UKRAINE AND BREXIT
Boris Johnson this week committed the UK to go to war to defend Finland and Sweden even before they join NATO. Given the volatile situation in Europe, this was a brave or reckless action, depending on your point of view.
I think it was the correct decision in the face of the appalling behaviour of Russia in the Ukraine. Under Johnson, the UK is leading Europe in checking Russian aggression.
However, when it comes to Brexit, the generous wide vision is replaced with duplicity and pettiness. The Northern Ireland protocol is an international treaty. Tearing it up would further damage our international reputation, already harmed by Brexit. Johnson should be facing down the Democratic Unionists with a threat to change the Good Friday agreement to allow parties that are willing to form a government at Stormont to do so. Many businesses are reporting they are thriving as the province benefits from its unique status between the UK and the EU Single Market. The DUP voted for Brexit. They are responsible for the checks which, they say, distance themselves from Great Britain.
The local elections in the North West were not bad enough to get Johnson ejected from Number 10. The picture was varied making them the most interesting for some years.
There was never going to be a landslide of council control damaging the Tories. The partial election system prevents that. There were exceptions where some voters had the whole council in their hands. The new authorities of Cumberland and Westmoreland were bad news for the Tories. Cumberland returned a Labour majority despite the county electing a number of Tory MPs in recent years. Meanwhile Westmoreland and Furness was a Lib Dem triumph.
Rossendale was gained by Labour, but they lost control in Hyndburn and did only OK in places like Wirral and West Lancs. Labour’s biggest disappointment was Bolton where the Conservative minority administration held on. There was consolation in Trafford where Labour made four more gains. The council used to be the jewel in the crown for Conservatives in greater Manchester. Now it shows how professionals and middle-class people are turning away from the sort of Tory Party we now have.
The Lib Dems had a better night at last. After 12 years of punishment at the hands of the voters for student fees and Coalition austerity, they made net gain of eighteen councillors in the North West. They will lead the new Westmoreland Council when it starts next year and have a strong claim to lead a minority administration in Stockport. This should have happened last year, but the Tories have propped up Labour. They lost two Bramall wards to the Lib Dems which should see Mark Hunter installed in a few days as leader.
The Greens are challenging the Lib Dems as potential recipients of the protest vote. They made ten net gains in the North West, but we need to acknowledge the big rise in ultra-local parties. It is a sign of the growing disillusionment with all conventional parties that local champions of communities that feel neglected within district councils made sixteen net gains in the North West. In Bury Radcliffe first now have eight councillors whilst in neighbouring Bolton, Farnworth, Horwich and Little Lever all have councillors in the Town Hall.
So, Johnson carries on scoring well on Ukraine, whilst in his own country Sinn Fein and the SNP threaten the union and people’s standard of living falls through the floor. Interesting times.