The Northern Powerhouse looks likely to get a shot in the arm under the new Tory government. Theresa May was never very enthusiastic for the project. Johnson will be forced to take an interest because of the new cohort of Conservative MPs from the North.
I’ve been taking a look at the new political map of the North West.
Some red wall bricks crumble
The collapse of the Red Wall in the North West was starkly along Remain/Leave lines. 5 seats went Conservative in Greater Manchester, but all were outside the city of Manchester which had voted to Remain.
Only a few miles from the cranes of the city centre, people remain alienated. Bolton North East, Bury North and South, Heywood and Middleton and Leigh, all went to the Conservatives.
It was a similar pattern in Lancashire with Preston and Blackburn staying with Labour whilst nearby Burnley, along with Hyndburn and Blackpool South fell into Tory hands.
Barrow and Crewe make up the 10 seats which switched from Labour to Conservative.
Merseyside resisted Boris blandishments with seats like Wirral West and South remaining in the Labour column.
Stockport returned a new Labour MP after Ann Coffey quit the party and the former Crewe Conservative MP, Edward Timpson, is back as MP for Eddisbury beating Antoinette Sandbach standing under her new Lib Dem colours.
Now let’s look at the consequences of this momentous election, starting with Labour.
What needs to happen
The line from the Corbynistas is that the problem was Brexit. Without that distraction, in 2024 the lost northern voters will return in droves to back the neo Marxist programme that was on offer this time, along with promises to broadband users and WASPI women that were not budgeted for.
This is mendacious nonsense from the London clique that surround Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader was as big an issue as Brexit on the northern doorsteps. Ignoring this has all the hallmarks of 2016 when London was unaware of the left behind feeling in the North that triggered Brexit.
Corbyn’s failure to deal with antisemitism, his past associations with the nation’s enemies and security concerns were big factors in leaving Labour with the fewest MPs since 1935.
Installing Rebecca Long Bailey won’t hack it, but Momentum won’t listen, so let’s leave Labour to stew in its Marxist juice and look at what ought to happen but won’t.
The Lib Dems had a bad campaign when such hopes rested on their shoulders to keep us in the EU. The Revoke promise was too drastic and Jo Swinson’s style grated. Her defeat has avoided the Lib Dems making an awkward leadership decision.
But they have a much more fundamental question to answer. Is the Lib Dem brand a busted flush? Would they be prepared to look at the wider picture and help create a truly new centre party to stop endless Tory governments?
This would require a mass defection by moderate Labour MPs and an equally dramatic decision by the Green Party to subsume its identity to a new party. It would aim to capture the growing concern about climate change, believe in a progressive economic agenda, voting reform and a return to the European Union.
This party would crucially need the support of big trade unions who must realise that a Labour government is a very distant prospect. No party has come back from such a heavy defeat in one go.
Unite are beyond the pale, but what about the GMB and Unison. After an election when Labour voters have broken with loyalty stretching back to their grandfathers, is it too much to expect moderate unions to put their money and organisation behind a party that actually could get elected?
What will happen
Labour will elect someone like Rebecca Long Bailey. The next leader won’t have the damaging baggage of Corbyn, but they will retain a devotion to a socialist programme that will never win over middle England. I also suspect that the antisemitism stain will be hard to remove. Moderates will grumble but bide their time hoping that after a defeat in 2024, the party will be desperate for a leader with New Labour values. Don’t count on it.
The Greens and Lib Dems will put their own party identities before brave strategic rethinking.
The net result will be that the left remains hopelessly split whilst the Tories win time after time.
Haul the EU flag down
England, and I mean England, has voted much more decisively than in 2016 to leave the EU. I still believe it is profoundly the wrong decision, but English people believe their NHS, social care, policing, immigration, schools and sovereignty will all be helped by being out of the EU. We shall see, but we are out on Jan 31st and that’s that.
The only hope now is that the Prime Minister will negotiate as soft a Brexit as possible as he will be free of the influence of the Tory Brexiteer extremists.
Johnson’s upbeat campaign was well fought and brought a smile to people’s faces in this gloomy winter election.
He now leads a party with lots more northern MPs. The Tories say they are committed to more public spending and devolution to the left behind north.
Let’s hope they deliver because nobody else is going to help us, certainly not Labour sitting in endless parliamentary impotence.
Scotland and Ireland
Politics could get a lot duller now as Brexit will be all about endless trade negotiations rather than the high drama of recent years.
The flash points could be Scottish demands for an independence referendum after the SNPs good showing.
Northern Ireland returned a majority of non-Unionist MPs for the first time. Johnson’s Brexit deal with its border controls in the Irish Sea plays into the hands of those wanting a united Ireland.
Before long the Tories could be ruling just England and Wales, cut off from Europe and dependent on Trumps America and Chi’s China for deals. That could be the reality of Election 2019.