David Cameron and Theresa May have reduced this country to a laughing stock in Europe. From being a leading member of an organisation of 500 million people, we are now reduced to being a disorganised beggar pleading for reasonable terms to leave.

Cameron called the referendum for narrow party advantage to fend off UKIP. May invented fictional opposition to her Brexit strategy to call an election when we all knew it was about hammering a Corbyn led Labour Party. They should never be forgiven for these actions.

I would like to claim that this result shows that the British people are thinking again about their decision to leave the EU, but voters have turned in greater numbers to Labour, who support Brexit, than the Lib Dems who offered a second referendum.

It is a fluid picture as I write but what sort of UK delegation will turn up in Brussels in a week’s time? The 27 are ready with their terms. What are ours apart from the fatuous mantra mouthed by the discredited May that “Brexit means Brexit”?

I suspect we will hear less insults hurled at our European friends as they present the departure bill and as the extraordinary complexity and difficulty of leaving the EU in these political circumstances become obvious even to Nigel Farage.


Business was either ignored or threatened with higher taxes by all parties in this election. The fact that we have a huge deficit was also not discussed as we listened to a welter of promises of increased spending by all parties.

Jeremy Corbyn confounded my predictions as he benefited from a backlash against austerity, a poor Tory campaign and a surge of young voters. They were frustrated last year when the old took away their future in Europe and were determined to have a say this time.

But amid the Corbyn euphoria let us remember this is Labour’s third election defeat. They are still well behind the Conservatives in number of seats. Corbyn is claiming that he has reframed British politics. He means that there is an appetite for a high tax, big spending unilateralist government. I don’t believe it. This may be the maximum vote a fully socialist manifesto can achieve but Labour moderates are now trapped with Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

The net result is uncertainty at Westminster and uncertainty in the Brexit talks. The Confederation of British Industry chief, Carolyn Fairburn, said she was stunned.


The Lib Dems are in slow recovery. Tim Farron failed to sell the second referendum effectively and lacked the gravitas required. Vince The Cable is back in the Commons and should become leader.

One certainty in an uncertain world is that Scotland will remain in the UK. I’m a big admirer of Nicola Sturgeon but she misread the Scots appetite for a second referendum


I recall the famous Bristol lady’s reaction to May’s calling of this snap election as I wonder what her reaction would be to another General Election in the autumn.

There is already talk of another poll to achieve a government with an overall majority. I think that would be very unpopular with people who in various parts of the UK have been voting continuously since 2014.

Also let us remember 1974. The voters delivered a hung parliament in February and changed their mind very little in October when they gave Labour a majority of three. We have to try and make this awkward result work.

Follow me @JimHancockUK




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.





When I planned my visit this weekend to the Lib Dem’s conference in Bournemouth, it was to see how a party goes from government to irrelevance in one short year. Last autumn in Glasgow the Deputy Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet were present. This year you will be lucky to spot one of the eight MPs amongst the diminished group of activists who will huddle in a hall now far too big for their needs.

It will be a long way back for the Lib Dems but they may have been given a boost by the election of Jeremy Corbyn. The new Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, is claiming he’s had lots of Labour MPs ringing him up dismayed by the first week of Corbynism. This may be pre conference nonsense and I’m not convinced the despair of right wing Labour MPs is so great that they would leave the sinking ship of Labour (as they presumably see it) to get into the waterlogged rowing boat that is the Lib Dems. Comparisons have been made with the position of Labour moderates after Michael Foot’s election in 1981. Then there were former Cabinet Ministers like Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and David Owen who had enough stature to form the Social Democrats. It is difficult to see who would lead such a defection now except David Miliband and he is over the water, for now.

Anyway the Lib Dems don’t really need defecting MPs, what they need are voters who don’t want to go down Corbyn’s socialist road but prefer the left of centre position of Tim Farron. He was elected as the more radical of the two Lib Dem leadership candidates and unlike his opponent Norman Lamb had not been tainted by serving alongside Tories in the Coalition government.

In his keynote speech next week, I expect Farron to say he is the fresh leader and distance himself from the Tory led Coalition that nearly finished his party off. He might even pledge never to do a deal with them again. In these circumstances his party might start the long road back a little sooner flushed with the support of some ex Labour voters.


Not that Corbyn’s first week has been as bad as the

The Tory press would lead you to believe. Prime Minister’s Questions was a refreshing change. David Cameron toned down the Bullingdon Club rhetoric and some ordinary people got their questions answered.

On the issue of Corbyn not singing the National Anthem at the Battle of Britain service, those pilots died to defend freedom of expression. Corbyn is a republican and doesn’t want the Queen to reign over him. So why should he sing it and be called a hypocrite by the Daily Mail, a paper which ran headlines supporting Mosley’s fascists in the thirties?

I think the Spitfire pilots would have been happy with him standing in dignified silence.






Last time Labour elected a hard left leader in 1980, it was a matter of months before senior figures in the party broke away and formed the Social Democrats under the leadership of Roy Jenkins.

It initiated a very difficult period for the then Liberal Party, particularly when the SDP leader became David Owen. A more arrogant man than the emollient Woy (sic) Jenkins, the TV puppet satire show Spitting Image had little David Steel in Owen’s jacket pocket.

There were rows over which of these two centrist parties should fight which parliamentary seat in the 1983 and 1987 General Elections, after which difficult merger talks took place with much agonising over what was social democracy and what was Liberalism. It left the first leader of the Liberal Democrats, Paddy Ashdown, with what he describes as an asterisk in the opinion polls where the percentage supporting the new party should be.

Why am I boring you with this political history lesson? Because the chances are growing of Jeremy Corbyn actually winning the Labour leadership. Downtown’s Managing Director, Frank McKenna, argues powerfully in his blog this week that the party should be following the advice of Tony Blair to shy away from a left wing course. It may be good advice but should Blair have said it? Frank rightly points to Blair’s recipe for election success but also acknowledges that he is seen as a war criminal by some in his party. I’m afraid he is, and there is a danger that his intervention may strengthen Corbyn’s position not weaken it.

This is another reason why Blair is toxic to many activists. His time as party leader saw a huge centralisation of the party’s internal structure. Party conferences became rallies not occasions for real debate. Regional party officials, who had been a valuable source of authority with the ability to feed back to London what was going on, were neutered. Parliamentary selections were hijacked to put in Blair’s favourites, Ex Tory Shaun Woodward in St Helens being the most blatant. Part of what Corbyn is about is a demand from the foot soldiers to get their party back.

So if Corbyn should win will the newly elected leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, present an appealing alternative for Labour moderates who conclude that their party is out of office for the foreseeable future?

And what will Tim Farron say to them? He should probably welcome them in. He shouldn’t tell them to form a separate SDP Mark Two party. The reasoning in 1981 was that a new party would make more of an impact than just admitting Labour defectors to the Liberals. But as I’ve illustrated above, it led to years of wrangles in the centre of politics while Margaret Thatcher kept getting re-elected.

Farron was the right choice for the Lib Dems in their parlous state. He got over 50% of the vote in his Cumbria seat in May and knows how to campaign from the bottom up. Grandees like Paddy Ashdown and Vince Cable might sneer at his judgement but at least Farron has a chance of being heard. If the other contender, Norman Lamb, had won, opponents would have felt they were being attacked by a dead sheep.