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The Turmoil returns

By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Jim reflects on the return of turmoil in British politics and its not just amongst the Tories. He looks at Sir Keir Starmer's continuing purge of the left and changes at Town Halls across the region following the local elections.


For a while Rishi Sunak brought a measure of calm to the government of the country. The local election results have undermined that. He was always going to face a difficult night but when Tories forecast a thousand losses on top of the thirteen hundred Theresa May lost in these wards in 2019, they didn’t believe it.

The loss of Stoke, Maidenhead, Swindon and Plymouth was the starting gun for the sort of death throes infighting characteristic of a party ready for opposition.

When the cost of living and the lack of a coherent industrial strategy should be uppermost in Tory MPs minds, what gets them out of bed in the morning is the failure of the Business Secretary to purge the statute book of EU laws that protect our food, animal, and environment standards.

The car industry, led by Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port, threaten to leave Britain as a consequence of Brexit but the warning is met by the tin ear of a party totally in thrall to this ridiculous opposition to the EU.

Labour is not immune from the turmoil. I hear speculation is hardening that David Miliband is contemplating standing in next year’s General Election. The former Foreign Secretary, defeated for the leadership by his brother, would provide an immediate alternative to Sir Keir Starmer should he have a disappointing result.

This might explain Starmer’s characterisation of his own leadership as “Clause 4 on steroids”. Clause 4 was a founding clause of the Labour Party constitution committing the party to widespread nationalisation. Few believed in it but it’s watering down in 1995 was a significant display of Tony Blair’s determination to ditch the hard left.

The Corbynites never forgave the mood and had their revenge when the left seized control of the party again in 2015. Starmer began his purge of Corbynism fairly carefully. Now he seems emboldened or feels the need to raise his profile.

There are dangers here. He is not, by nature, a shrill politician and pretending to be so, looks false. The other danger is that triumphalism over the left in the party could cause problems if he needs the left’s support after a narrow election victory.


It is often in the weeks after polling that the most interesting developments take place and so it has proved at Town Halls across the region.

The most spectacular example of the dark arts came in Wirral where Labour council leader Janette Williamson was defeated by her deputy Paul Stewart.

Stockport looks likely to be the only Greater Manchester without a Labour leader, despite the new group leader trying to muster a coalition against the Lib Dems. This is because Bolton is now under the Labour leadership of Nick Peel.

Lancaster has a new Labour leader too, Philip Black, who will have to work with the large Green representation. In neighbouring Ribble Valley, Tory Stephen Atkinson is determined to carry on despite losing overall control.

Finally, Cheshire East will continue with independent leader, Craig Brown, with the support of Labour, despite Janet Clowes Tories being the largest party.

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