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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Not another one!

The Blackpool South by election will be the eleventh in this parliament caused by Tory MPs being thrown out for sleaze or walking off the job. Jim reports on this sad saga. He also reflects on fifty years of local council shakeups and the birth of Piccadilly Radio!


I am using Brenda from Bristol’s exasperation at the news of the 2017 General Election, to express the same feeling about the Blackpool South by election on May 2.

It will be the eleventh by election in this parliament caused by Tory MPs quitting in disgrace or because they just walked away. A by election costs the taxpayer a quarter of a million pounds. It is a deep badge of shame on the Conservative Party. It deserves to lose the next General Election on this alone so it can reflect, in opposition, on how it will better uphold public standards in the future.

Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that Labour MPs Mike Hill (Hartlepool) and Christian Matheson (Chester) as well as Margaret Ferrier (SNP Rutherglen) have also burdened taxpayers with unnecessary by election expenditure because of their behaviour.

But let’s look at this Tory list of shame. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) quit despite efforts by Prime Minister Johnson to save him from charges of inappropriate lobbying activity. Neil Parish (Tiverton) looking at porn in the Commons chamber, Imran Khan (Wakefield) child sex, David Warburton (Somerton) drugs, Johnson (Uxbridge) Partygate, Nigel Adams (Selby) and Nadine Dorries (Mid Beds) quit reportedly because they didn’t get peerages, Chris Pincher (Tamworth) for drunken groping despite efforts by PM Johnson to save him. Then we had Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) quitting over green policies, Peter Bone (Wellingborough) exposing himself and finally Scott Benton (Blackpool South) for lobbying issues.

The Tories are almost certain to lose Blackpool South, making it the tenth Conservative by election loss in this parliament. They hope to bury the bad news in the more general avalanche of gloom that will be produced by the local elections. They will fail. The voters have repeatedly noticed.


April 1, 1974, saw the biggest shake up of local councils since the nineteenth century. Urban and rural district councils were swept away. They were replaced by metropolitan and district councils with upper tier authorities like the Greater Manchester and Merseyside County Councils and Cheshire and Lancashire for the more rural parts of the North West. The upper tier councils were abolished by Margaret Thatcher. The Blair government introduced the excellent Regional Development Agency and North West Assembly model with a plan for full unitary councils below them to follow. All that was scraped by Tory Environment Secretary Eric Pickles in 2010. Since then, we have seen a hotchpotch of elected mayors, Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (now themselves abolished).

It is therefore somewhat disappointing to see Sir Keir Starmer and Shadow Communities Secretary Angela Rayner this week announcing Labour’s plans without tackling this muddle.

They have instead sent out a call for areas like Cheshire and Warrington to fill in the gaps where devolution deals have not been done and come up with a Combined Authority proposal. Meanwhile elected mayors will be given increased powers over planning, skills, and health.


The start of April fifty years ago also saw the launch of Piccadilly Radio where I got my first job in journalism. Last Saturday we had a fine reunion in the Piccadilly Hotel, just above where the studios used to be. I have been struck by the kind reminiscences of many people in Greater Manchester. They grew up with a radio station that truly embraced a community that was taking a huge economic battering in the seventies with a great service of popular music, features, and news.

Happy Easter!

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