THE EU STRENGTHENED.
The French people have turned the tide on the 2016 populist surge which led to reckless Brexit and reckless Trump in the White House.
Opponents of the European Union were forecasting it would break up following populist success in Hungary, Holland and France. All three countries have rejected a return to a nationalist Europe with all the potential consequences that could bring. With the UKIP style implosion of the Alternative for Deutschland Party in Germany I predict a victory for Angela Merkel this autumn. Then we will see how strong and stable Mrs May will be when faced with France, Germany and the other 25 European countries insisting that if you are out of a club you must have a worse deal than if you are in.
I saw a report this week on a Shropshire company that makes engine blocks. They must cross 5 European borders in ten days and time is vital. They are desperately worried about how they are going to operate outside the EU. That’s the reality facing business. Let’s hope Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to rule out staying in the EU wasn’t just another blunder, although the Lib Dems offer the clearest policy on a second referendum.
BACK IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.
Geoff Driver is the great survivor of Lancashire politics. After a controversial reign as Chief Executive of Preston Council, he made a successful change to politics leading the Conservatives to victory in the county in 2009. Thrown out of office in 2013, he survived a leadership challenge, police dropped an investigation into him over the One Connect Ltd issue and last Friday I was in County Hall for his return to office.
He faces big challenges to soften the cuts that Labour reluctantly made. Driver insists there will be no sweetheart deals with his government. A final word on this. Jeni Mein, the outgoing Labour leader was one of the most decent hard working politicians I had the pleasure to meet. Good luck to her successor, Nelson councillor Azhar Ali. He will prove a lively opponent for Geoff Driver.
After snubbing Jeremy Corbin at a victory celebration, Andy Burnham was quickly down to work making two good deputy appointments. Sir Richard Leese is taking on the business portfolio. Does this show Leese is preparing to end his long tenure as leader of Manchester? Anyway, from Burnham’s point of view…..(fill in the tent and urination metaphor here). The other key appointment is Bev Hughes to look after crime and the police. The former Stretford and Urmston MP will be taking over from the ex-Police Commissioner Tony Lloyd who hopes to win the Rochdale seat.
That choice by a panel of Labour’s National Executive has been welcomed by the constituency whereas in Liverpool Walton the choice of a Unite placeman, Daniel Carden, at the expense of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has caused outrage. These panels should have the constituency chair as a member and certainly should not have a Unite member as was the case with Walton. But if a party is so dependent on one source of funding, this is what you get.
Joe heading for Westminster was a neat way of solving a
potential conflict between him and newly elected City
Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram. We’ll have to see if grown
up behaviour prevails to the advantage of the city region.
GENERAL ELECTION POINTERS.
The local elections showed Labour’s fragility in the North
outside its urban heartland. A spectacular defeat to the
Tories in Derbyshire was followed by the loss of
Lancashire and largest party status in Cumbria. There are many marginal seats in these areas for the Conservatives to target.
The Lib Dems had a standstill election and will be hoping
for more support when the Brexit issue comes centre
stage in the General Election. UKIP had to rely on a
popular taxi driver in Padiham for their only council
success. They should have developed policies on non-EU
issues to offer a real alternative for blue collar Labour
voters in the North. Instead they squabbled over who
should be leader.
In Scotland, the Tories have become the rallying point for
opponents of a second independence referendum, and
even though the fall off in support for the SNP was slight,
that irresistible tide has peaked.
Follow me @JimHancockUK