We really are in worrying times. I suppose I shouldn’t rise to the bait of the Daily Mail who have characterised this opportunistic General Election as an opportunity to “crush the saboteurs”. (That’s all of us who believe that Britain should remain in the EU and those who at least want the Single Market). After all the Mail has form. They recently dubbed judges “enemies of the people” for insisting Parliament have a say on Article 50. But in their dark past they published a headline “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”. That was a reference to Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts.

But if we can regard the Mail as being the mouthpiece of an ugly middle England which we rather didn’t exist, the really worrying development is the attitude of the Prime Minister to dissent. She is going to the country because the opposition parties in the Commons and Lords are doing their job in scrutinising the Brexit process. She says while the country is “increasingly united, Westminster remains divided.” The country is not united, 48% of us voted to remain and Westminster should be divided, it’s a place where parliamentary debate should be taking place for heaven’s sake.

Mrs May says Westminster is holding up her plans for Brexit. The last time I looked MPs gave Article 50 a thumping majority. Since then preparations were underway for the Brexit talks to begin.

All was calm until another set of opinion polls showing Labour in a dire state destroyed May’s claims to be a calm honest woman and showed her as a political opportunist. This election is all about cutting and running ahead of economic shocks ahead and a Brexit negotiation which will leave us with a whacking bill, immigration still high and a worse trade deal with Europe than we have now. Mrs May wants to be able to stay in power till 2022 to try and ride out the storm of unpopularity that will follow Brexit. That is why she has gone to the country now and that is why those who want to stop Brexit in its tracks now have a slim chance of doing so.

It is a slim chance because Labour are hopeless on this issue. Corbynistas secretly hold their 1980’s belief that the EU is a capitalist club. Labour moderates have failed to leave and form a pro-European centre party. Most Labour MPs have voted for Article 50 and the early General Election. There was a case to be made for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Do we really want to go back to the time when the final two years of a parliament is dominated by endless speculation about when the General Election is going to be held? Why didn’t Labour say this and speak up for the people who are sick of trekking to the polls?

We are told this is because they would be voting to prolong a Tory government till 2020. Well by voting for May’s cut and run they have probably extended Tory rule till at least 2022.

Only massive support for the Lib Dems can thwart May’s plan. Tim Farron’s party are the brave clear standard bearers for Europe but they have a huge task. Have memories of their time in Coalition faded? If so some Tories are vulnerable to them, not so much in the far South West which voted Leave but in the West country around Bath and South West London. The Lib Dems lost a lot of seats in Scotland but winning them back from the SNP who share their views on Europe is going to be very difficult.


And finally, did you notice that George Osborne has decided not to contest Tatton. I wonder how his local party, which only recently pledged their support for him, feel now? The constituency needs the return of Martin Bell. They voted for him twenty years ago.


You’ve got to hand it to the toff from Tatton, he doesn’t lack political courage.

At one stroke George Osborne has knocked the walking stick out of the hands of pensioners and rewarded his millionaire friends with a massive tax cut.

And yet for all the controversy the income tax cut and the age related tax allowance freeze will create, the Chancellor gave a confident performance. The signal was given out that the government’s determination to bring down the deficit was on course and the Coalition was holding together.

The ludicrously leaked budget was all about Tories and Lib Dems showing how much influence they had on the decision making process. Both parties got prizes. The Tories cut the 50p rate, the Lib Dems are now close to their pledge that people earning less than £10,000 should not pay income tax.

Osborne must now pray for growth and that the newly enriched millionaires will not only “stay and pay” but will invest to help the recovery. We must remember the government has only just begun the cuts agenda. There is the prospect of a further £10bn cut in welfare benefits.

The Chancellor ran up the white flag on the 50p rate effectively saying that private sector accountants had outwitted Treasury officials who draft our tax laws. We’ll see how effective the government’s pledge is to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance.

He must also hope there will not be a big backlash over the “granny tax”. There is an argument that the golden generation born into the welfare state after the war, enjoying full employment and retiring on good company pensions should share the burden with the young suffering from tuition fees, unemployment and the prospect of retiring at 70 on average salary pensions.

The problem for politicians is that the old vote and the young don’t. The scrapping of the age related allowance is going to hit soon-to-retire couples really hard.

Labour still isn’t trusted on the economy but Ed Miliband did well in the House of Commons when he invited Tory MPs to acknowledge they would personally benefit from the income tax cut.



The Chancellor’s announcement of investment in the Preston-Blackpool, Manchester-Bradford and Manchester-Sheffield rail lines is welcome. The links between Manchester and South Yorkshire are particularly bad. The full commitment to the vital Northern Hub at Piccadilly Station is still awaited though.

Manchester has done well, getting £150m over five years from the Treasury in return for promised economic growth through tax increment financing. The city is also to be part of the government’s superfast broadband project.

Surprisingly Liverpool wasn’t  included, another blow after the city’s failure in its bid for the Green Investment Bank.



The funeral was held yesterday of one of the finest Liberals the North West has produced.

Although he never made it to parliament, Viv Bingham served the party at every level from fighting hopeless seats to becoming Party President.

A principled man, he was sometimes a thorn in the side of his party leaders particularly on the issue of nuclear weapons. He was a confirmed unilateralist.

But overwhelmingly people responded to his friendship and warm hearted personality.

Over thirty years he fought a range of seats from Heywood and Royton and Hazel Grove to West Derbyshire and Stalybridge and Hyde.

The highlight of his career was his year as President of the Liberal Party 1981-82.

Viv brought all his diplomatic skills to bear in his party’s sometimes difficult relations with the newly formed Social Democratic Party.

The many tributes in recent days are eloquent testament to the passing of a true Liberal.