This Easter weekend may see a pause in this relentless and everlasting General Election campaign. So it seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the careers of those northern MPs for whom the dissolution of parliament on Monday meant the end of their Commons careers.

The three titans to call it a day are Jack Straw, William Hague and David Blunkett. Straw is the one I knew best. His Blackburn seat has had extraordinary continuity in its parliamentary representation. Barbara Castle was elected in 1945 with Jack replacing her in 1979. Leaving aside his recent fall from grace, Jack Straw has managed to hold the great offices of state whilst still identifying closely with his constituency.

Holding the offices of Home and Foreign Secretary didn’t stop him taking to his soapbox outside Blackburn Town Hall to keep in touch with voters’ views, although he admits to occasionally planting a Labour supporter as a supposed Tory to keep things lively!

His pride in his constituency led to a famous exchange of visits with Condoleezza Rice, the American Secretary of State. In return for Jack visiting Birmingham, Alabama; Ms Rice was introduced to the delights of the East Lancashire town. I interviewed them in a broom cupboard at a local school having told the heavily armed American security guards that there was no room for them too.

That son of Sheffield David Blunkett is also calling it a day. From radical city council leader to hard line Home Secretary, his career has been an inspiration for all disabled people. To read in braille the reams of paper needed to run the Home Office is truly remarkable.

The most surprising retirement to me is that of William Hague. He had politics running through his veins from an early age when as a teenager he reminded the aged representatives at a Tory conference in Blackpool that they wouldn’t be around for much longer. He entered parliament in an extraordinary by election in Richmond (Yorkshire) in 1989. His 19,000 votes were dwarfed by the 28,000 for the Liberals. However those votes were split between the new Lib Dems and the continuing SDP under David Owen which was enjoying its last hurrah. Hague led the Tory Party at its nadir but finished with a flourish as Foreign Secretary and witty Leader of the House.

Salford’s Hazel Blears is leaving parliament but have we heard the last of this flame haired dynamic politician who loves nothing more than getting on her leathers for a bike ride? She unnecessarily split Cheshire in two when she was Communities Secretary and helped destabilise Gordon Brown’s government by her sudden resignation. Nevertheless she has been a force for good and may yet be a candidate for elected mayor for Greater Manchester.


Two leading northern Liberals are also leaving the House. I use the old title because Alan Beith (Berwick) and Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) were part of the Liberal revival in the 1970s. Beith was one of a number of Liberal by election winners in the early seventies whilst Stunell served on Cheshire County Council before finally taking Hazel Grove in 1997. He was part of the Lib Dem team that negotiated the Coalition and it will be tough for the party to hold the seat following his departure.

St Helens is losing both its MPs. The contrast couldn’t be greater between Dave Watts, heavily identified with the town as council leader, then MP and Shaun Woodward. The latter was a Tory defector parachuted in from Witney who went on to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Two hard working MPs that I’m sorry to see go are Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port) who’s done great work for science and Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton).

Two great champions of devolution for the North, Linda Riordan (Halifax) and Austen Mitchell (Grimsby) won’t be returning to parliament just at a time when more power for our regions might be realised.

Council leaders (Blunkett excepted) often find it difficult to shine at Westminster. That’s been the case with George Mudie. A former leader of Leeds Council, he succeeded the great Denis Healey as MP for Leeds East but only held junior office.


Michael Meacher(Oldham West) and Gerald Kaufman (Gorton) have already served 45 years each but plan to make it half a century. Kaufman will become Father of the House because he signed the oath of allegiance ahead of Meacher and Denis Skinner when they were new MPs in 1970.

Kaufman will succeed Sir Peter Tapsell who first entered parliament in 1959 when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, Hugh Gaitskill led the Labour Party and Winston Churchill was elected for the last time.


One of the most marginal seats in Yorkshire, this residential area near Leeds just returned Tory Stuart Andrew in 2010 with a majority of 1659. Fighting the constituency for a second time is Pudsey Town councillor Jamie Hanley. He needs to win to give Ed Miliband any chance of getting into government.



The aerospace industry is vital to the North West economy, so the chance to partly assemble 126 Eurofighter Typhoon jets for the Indian Air Force must be fought for.

On a visit to Westminster this week I gained evidence that much is going on behind the scenes even though preferred bidder status has been given to the French.

Ben Wallace, the MP for Wyre and Preston North, along with his colleague Mark Menzies (Fylde) met the Prime Minister on Monday. Eyebrows had been raised when news came through that the French had stolen a march on us, because David Cameron visited India with a big trade delegation soon after coming into office.

Now more details are emerging about the situation which could have implications for the workforce at Salmesbury, Warton and beyond. The strength of the French bid apparently lies in their tie up with the Reliance Group, India’s largest private sector conglomerate. With annual revenues of $58bn it is far larger than Tata, the Indian company which owns the Jaguar plant at Halewood.

However this deal is far from done and with David Cameron on the case, efforts will be made to expose the weaknesses of the French position. I’m told Reliance has no track record in aerospace and there is very little detail on price which could be significant as the French are desperate to get a foreign order for their Rafale jet. 700 of the Eurofighters have already been sold.

Ben Wallace emerged from his meeting with the PM confident there was all to play for. Apparently in similar negotiations for these aircraft the preferred bidder has been overtaken on six occasions.

Wallace is a Conservative MP in the tradition of former members like David Trippier (Rossendale) and Malcolm Thornton (Crosby). They are Tories that believe that to be successful in the North West; it helps to come from the liberal One Nation part of the party.

Wallace has been in the House since 2005 but faces a brutal internal party battle to maintain his political career. Boundary changes are likely to see him, Mark Menzies (Fylde) and Eric Ollerenshaw (Fleetwood and Lancaster) competing for just two seats.

During our time together at the Commons  we bumped into Wallace’s neighbour Jack Straw (Blackburn). Jack seems to be almost equally concerned aboutIranand Blackburn Rovers these days. He feels his successor as Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is underestimating the growing crisis surrounding Iran.

On the crisis at Ewood Park Jack had made an unusual move for an MP, in calling for manager Steve Keen to go. He seemed unimpressed when I remarked that Rovers had been doing a bit better recently.

Around the Commons corridors much of the talk is about elected mayors and Police Crime Commissioners. Ben Wallace told me he’s lining up an ex-soldier colleague of his to contest the position for the Lancashire Police Authority.

On the mayoral front I had an interesting chat with former Labour Minister and Wythenshawe MP Paul Goggins. There has been a general feeling that Manchester will vote “no” in the May referendum on whether to have a directly elected mayor with council leader Sir Richard Leese being against the idea.

However Goggins does not rule out a “yes” vote in Manchester pointing out that in neighbouring Salford last month every ward voted “yes” in a referendum triggered by a local businessman. So although the turnout was low, support was consistent across that city.

Following the “yes” vote, candidates have piled in to be the Labour nominees. The former Eccles MP Ian Stewart, has been joined by Salford council leader John Merry and former Labour National Executive Committee member Peter Wheeler.