour leader did better in England and Wales than his critics thought he would, but coming third to the Tories in Scotland means the party will lack the ballast of 40 Scottish Labour seats it would need to win in 2020.

That is why the Shadow Home Secretary and Leigh MP Andy Burnham is considering running for elected Mayor of Greater Manchester. He clearly doesn’t see the prospect of holding one of the major offices of state as very likely in 2020 and may settle for running Greater Manchester. Its a big job but not as big as being Home Secretary. Andy Burnham knows it will be 2025 at least before Labour form a government. By then we may have the realignment of political parties that I have written about before, but for now we must get back to what happened overnight.

Some commentators and Jeremy Corbyn’s enemies were poised to write off the Labour leader overnight.

The truth is that Labour were at a high point going into these elections following years of progress since they lost the 2010 General Election. It is a mystery to me that Labour spokespeople (including Corbyn) didn’t make this point more forcefully. All the easy wards to win had been won in the last five years and further progress would be difficult.

The most interesting northern result so far is in Stockport where Labour look set to gain minority control, ending a long era of the Lib Dems being in charge. On a night when there were signs of a slight Lib Dem recovery, the party self destructed in the town. A botched consultation on the market was followed by a nightmare evening which saw the Lib Dem leader Sue Derbyshire lose her seat and a Lib Dem councillor defect to Labour.

Joe Anderson was comfortably re-elected as Mayor of Liverpool but shortly the city is expected to revert to a leader/cabinet model as Joe stands for election to be Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

Labour fended off a Tory challenge in West Lancashire but the Conservative flagship council of Trafford remained blue.

So where do the parties stand this weekend as they return to campaigning on the momentous issue of our membership of the European Union?

Parties in government usually start a rapid decline in local support once they are in national office. This hasn’t happened to the Tories despite their splits over Europe, probably because of Labour’s weak leadership and disarray over anti-Semitism. The Conservatives will be encouraged by holding Trafford and the performance of Ruth Davidson, their leader in Scotland, who may have a wider national role one day.

Labour are in stalemate with the results not bad enough for an immediate coup against Corbyn but with no prospect of winning in 2020. The Shadow Chancellor John McDonald has had a good campaign. He appears more sure footed than his leader and if Labour is to have a hard left leader, perhaps it should be him.

Stockport is a further blow to the Lib Dems but partly due to local factors, elsewhere in the North there are signs of a modest recovery after five dreadful years.

UKIP have made a few gains in places like Bolton but their effectiveness in taking decisions on local government issues instead of just banging on about Europe, remains a big question.

Now the battle for our membership of the European Union resumes, let’s see some passion from the Remain camp.