Cummings and Northern Goings On

It all sounded so easy when the Tories announced they were going to level up so that ‘The North’ would no longer be at a disadvantage to the south. So far not much levelling up has happened but then again we are living through a badly handled (by the Tories) health crisis/pandemic so they do have some excuse for the lack of anything tangible happening. However, that excuse won’t wash for long.

The other problem is that Johnson’s government seems incapable of handing just about anything well or even for that matter adequately. On that basis there can’t be much confidence that they’ll fix the north/south investment imbalance even when they do actually start doing as opposed to just talking about it.

Jim Hancock has an interesting take on all this. Please have a look what he has to say via this link:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim, as often is the case, gets what’s going on when many other commentators flounder. Not only that but he’s capable of putting it all down in understandable words; he’s part of a dying breed in journalism sadly.

I agree with Jim about Prescott and his wish to bring in regional governance which somewhat fell apart in English terms. I’m no fan of City Region Mayors, I never have been. What with the half-hearted devolution packages handed down when they were foisted upon us and the majority of them not really changing much at all I’d rather be shut of them in favour of proper regional governance via elected assemblies.

Prescott in government was a chap of typical old fashioned Labour hang-ups. On the one hand he had what all but amounted to an approach to this subject that Liberals had been articulating for generations. However, he was also one not to work across political boundaries because all he’d been taught in the insular Labour movement was against working with others who may hold similar views. I guess he was ‘our way or no way’ a view which has bedevilled Labour and stood it firmly against truly progressive politics for generations. Of course he lost his internal battle in the Labour Party over regionalism and having not built any bridges outside of that party his ideas sadly floundered.

I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how Labour can attack others who broadly agree with a policy they are trying to take forward because those others are not 100% backing of the Labour view. Labour has to build coalitions within the party but they won’t build them outside of it and Prescott lost regionalism because of that flawed attitude.

Vaccine saves the day or does it?

The hopes that are being pinned on a new vaccine getting us out of the big pandemic hole that we are in are very high, probably far too high.

The dangers are that some folks will let their guard down thinking that all is now OK and they don’t need to take precautions much, if at all. The second danger is that some will think they’ll get a vaccination by the turn of the year when many will be waiting much longer.

Of course there’s also the issue of conspiracy theorists who are still taking to social media trying to persuade the gullible that the virus does not exist or that even if it does it harms few if any folk. Why some of them were even shouting outside a Liverpool school recently trying to stop children being tested! Yes I know, it’s beyond belief……

I was taken by this sober assessment of the situation by Jim Hancock – see link below

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

As is often the case Jim’s assessment is realistic and well thought through. So don’t get carried away by being too unrealistic and think things through. Oh and don’t fall for quack theories on social media………

We might be able to see a possible glimmer of light at the end of the very long Covid tunnel we are all in presently, but we won’t be getting to the end of the tunnel soon.

Northern Politics & Covid 19

I posted a couple of weeks back about struggles in the north of England to tackle both Covid 19 and our Government in Westminster. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/10/16/scousers-cheer-metro-mayor-but-its-not-their-own/

So that was my view back on 16th October but what about an alternative take on it all from a professional independent analyst – step forward former BBC North West journalist Jim Hancock and his blog piece – ‘TURMOIL IN NORTHERN POLITICS’:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim neatly points to an issue which has always troubled me with regard to devolution of powers in England and how Regional Mayors can’t really stand up to Westminster. He is of course right.

This is my take on that very issue – Much talk of Regional Mayors in recent times due to Covid restrictions but devolution in England is half-hearted, that’s why I opposed the imposition of Regional Mayors. Putting power in hands of one person was another no no for me. However, I’m fully behind regional governance (well I would be as a Liberal) but for it to be useful the powers need to be extensive. What I’ve never got my head around is why on earth Labour backed the Tories devolution plans when they were clearly putting in place another level of governance but with far too few powers……

I suppose the other big question is what would northern leaders actually do differently, to what Westminster demands in this pandemic, if they had the power to defy Government? My view is that there may be many options to close down society in an attempt to control Covid 19 until a vaccine becomes available. However, in reality they are like selecting from a menu of foods you’ve not tried before. You may dislike all of them but some will be slightly healthier options than others. I suspect that closing this or that business is marginal and your view on the closure will be greatly influenced by whether you use that kind of business or not. Gyms have been the very public argument and now they’re all open following the backlash against them being closed. But surely it’s the case that by opening them the chances of supressing the virus are potentially/slightly diminished? Or looking at it a different way if you open gyms should you not close something else?

There are no easy answers whether the options are chosen nationally or regionally…………

Labour’s dilemma – Class based V Progressive Politics

Labour is trying to pull back into its fold the right wing white working class voters who voted Tory at the last General Election. This despite the fact that these voters can often hold views which would embarrass a truly progressive party – This is summed up by Jim Hancock who says this in one of his recent blog pieces (Hancock’s Half Page):-

‘Sir Keir’s statement that “we love our country” was really important. For Labour to have any hope of regaining its northern strength, it must recognise the deep patriotism of the working class.’

To me that deep patriotism sadly often proclaims itself as racism, anti-Semitism, pro-Brexit, anti-gay, anti-Muslim etc. etc.

At the same time Labour’s also looking to bring on board real progressives who certainly reject the views outlined above but who, like the working class backers, became disillusioned with the party in recent years mainly due to the party’s fence sitting over Brexit and its anti-Semitism problems.

And thereby hangs Labour’s dilemma; trying to appeal to progressives and regressives at the same time. Under Tony Blair they achieved it although more I think by ignoring their white working class supporters (whom I’m sure must have been a huge embarrassment to Blair, whilst he still needed their votes) than by currying favour with them.

Starmer, who certainly does not have Blair’s charismatic qualities, therefore has a huge task on his hands. And if you add into that heady mix the fact that Labour has been almost wiped out in Scotland the task gets all the more difficult with Labour, like the Lib Dems, being a unionist party when the Scots are moving further towards independence.

My point in writing this posting is that Labour needs the Lib Dems to be successful just as much as Lib Dems need Labour to be successful. They’ve tried going toe to toe and it gave the Tories a free hand so they’ve got to do just the opposite and find a way not to fight each other in those seats where doing so simply hands seats to the Tories.

Yes I know that in many policy areas the Libs will continue be to the left of and more progressive then Labour. That’s just been highlighted by the Libs backing UBI & Labour rejecting it. And of course Labour traditionally has wanted to fight the Libs probably more than the Tories because they’re another left wing sect they want out of their way. However, unless the two parties want a re-run of the terrible campaigns which Corbyn and Swinson delivered in December 2019 then they’re going to have to find a way to live with each other as Blair and Ashdown did.

And yes I know it’s our appalling electoral system that creates this need to co-operate between two very different parties but without that co-operation then you know what the probable outcome could well be – yes that’s right another Tory Government!

But Labour’s USP has always been that they are not the Tories and maybe not being the Tories is all that’s needed now? If so it explains why Labour’s all but a policy vacuum; they stand for nothing much at all but they’re not Tories.

Lancashire – Still squabbling over local government changes

I’ve said before that the piecemeal reorganisation of what was once the huge county council (with numerous small district councils such as West Lancs Borough) area of Lancashire has ended up leaving a mess of everything that has not already become a unitary authority.

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter Political commentator and writer Nick Hancock debating with Sefton’s Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne.

Below, via the link, respected north west journalist Jim Hancock updates us on the tortuous ‘progress’ towards a resolution (scroll down to ‘Driver’s Umbrella’):-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Lancashire should have been sorted out as one whole package

The process of doing bits here and there over numerous years via different governments has led directly to this mess and muddle. I support the move to unitary authorities as in my view having a County, a District and often a Parish/Town Council too has not worked.

Power to the Parishes!

Getting rid of the muddle in the middle i.e. the District Councils is the right thing to do. However, it should be being done whilst devolving more powers and responsibilities to the network of Parish and Town Councils across the County (and set up new ones where they don’t presently exist) – of course that’s not being done!