As I mentioned last week the decision to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow is better for the North than the Gatwick option. Not as good as using Birmingham and Manchester, but the choice that first faced Harold Wilson’s government in the 1960s has been made.

But now we are going to have a hugely confused by election. Tory Zac Goldsmith has resigned as an MP because his constituency is under the flight path. He will stand as an Independent but won’t be opposed by his former party. Why are the Conservatives giving him a free passage? The bigger issue is the Lib Dems claim that this will be a by election about Brexit. They base their argument on the high Remain vote in Richmond at the last election. I am second to none in wanting a fresh vote on Europe but I’m pretty sure that Remainers will put their opposition to the runway above their support for Europe. The Lib Dems risk damaging the Remain cause if Goldsmith (who backed Leave) is re-elected. Brexiteers will claim a victory that will actually be about the runway.


A few months ago I thought Manchester born Steven Woolfe could be the terror of the Labour Party in Northern England on behalf of UKIP. Without rehearsing the overused cliché about time and politics, Mr Woolfe has spectacularly disqualified himself from such an opportunity. In a matter of weeks he flirted with the Tory Party, was hospitalised in Strasbourg after an “altercation” with a fellow MEP, and finally quit the party calling it ungovernable.

The North West MEP is now reported to be living in Hampshire and sitting as an independent in the European Parliament. There is a recent precedent for a North West MEP changing colours but continuing to hold office. Saj Karim was elected as a Lib Dem MEP in 2004 but switched to the Tories in 2007. He was elected under his new colours in 2009 and still represents the region very well in Brussels. Throughout Karim lived in the North West and there was no question of him being able to do his job. Mr Woolfe should consider resignation if he is not going to live in the North West.

As Mr Woolfe slinks away, another North West MEP has emerged who might appeal to disaffected Labour voters. Paul Nuttall, a true scouser who tells it like it is, has thrown his hat in the ring. Nuttall is positioning himself as the middle of the road candidate in this faction ridden party. On the right is Donald Trump supporter Raheem Kassam and on the left is Tory lite Suzanne Evans.

It is tempting to hope that after all the leadership antics, UKIP will suffer the fate of most ultra right parties. But we live in strange times where many voters are so disillusioned with mainstream parties and candidates that they will ignore damaging behaviour in order to send messages to the establishment. It may happen in America and it could possibly happen here because of Labour’s problems.

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One of the main arguments for the European Union and particularly its much derided Commissioners has been demonstrated this week.

The Commission’s demand that Ireland recover 13bn Euros from Apple is an excellent example of where a supra national organisation can bust cosy deals between nation states and multinational companies in the interests of ordinary people who pay their taxes.

Brexiteers go on and on about sovereignty and “taking back control”. I’m happy with shared sovereignty if it empowers the Commission to take the interests of all the people of Europe into account. Multinationals like Apple are more powerful than many individual countries. They can exert massive influence by threatening to relocate. Middle ranking countries like Ireland have found themselves in hock to Apple and don’t like the ruling. Ireland is normally a “good European” and rightly so. EU membership has moved it from an agricultural backwater into the high tech world of the 21st century. But its reaction to this ruling is very “non communitare”, suggesting the EU has got it right. And so they have. For Apple to pay virtually no tax on its European profits from 2003-14 is to deprive governments and people millions of pounds that should be spent on public services.

Starbucks, Amazon, Fiat, BP and McDonalds are all in the EU Commissioners sights. None of them are too big for the EU representing 500 million people or 435 million if we are foolish enough to actually leave.


The Labour leadership election is getting acres of coverage not because it will produce a possible next Prime Minister but because the media is fascinated by the corrosive campaigns being waged by Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Because of the implosion of the Labour Party it is quite possible that UKIP will provide an attractive alternative to millions of Labour’s former supporters in the north of England. Therefore we should pay some attention to the battle to succeed Nigel Farage.

It is a bit of a shambles and in normal times one could conclude that this would mean the party vanishing into obscurity having secured the Brexit vote and being incapable of emerging from the shadow of its effective former leader Nigel Farage. But a word of caution is needed. Most people don’t follow the ins and outs of politics and however messy the process, when one of the five candidates is elected as the next leader of UKIP, they may get support because of the depth of disillusionment with Labour.

The outstanding candidate is Diane James, a UKIP MEP for the South East. However she’s refusing to attend hustings with the other four contestants suggesting she may lack the ability to bring this fractious party together.

It is surprising who isn’t standing. Steven Woolfe, a NW UKIP MEP, would have been a good leader but then it emerged he failed to disclose a drink driving conviction and didn’t get his nomination paper in on time. I’m amazed Former Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall, another NW UKIP MEP, didn’t go for it and Suzanne Evans the best candidate of all is suspended! You couldn’t make it up. There’s even Neil Hamilton. The ex Tatton MP is now a Welsh UKIP MEP. His would have been the ultimate comeback from the political graveyard.


The Green Party is also holding a leadership election. It is to be hoped that former leader Caroline Lucas will return, albeit in a job share. She wants to forge a progressive alliance with other parties willing to back electoral reform.






I wonder if anyone in the Labour Party or UKIP has noticed there’s a Queen’s Speech on Wednesday. They are both so busy tearing lumps out of themselves that they will have little time to critique the legislation being proposed by the first all Conservative government in 18 years.

We can expect a hefty programme of legislation if the pattern of the last parliament is anything to go by. The Coalition put through most of its major legislation in the first two years leaving us with a zombie parliament in 2014-15. So we can expect bills on important things like a British Bill of Rights and the right to buy housing association properties. Then there is the Budget in July with the prospect of swingeing cuts in welfare. All this needs the attention of the Labour Party otherwise the Scot Nats will do it for them.

The other danger in Labour taking its eye off the ball is a repeat of what happened in the summer of 2010. While Labour was distracted electing Ed Miliband as leader, the Tories were discovering notes left by outgoing Ministers saying there was no money left and blamed Labour for the financial crisis. It was a charge that stuck right through from 2010 till this May.

UKIP is engaged in an even more damaging internal conflict. Having confirmed Nigel Farage as leader, they have now sacked two of the people who were capable of softening their image as a pack of old lads yearning for Britain as it was in the fifties. Economic spokesman Patrick O’Flynn and particularly policy chief Suzanne Evans provided an alternative to the brash Farage. They were never filmed in pubs but now they are gone from the leadership circle.


Last week the Gorton MP Sir Gerald Kaufman briefly took the chair as the new House of Commons met. He is Father of the House because he signed the member’s book in the House of Commons just ahead of Oldham West’s Michael Meacher in 1970. His job was preside over the re-election of John Bercow as Speaker, so not too onerous a task. This is just as well because the MP for Gorton is 84 and will be touching 90 when the next election comes.

But let’s move on from yesterday’s man to the 15 new faces from the north who will be attending their first Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.

A number of prominent councillors have taken the Westminster Way. Kate Hollern, the former leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council is the new MP for Jack Straw’s old seat. Will she enjoy as long a tenure as her predecessors Mr Straw and Barbara Castle who between them represented the town since 1945.

Peter Dowd, the leader of Sefton Council has taken over from the veteran Joe Benton in Bootle whilst Julie Cooper the leader of Burnley Council ousted the Lib Dem Gordon Birtwistle to represent the East Lancashire town.

Justin Madders who led the Labour group on Cheshire West and Chester Council is the new MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston whilst senior Manchester councillor Jeff Smith has made the Labour takeover of Manchester complete by taking Withington from the Lib Dems.

Other new Labour faces include Angela Raynor in Ashton and Rebecca Long-Bailey who succeeded the colourful Hazel Blears in Salford. Then we have the three new Labour MPs who helped to temper a bad night for the party by ousting Tories. They are Margaret Greenwood, Esther McVey’s nemesis in Wirral West and Chris Matheson in Chester. Finally keep an eye on Cat Smith the new MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood. Her early pronouncements indicate she is from the hard left wanting nothing to do with austerity cuts.

Our five new Conservative MPs divided their victories over Lib Dem and Labour incumbents. The most spectacular scalp went to Andrea Jenkyns who defeated Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in the Leeds suburb seat of Morley and Outwood whilst Chris Green took Bolton West from Labour. The delightfully named Antoinette Sandbach has replaced Stephen O’Brien as the Tory MP for Eddisbury. Sadly the town of Sandbach is in the neighbouring seat of Congleton.

The long Liberal presence in south east Greater Manchester is over with William Wragg becoming the first Tory MP since Tom Arnold in Hazel Grove whilst Mary Robinson took neighbouring Cheadle.