Why should I let Labour back so soon? That’s the question floating voters will expect an answer to from Brighton next week. We need exciting policies that really differentiates Labour from the Coalition. Perhaps its time for a bit of socialism. For instance take the bedroom tax or spare room supplement. Labour rail against it, there’s a shortage of smaller houses for the folk affected to go to. So will they promise to scrap it….no.


I don’t think we will be inspired by Brighton. Mr Ed is reported to be frightened of disclosing his hand too soon or of having policy ideas blow up in his face. The problem is that people are beginning to make their minds up about the next election. Some have already concluded that Mr Ed is a bit odd, betrayed his brother or the memory of the last Labour government is too green.


Then there is the modest upturn in the economy. That presents a problem for Labour. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is now being depicted as a prophet of doom who’s been proved wrong and Coalition Ministers are saying there has been gain from the pain. The answer to this in Brighton will be that despite the upturn people are still getting worse off because inflation is ahead of wage rises. Who will win this argument?


It’s not all gloom for Mr Ed. Arguably he helped create the breathing space for an alternative solution to air strikes in relation to Syria’s chemical weapons Also I don’t expect the conference to be derailed by a row with the unions. Mr Ed is on to something in wanting real Labour supporters involved in the party rather than being token ones on union membership lists. Whatever the merits of the issue, a floor fight was averted at the TUC and it surely will be in Brighton.




I’ve been north of the border this week and have got the full force of the Scottish independence debate. With a year to go until this decision is made I went to the old fruit market in Glasgow where my old Radio Manchester colleague Victoria Derbyshire was conducting a debate. She had supporters of both sides and a large number of people undecided because in their heart they want to be free but fear cutting ties with England might hit their living standards.


In the debate broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live, passions were highest amongst those wanting independence and their indignation about being ruled by Conservatives at Westminster when they are virtually non existent in Scotland was a major cause.




The Business Secretary Vince Cable got a taste for the spotlight when he did that Strictly cameo in 2010. He spent the whole of last week in Glasgow drawing attention to himself. He was going to stay out of the economic debate, then he arrived surrounded by cameras. Then he was rude about the Tories to the consternation of the right of his party, and he finished up saying the Coalition might collapse before the election.


Anyway my time in the Scottish capital was not wasted, so here’s the gossip.


I heard a rumour that the LIVERPOOL ARENA has extracted generous compensation from the Lib Dems following the party’s decision to pull out of their planned conference in the city next autumn because of a clash with the Scottish Referendum…….opinion is divided on whether North West MEP CHRIS DAVIES can hold his seat against the UKIP onslaught in next May’s European elections……HAZEL GROVE Lib Dems are warning party HQ not to interfere if Sir Andrew Stunell stands down and they have to choose a new candidate…..and CLLR BILL WINLOW is enjoying his role as Scrutiny supremo at Lancashire County Council. The Lib Dems are supporting the minority Labour administration and according to Bill he gets first sight of most of the policy ideas.


Now let’s see if Brighton rocks!






We’d better get used to it. A continuing economic squeeze administered by a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. The only difference after the General Election will be that the Tories will hold most of their cards with the Lib Dems reduced to about 30 MPs.


The Chancellor was in confident mood on Wednesday.

He shouldn’t have been. In the rose garden days three years ago the Coalition didn’t expect to still be making cuts in 2015-16. Nevertheless George, or Geoff Osborne if you prefer, has managed to convince not only the British people but the Labour Party that there is no alternative.


Labour are in serious trouble. They have broadly signed up to the cuts strategy. Having lagged behind public opinion on the need for benefit reform, they are now lurching to the right to such an extent that we are not sure that basic pensions would be safe in their hands.


George Osborne was devastating when he used Gordon Brown’s old formula for mocking the Opposition. The Chancellor told MPs he had received representations to include pensions in the welfare cap, but had resisted them. Chris Leslie, one of Ed Balls’ Shadow Treasury sidekicks wasn’t even prepared to attack plans to make people wait seven days for benefits when the TUC were warning it could mean kids going without food.


Labour are in this position largely because of Ed Balls.

I’m afraid the Shadow Chancellor has to go. He is associated in the public mind with the Brown days and people still blame that administration, and not the current one, for the mess. It may be unfair three years into the Coalition, but it is a fact.


Alistair Darling should be the Shadow Chancellor. He is currently heading up the Better Together campaign against the Scot Nats, but he could do that part time because Scotland isn’t going to vote for independence.

Darling has a reassuring manner in contrast to the bruiser Balls. More importantly he was honest about the economic troubles ahead which nearly led to his sacking by Brown.


Even with Darling as Shadow Chancellor it is going to be difficult for Labour to become the largest party in 2015. Economic green shoots are appearing and house prices are rising. Public support for benefit reform and a smaller public sector has grown during the austerity years. This doesn’t mean that millions of people aren’t suffering but the majority back the Coalition and Labour is not going to be a socialist champion.


The Coalition shows no sign of breaking up as the election approaches. These cuts are for 2015. The Lib Dems could have made far more trouble about being committed to them for the year after the election. They didn’t and Chief Secretary Danny Alexander (a Lib Dem) received fulsome praise from George Osborne.


Osborne and Alexander have pulled off another trick. Amid all the cuts there is real commitment to northern infrastructure projects like rail spending in Leeds, fast track permits to frack for gas in Lancashire and the new Mersey crossing.


The biggest black mark for the Chancellor is the woeful failure to properly fund the Single Local Growth Fund. Lord Heseltine had urged Local Enterprise Partnerships to be allowed to bid for £49bn from the fund. It was given just £2bn a year.


For that you shall be called Geoffrey, Mr Chancellor!