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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

The long and, not so long, goodbyes

Jim reports on the mad scramble of MPs quitting whilst others seek selection as the consequences of Rishi Sunak's rush to the polls play out.

THE ABBOT AFFAIR

Nobody in the Labour Party is coming out of the “Abbot Affair” with any credit. It seems the disciplinary proceedings against Hackney MP Diane Abbot were finished last December and were not still “ongoing” last week as Sir Keir Starmer claimed. Although given the whip back, it seems very unlikely she will be a candidate. I felt this was a mistaken way to treat Britain’s first black MP. Then I read a report that she had liked a tweet in favour of Jeremy Corbyn standing as an independent. As so often in politics, you can have all the selection rules you like, but in the end it depends on who’s involved.

Meanwhile the Conservatives have even bigger issues with candidates coming and going.

GIVING UP

There is a sense that Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a snap election is unravelling.

Michael Gove’s decision to stand down is the most serious blow. One of the Tories best performers in the studio and campaign trail, he wouldn’t have gone if he weren’t sure his party was facing possibly two terms out of office. A chance to be part of a fifth term if the Tories achieve a miracle, or even a quick bounce back after one term out, would surely have appealed to this relatively young man.

There are others going who will be big losses to the Conservatives. Paul Scully, who should have been candidate for London Mayor, alongside Greg Clarke and Ben Wallace voices of sense and moderation. Minister Steve Baker has gone on holiday! Also, off former Chancellors Sajid Javid and Kwasi Kwarteng (in Truss he believed).

Some of this is due to the concentrated campaign the Lib Dems are putting into the Blue Wall to the west of London.

The fact that the party is scrabbling to select one hundred candidates, suggests a breakdown between Downing Street and Conservative Party HQ.

TURNING THE PAGE.

The end of a parliament is an occasion for turning a page of political history, so let’s look at who else is going, particularly from the North West where I have plied my journalistic trade.

Let’s start with the Conservatives. Apart from Ben Wallace in Preston North, the other major figure leaving is Sir Graham Brady in Altrincham. He was the man too often in receipt of letters of no confidence in successive Tory leaders as chair of the backbench 1922 committee. The others have had much shorter terms. I’m surprised Crewe’s Kieran Mullen is going as he was an effective performer. Also going, Edward Timpson (Eddisbury) James Grundy (Leigh), Chris Clarkson (Heywood) and Andy Carter (Warrington South) although they should find a seat for him in the next week.

Labour has far fewer departures, but national notables include three outstanding women, Harriet Harman, Margaret Beckett, and Margaret Hodge. In the North West George Howarth (Knowsley North) departs after nearly 40 years of service along with Barbera Keeley (Worsley), Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) and Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield).

Leaving under a cloud are three MPs who lost their party whip, Conor McGinn (St Helens North) Mark Menzies (Fylde) and Will Wragg (Hazel Grove).

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS!

We are now an inward looking country, regarding anyone beyond the English Channel with suspicion. Our media are certainly not interested in the fact that next week 360 million of our near neighbours will be taking part in an exercise in democracy that gives some cheer in a darkening world of dictators.

It is a great sadness to me, and a growing number of others, that for the first time since 1979, the UK will not be sending our representatives to the European Parliament.

Critics say the body is ineffective and boring. Well, it certainly won’t be the latter this time. The centre right and centre left have generally dominated the European Parliament, but this time watch out for a serious challenge from the rise of right wing populist parties. They are strong in Hungary, Italy, Sweden, and Slovakia.

I’ll let you know what happened, whilst most hacks won’t bother.

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