E.U. TREATY TALKS
While the Lib Dems implode after their disastrous election results, let us look forward to the implications for next year. I have thought for some time that the Tories would be the largest party after the General Election. Labour’s under performance in the North last week has strengthened my view. Therefore there is a reasonable prospect that David Cameron will be in a position to try to renegotiate our treaty arrangements with the E.U.
Up to now I had thought that his demands would be unacceptably high even for our German and Swedish allies. This is because the Better Off Out wing of the Conservative Party is exerting increasing pressure on him. The result would be that Cameron would come back with a weak package of concessions that he would try, and fail, to sell in an in/out referendum in 2017.
However the scale of hostility to the E.U project across a large number of countries is such that the impetus for change has grown and Cameron may be able to get meaningful concessions. These could cover immigration controls, the working time directive, benefit tourism and the “ever closer union” clause of the Treaty of Rome. If all this happens, then the chances of the British people making the disastrous decision to come out of the E.U may be avoided. But don’t hold your breath. Hostility to the E.U is running high in this country.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESULTS IN THE NORTH
In the North West it was sad that Lib Dem Chris Davies lost his seat and that the Green’s able candidate Peter Cranie just failed to secure a position. The region would have been better represented by a wider range of MEPs.
Of those who were elected, I have to say the UKIP team impress me. I don’t agree with their policies but Paul Nuttall from Liverpool, the party’s Deputy Leader has developed well as an articulate and friendly spokesman for his party. Then there are the new North West UKIP MEPs. Louise Boers, the former Brookside actress, has a very warm personality and gave her best on the BBC’s Question Time this week alongside Piers Morgan and hard tackling footballer Joey Barton. Finally Steven Woolfe, the party’s economics spokesman will have a hard task when UKIP’s right wing policies on cuts and the health service come under scrutiny.
Labour’s team in the North West are all new and untried. Teresa Griffin has been preparing for this moment for four elections and said all the right things in her victory speech in Manchester Town Hall on Sunday night. Afzal Khan is a very pleasant man, let’s see if he can make a practical difference for the region in Brussels.
The big question mark centres on Julie Ward who has not held elected office before and hails from Bishop Auckland in the North East. She was originally in fourth place on the Labour list and thus very unlikely to win a seat. But the late decision by Arlene McCarthy to withdraw pushed her up to third place. There are fears in Labour circles that she may defect to the Green Party
For the Tories the feisty Jackie Foster starts her third term representing the North West and Saj Karim just held on to his place.
Labour topped the poll in the North West but in Yorkshire and the Humber, it was UKIP. With the controversial Godfrey Bloom gone their brand new MEPs are Jane Collins, Amjad Bashir and Mike Hookem. The other MEPs are all experienced Brussels hands. Linda McAvan and Richard Corbett for Labour and Tim Kirkhope for the Conservatives.
LOCAL COUNCIL RESULTS IN THE NORTH
Labour underperformed in key parts of the North, raising serious questions about their ability to win next year. Even the unambitious “35%” strategy to just get across the line is undermined with their 31% projected national vote share in these elections.
Failing to take Trafford into no overall control and to win in West Lancashire where the Mayor will keep the Conservatives in control, were major disappointments. Targets were also missed in Kirklees and Calderdale, although Bradford was won. In Leeds there were no Labour gains to strengthen the party’s majority.
UKIP found the North West hard going with a smattering of seats in Oldham, Hyndburn and Bolton but east of the Pennines the nine gains in Rotherham caught national headlines.
The Greens are now the official opposition in Liverpool, although their leader John Coyne tells me he may not occupy the Town Hall office reserved for him on cost grounds.
Let’s finally turn to the Lib Dems. There has been much reporting of their implosion in Manchester, Rochdale and Liverpool but in Stockport they will still run the council with ratepayers support and in South Lakeland they had no losses at all.
Next stop, the Newark by election on Thursday.