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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Going down fighting!

The Tories are heading for a heavy defeat, but Jim reckons the Prime Minister is going down fighting. He also reviews the battleground seats in Cheshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

Rishi Sunak is fighting to the end. Despite self-inflicted wounds like D Day and treacherous self-serving gambling greed of some of his colleagues, the Prime Minister put in a good performance in Wednesday night’s final TV debate.

He could have been forgiven for concluding (like Gareth Southgate will) that enough is enough. Whether people used inside knowledge or think it is appropriate to bet against yourself when activists are pounding the pavements on your behalf, the gambling revelations was the latest confirmation that there is something rotten at the heart of the Tory Party. From Partygate and Covid contracts to the Pincher affair and Fluttergate, the party needs to clean up its act in opposition.

But despite this awful background, Rishi Sunak took the fight to Sir Keir Starmer, warning the voters not to “surrender” to the higher taxes Labour would inflict. He also had the Opposition leader on the backfoot on immigration. Would Labour seek deals with the Taliban and Iranian ayatollahs to repatriate the boat people?

The dynamic of the debate was not of a government trying to defend fourteen years of underachievement and a disastrous decision to leave the EU. Sir Keir often seemed to be on the back foot, not able to match Rishi Sunak’s nimble performance. Perhaps his caution is explained by the fact that the ming vase is across the ballroom, but Labour remains worried it could still be dashed from his hands. There is real worry in Labour ranks about complacency amid polls forecasting a huge majority.

The Tory worry remains Reform, although Farage has clearly blundered over saying the West provoked Putin over Ukraine.

An MRP poll has Labour on 465 up 265, Con 76 down 300, Lib Dems 52 up 44, SNP on twenty-nine down 19, Reform, Greens and Plaid get 3 each. We’ll see.

I end my election build up with a look at the key North West seats I didn’t cover last week starting with the only expected Lib Dem gains in the region at Cheadle and Hazel Grove. Elsewhere in Cheshire there has been considerable anger that the city of Chester has been split in two. Labour’s Sam Dixon looks well set in Chester North. Chester South and Eddisbury is more interesting. I chaired a hustings there last week where Gyles Brandreth’s daughter Aphra put up an impressive show against Labour who hope to benefit from wards in the south of the city. Crewe will revert to Labour and the new seat of Mid Cheshire (Northwich and Winsford) could end up in the red corner.

Will the Red Rose County be all red next Friday morning? Tories Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn), David Morris (Morecambe) and Andrew Stephenson in Pendle all look likely to go. Can Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans hang on in Ribble Valley.

Merseyside will be all red if Southport falls to Labour for the first time whilst in Greater Manchester, Labour will regain those shock 2019 loses in places like Heywood and Leigh but can journalist Paul Waugh wrestle Rochdale back from the political popinjay George Galloway. Many will have voted by post already but if you love the stubby pencil in the polling station, don’t forget your ID!

Downtown in Business

Anyone welcome in the Labour party!

In his blog, Jim argues that Labour doesn’t need Tory right wing MP defectors after a series of local election triumphs. Read his full analysis of the current political scene and a bit of nostalgia from the Manchester of forty years ago.

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