It has been a sad start to the year for anyone who had the privilege of knowing Paul Goggins. In the often self serving murky world of politics, Paul was truly one of the good guys. His death at just 60 years of age has deprived Wythenshawe and Sale East of a caring MP, and the rest of us of an excellent parliamentarian.


In 1997 he had the task of filling the shoes of Alf Morris who’s reputation for legislation on behalf of the disabled had made him a legend. Paul soon endeared himself to the people of Wythenshawe, an area with more than its fair share of social and economic stress.

He held various posts in government, including Northern Ireland which benefited from his gentle style of handling thorny problems.


This hardly seems the time for a humorous anecdote but I relate it because it says everything about Paul.

In 2003 I had the task of introducing the new Politics Show North West. The BBC decided it would have a more relaxed feel than its predecessor Northwestminster. MPs would be invited to dress down a little for the Sunday chat. Paul was my first guest on the new show along with a Conservative who decided to ignore the new style and turned up in a blazer and tie. Paul decided on a casual jumper and joked afterwards that I had set him up to look like a student alongside the smart Tory. I can think of many politicians who would have been very pompous about the whole thing but not Paul. God rest his soul.




The by election in Wythenshawe and Sale East will be the first of a significant series of elections this year. Even before Paul Goggins died, UKIP, with unseemly haste,were canvassing their supporters for a candidate. They won’t win this Labour stronghold but their leader, Nigel Farage, has used his party’s strong performance in recent northern by elections in Rotherham, Middlesborough and South Shields to indicate that his support is not just from disaffected Tories. You can expect pictures of him swigging a pint in Wythenshawe Forum before long.


UKIP’s main aim this year will be to get as many MEPs elected as possible from Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West. Yorkshire will be interesting as it has the misfortune to be represented in the |European Parliament by the buffoons Bloom and Brons. Hopefully Andrew Brons of the BNP (and Nick Griffin in the North West) will disappear with the recovery of the Labour vote. Godfrey Bloom has been suspended leaving the way open for UKIP to be represented by Jane Collins and Amjad Bashir.


In the North West 8 European places are up for grabs. Labour will probably take 3,the Tories 2 and UKIP 2. The last place could be a fascinating tussle between the long standing Lib Dem Chris Davies and Steven Woolfe who could secure UKIP a third seat.


UKIP could well win the European elections in June, particularly if the press is full of stories about a surge of Bulgarians and Romanians to the UK. But what then? Will they be a serious force at the General Election? To be so they need to get a base in local government. So let’s see how they do in the council elections being held on the same day in May for a third of the seats in metropolitan areas of West Yorkshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.


It could well be that UKIP peak this year and then fade away. Let’s hope Labour don’t panic and promise an in/out referendum on the EU in the meantime.




The other major vote will be on Scottish independence. A yes vote remains unlikely but we need to turn our minds now to the serious consequences for us all in the north of England should it go the other way.


The year will also see the new inquests into Hillsborough, the International Festival of Business in Liverpool, continuing debates over fracking and HS2 and the launch of Local TV.


I look forward to discussing all these topics with you.









The year ends with the Chancellor smirking and Ed Balls going red in the face.


The Tory baiting of Ed Balls during the Autumn Statement debate brought parliament to a new low, but Balls had wound them up for years with his flat lining gestures. They are now redundant. 2013 saw the debate move from double and triple dip recessions to modest optimism about growth. It would be handy if the recovery could be based on manufacturing and exports rather than consumer and housing spending in 2014, but at the moment George Osborne is winning the plaudits. Labour ends the year relying heavily on their argument that the cost of living is the real issue.


This Christmas the Conservatives find themselves in a strange position. They lag behind Labour in the polls but in normal circumstances, they would expect to be able to surge past the opposition with the usual pre election sweeteners in the last full year of the parliament. However uncertainty over UKIP and how they will perform against Lib Dems has led to a pessimistic spirit this festive season.


When the tuition fees issue was at its height, there were forecasts that the Lib Dems would be sending their MPs elected in 2015 to Westminster in a taxi again. This year they showed signs that the darkest years that saw them virtually cleared out of Town Halls in the north may be over. They held the Eastleigh by election and leader Nick Clegg got support for policies at his party conference that would have seen grass roots revolts under previous Lib Dem leaders.


Ed Miliband is never likely to gain the adulation that Tony Blair enjoyed before he took office in 1997 but this year he has strengthened his position as party leader. By focusing on the cost of living he struck a rapport with voters and forced Ministers to take notice. There are many questions around his promise of an energy price freeze but it has made the political weather this autumn.


Miliband also won plaudits for his stance on military intervention in Syria. It led directly to the Americans having second thoughts. Whilst the war drags on and the poor refugees suffer, we are in a better place in the Middle East overall. Chemical weapons have been removed in Syria and the Iranians are coming in from the diplomatic cold.


In local politics we saw the Conservative regime of Geoff Driver defeated in Lancashire whilst two leading females departed in less than happy circumstances. Marie Rimmer lost her battle for the leadership of St Helens Council whilst Salford Chief Executive Barbara Spicer fell out with the Mayor of Salford. Happily Barbara has a new job heading up the Skills Funding Agency. Personnel changes are the least of the problems for Town Halls set against the continuing rounds of spending cuts.



The possibility of an energy gap has become more real this year as we wrestle with the problem of keeping prices down whilst dealing with global warming. The weather was rarely out of the headlines in 2013. A bitter winter was followed by a great summer. The Philippines typhoon was followed by a major battering for the coasts of the North West and Yorkshire. Fracking and nuclear power have risen up the agenda this year.


We are likely to be better connected after decisions taken in 2013. Final plans for the new Mersey Gateway Bridge were approved; the northern Rail Hub in Manchester got the green light; and consultations began on HS2.


The year saw the death of two of the twentieth century’s great figures; Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher. Their politics were very different but they both made a difference and that’s all we can hope to do each in our own way.


Have a peaceful Christmas